In the 1950s, Caterpillar added many new product lines aimed specifically at the construction side of its business interests.Rubber-tired self-propelled scrapers were introduced, along with track-type loaders in the early 1950s.
By 1959, the company released its first rubber-tired front-end loader, the model 944A Traxcavator. The loader was first unveiled to the companys board of directors as the T101, at a special demonstration at its Phoenix Proving Ground in February 1956.
Though not a large machine, its standard bucket capacity of 2 cubic yards put it right in contention with a host of similar-sized machines from other construction equipment manufacturers.
The unit’s four- wheel-drive drivetrain, rigid frame and rear steering wheels were design features well accepted in the industry.
Caterpillar was looking for the perfect sized wheel loader design to get its latest product line off to a good sales start, and found it in the 944A.
But the model 944A was just the tip of the iceberg as far as Caterpillar was concerned. In 1960, the company introduced two more rigid frame wheel loaders to keep the 944A company.
The model 922A was slightly smaller, carrying a 1 1/4-cubic-yard bucket. The other model, the 966A was larger than the 944A. It was equipped with a 2 3/4-cubic-yard bucket. All three of these loaders were sized for general contracting work. Big quarry and mining wheel loaders they were not.
But Caterpillar was taking a cautious approach to this new market. The limited number of model types fielded in the first few years allowed the company time to gain market share.