Introduced in 1969, the Caterpillar 613 has been with us in various configurations for 43 years covering five different models and is the most successful small elevating scraper ever built in terms of units sold. Legally roadable almost anywhere, it was to prove a very popular tool as you will see. BY RICHARD CAMPBELL
Caterpillar was a relative late arrival to the 11 cubic yard elevating scraper market – one of the most hotly contested size classes used by landscapers, small contractors, highways departments and larger contractors for cleanup work. Competitors Wabco, Michigan and International Harvester already had machines operating for several years.
The 613 was actually designed and built by Johnson Manufacturing of Lubbock, Texas for Caterpillar. Johnson had previously built elevating scrapers which were supplied to Caterpillar, notably the J619 (for the 619C) and the J621.
Having had a joint venture in place with Johnson since 1965, Caterpillar finally acquired the company and the rights to their elevating scrapers in the early 1970s.
Initial production machines were powered by the ‘self detonating’ 150 horsepower Caterpillar model 3160 V8 diesel. This motor, which did not feature replaceable cylinder liners, tended to let go at the most unpredictable times. It had been originally developed for Ford for use in their ‘Louisville’ city delivery trucks and that is probably where it should have stayed.
It was replaced by the far more dependable Caterpillar model 3208, with the same horsepower rating hooked up to a four-speed powershift transmission.
With enhanced reliability the 613 was also upgraded with a two-speed elevator to better handle different soil types.
The machine sold well and established its own niche amongst its competitors so it was no surprise when Caterpillar announced a ‘B’ model in 1976.
This 613B featured a completely restyled tractor unit with tilting hood for better access to the engine and a sideways tiltable cab.
Mounted on large rubber pads, the entire operator’s compartment was redesigned in an attempt to improve operator comfort. Operating controls, which were formerly directly linked to the hydraulic control valve bank were now connected via a Morse cable, the valve bank having been relocated to remove some heat from the operator’s area.
Despite all these changes the engine and power train remained the same, as did the scraper unit.
The 613B sold really well for Caterpillar and it wasn’t until 1984 that the next version, the 613C, appeared.
Featuring an uprated (to 175 horsepower) turbocharged Caterpillar model 3208T engine, the machine also had a new six-speed powershift transmission, bigger hydraulic pump for faster elevator speeds and a beefed up hitch assembly, previously a fairly high wearing area of the machine. Capacity remained the same at 11 cubic yards.
The next change occurred in 1993 with the introduction of the 613C series II.
Now this 613C was quite a different animal to the previous version and it’s not certain why Caterpillar didn’t change the designation to ‘613D’. For a start, the 613C series II had a completely new engine – the 175 horsepower Caterpillar 3116T, turbocharged six-cylinder inline diesel – and a brand new, completely redesigned, operator’s compartment.
Sad to say, but last in the line was the 613G, introduced in 2008 and discontinued in mid 2010 “due to declining sales,” according to Caterpillar. I would imagine that a world recession at the time didn’t help matters.
Most powerful of all the 613s, the 613G had a 181 horsepower Caterpillar C6.6 ATAAC six-cylinder diesel under the hood and the most sumptuous cab ever fitted to any of the 613 line, with air conditioning as standard equipment.
Caterpillar was the last major player to exit the 11 cubic yard elevating scraper market, all the other companies offering this type of machine having been taken over or fallen by the wayside.
It is to be hoped that at some stage in the future the 613 will resurface in some form or another as a machine of this type is a very useful piece of equipment.
From the operator’s seat
I have been fortunate enough to operate three of the five variants of 613. For the purposes of this article we will examine the first one I ever climbed on to, a 71M series ‘A’ model.
Early 613s were very hard riding beasties, as I found out, but had excellent visibility. The throb of the 3208 V8 was quite reassuring.
One of the nice things about a 613 was the fact that the brakes worked most of the time and you didn’t have to always rely on putting the bowl down to stop.
Handling clay was not a problem but things became exciting in heavy topsoil as the machine, by virtue of its roadworthiness, was quite light on the front axle and tended to ‘torque-roll’ to the left. Not much fun on a stockpile, as I’m sure many 613 operators will attest.
One could lift the entire tractor unit up if you were stuck and deposit the machine on to firmer footing.
‘Duck walking’ was not an option in heavy going, as with some other machines, as the 613s differential lock would not permit this action without serious damage to the diff.
I wasn’t overly impressed by the location of the fuel filler, which was situated up over the right hand scraper wheel and was often covered in dirt.
For all its little quirks however, the 613 was a fun machine to operate.
The New Zealand connection
New Zealand Cat dealer Goughs has imported well over 200 613 elevating scrapers during the machines’ production life, plus there have also been private imports of the type. A great many are still in use today.
The most prevalent type is the 3208 powered 71M series (an “A” model) with the 613B a close second.
They have appeared as owner-operated machines, as part of larger contractors’ clean up spreads and also in fleets as the primary production tool. Major users over time would include Neil Housing, Roger Taylor, Ross Reid, Warren Fowler, Lendich Construction, RP Mudgeway, Swap Contractors, Connery Construction and Horrell Contracting to name but a few.
For the diecast model collector
Poorly represented considering its popularity, there are however two models of the Caterpillar 613 available.
First is a 1/64th scale offering from Ertl of a 613C. This is to an odd scale (unless you’re into S-scale railways) and is crude in its execution. It is, however, readily available.
The other is a recently issued 1/50th scale 613G from Norscot. Norscot models are a curious lot, some are very good and others fail to live up to expectations. Its Cat 613G falls in between the two extremes but will look good in a collection of 1/50th scale modern earthmoving equipment. It is still available at time of writing.
Brief Specifications Caterpillar 613, 71M2000+ series
(The most common NZ variant)
Engine: Caterpillar 3208, naturally aspirated V8 diesel engine rated at 150 flywheel horsepower at 2200 rpm
Transmission: Caterpillar 4-speed full powershift type
Top Speed: 27 mph
Brakes: Air actuated disc on all 4 wheels
Std Tyres: 23.5×25, 12 ply E3
Steering: Full hydraulic, 90° each direction
Turning Circle: 29’ 4”
Capacity: 11 cubic yards heaped
Elevator: Hydraulic 2-speed with 1 reverse, 16 flights
Elevator Speed: 116 fpm (slow), 225 fpm (fast)
Length: 31’ 9”
Height: 9’ 10”
Operating Weight: 14 tons (empty), 25 tons (loaded)