Preserving the Past: Top 5 Antique Equipment Stories of 2021

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Caterpillar 1956 D6 dozer movie set
Antique Caterpillar equipment collector Erik Christenbury with his 1956 D6 dozer on a movie set.
Courtesy of Erik Christenbury

In 2020, we started an ongoing feature focusing on collectors of antique equipment and their favorite finds.

Little did we know that the stories would become so popular.

Readers seem to appreciate the historical significance of the old equipment and the personal stories behind them. And the collectors we’ve spoken with love to show their vintage machines, many of which underwent painstaking restorations. Along with being fans of antique equipment, they hope to reach a new generation and help preserve a bit of our country’s construction past.

So here are the top five antique construction equipment stories on equipmentworld.com for 2021, with links in case you want to read more:

long lost Thew Type-O steam shovelMike Oberloier1. 95 Years Under Water: Rare, Long-Lost Steam Shovel Rescued to be Restored

An old steam shovel at the bottom of a Michigan lake since 1925 couldn't be rescued. Then a dam break in 2020 changed everything. Because of it, Mike Oberloier was able to resurrect a dream his father had back in 1975, when he led an unsuccessful diving expedition to find the lost steam shovel of Wixom Lake. A Herculean group effort has recovered the old shovel, and Mike has been working to restore it. The early-1900s Thew Type-O shovel is believed to be one of only two left in the world.

1956 Caterpillar D6 original operatorA shot of Erik Christenbury's antique Cat with the original operator he bought it from.Erik Christenbury2. Almost Famous: This “Like New” 1956 Cat D6 Dozer Gets a Shot at the Movies

As founder and president of Chapter 12 of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club, Erik Christenbury often gets calls from people wanting to display antique Caterpillar construction equipment. But one that stands out in his mind came about seven years ago from a coordinator on a major motion picture. Erik agreed to let them use his 1956 Cat D6 9U dozer. He had bought the machine about a year earlier – a rare find as it had less than 900 operating hours on it and all original parts. But he didn’t realize until later that they expected him to bring it to New Orleans, more than 800 miles from his home in South Carolina, and get filmed operating it. It turned into a long, strange, yet memorable experience.

Restored 1958 Case terratrac 320 dozerA proud Casey Havemann with his restored 1958 Case Terratrac 320.Casey Havemann3. Casey’s Rare Case: Teen Restores 1958 Terratrac 320 Dozer

Casey Havemann is the youngest collector we’ve interviewed. But Casey showed he has the heart of a true aficionado of antique construction equipment when he found a rare 1958 Case Terratrac 320 dozer. He then spent 600 hours restoring it while he was in high school. His restoration work involved a lengthy parts search, parts fabrication, and taking the crawler tractor apart piece by piece and putting it back together again – twice.

Holt Caterpillar 10-ton tractorThe Holt Caterpillar 10-Ton back on the Vouk property in St. Stephen, Minnesota.Scott Vouk4. "Impossible" Quest Brings Home Family’s Century-Old Holt Caterpillar 10-Ton Tractor

Scott Vouk was 6 years old in 2001 when the Holt Caterpillar 10-Ton tractor was auctioned off. It was sold along with all the other equipment at the Vouk family’s antique steam show after his great uncle passed away. William Vouk Sr. had bought the Holt in 1938 for the family threshing and sawmill business. After the auction, the family thought it was gone for good, but 25-year-old Scott Vouk didn’t give up. In 2021, he managed to do what many of his relatives didn’t believe possible. He brought the century-old tractor home. 

1956 Cat D4 dozer restoredNancy McDonnell with her 1956 Cat D4Nancy McConnell5. A Dozer of Her Own: It Was Nancy’s Turn To Restore a 1956 Cat D4

Nancy McDonnell had been watching her husband and others operating vintage construction equipment at antique machine shows, and she decided it was time she had a turn. After a local search in the late 1990s, the Germantown, Ohio, couple found a hidden treasure in two beat-up 1956 Cat D4 dozers. Neither dozer was good enough on its own, but by combining the good parts, they were able to put together one excellent restored dozer to operate at antique shows and give Nancy her first piece of construction equipment.