By ROBYN BRISTOW and MARK PRICE
Truckloads of New Zealand’s agricultural history wound its way out of a secret location near Waiau, North Canterbury, last weekend.
The 20 trucks in the Wanaka-bound convoy were loaded with vintage heavy machinery, the product of the world’s biggest construction equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar.
They are destined for display at the Wheels at Wanaka show.
Ben Gough and Gina Satterthwaite had held the collection for six years.
“The intention has always been to keep the collection together,” Gina says.
“That is why Ben and I purchased it from Lindsey Willis in Rotorua.
“The collection is uniquely Kiwi and reflects the contribution the Caterpillar brand and the Gough Group have made to the development of New Zealand infrastructure and farming.
“We’re delighted a piece of our family legacy will be preserved.”
The Gough Group has been buying and servicing Caterpillar equipment since 1932. It is the oldest dealership outside of the United States, and the second-oldest in the world.
Gina says every significant civil construction project over many decades has used Caterpillar machinery and it has helped shape the South Island.
Those who operated and preserved it, recognised it as an important part of New ealand’s history.
The collection of 35 machines, between 60 and 90 years old, have been in storage for around six years while their future was contemplated.
Gina had considered opening a museum herself, but in the end decided Wheels at Wanaka was already set up, and it was somewhere where the equipment would be looked after and enjoyed.
“We wanted to share them and not hide them away in a shed. They should be enjoyed,” she says.
Wanaka collector and Wheels at Wanaka show general manager Allan Dippie, who acquired the machines, sent trucks north over the weekend to collect them. They are now safely in Wanaka where he plans to have them all in working order for his next show during Easter 2021.
Some are in good condition and were running, while others needed lifting on to the transporters.
Among them is one of the only two remaining Russell graders in the world, and a rare Speeder dragline.
“We’re trying to showcase the history of Caterpillar in New Zealand and the tremendous
things that were achieved with Caterpillars both on farms and on the big projects that happened to make the country what it is,” Mr Dippie says.
Some of the machines have been restored to as-new condition, but Mr Dippie said
others would be left with their dents and scratches.
“If you find a good original machine, the thought nowadays is to leave it like that because there’s a lot of history you see in that machine _ all the scrapes it’s had.
“Some of them got into terrible predicaments – they were pretty fearless some of those early guys.”
Lindsay Willis, a forestry contractor and the man responsible for the collection, started saving as much as he could after becoming concerned vintage equipment was being scrapped.
He began restoring a Cat 22 and overtime amassed a large collection of vintage Cat machinery which he housed in a 1500 square metre building in Rotorua. It was officially endorsed by Caterpillar Incorporated and Goughs NZ.
The New Zealand Caterpillar Experience museum was officially opened in Rotorua in 2006 by Mr Willis. The collection was later bought by the Goughs.