not just a load of old bull dozers

Our Story

The New Zealand Caterpillar Experience is the only endorsed experience of its kind in the world. How the Caterpillar CAT® brand became so famous and how the New Zealand Caterpillar Experience came to be established is quite story…

Caterpillar Experience

Caterpillar® comes to New Zealand

In 1925, two American companies that had developed steam-powered track-type tractors (using tracks or crawlers instead of wheels) merged to become the Caterpillar Tractor Co. By the 1930s their first Diesel 60 tractors were in production. During the 1930s they expanded production to include motor graders and blade graders.

Gough, Gough and Hamer became the New Zealand dealers for Caterpillar® tractors in 1932. The company took a gamble and imported five Caterpillar® tractors and a range of implements to demonstrate to the NZ government in 1936. In 1939, They then responded to a government land development programme by importing $50,000 worth of machines.

Caterpillar® was already becoming legendary in New Zealand, and Gough, Gough and Hamer topped Caterpillar’s world sales list in 1937, 38 and 39.  Goughs have maintained their dealership with Caterpillar Inc and have recently celebrated their 75th year.

The Caterpillar Experience

Lindsay Willis, the man responsible for the New Zealand Caterpillar Experience, is a passionate kiwi, committed to the preservation of New Zealand heritage.

In 1974 he formed a forestry contracting business that allowed him to work, hunt, and use Caterpillar® bulldozers. His philosophy of “get in and do it” rather than talk about it, emphasises the kiwi “do-it-yourself” tradition. His determination has seen him develop innovative ways to perform forestry tasks. If you work in forestry today, chances are you’re benefiting from one of Lindsay’s ideas.

Lindsay became concerned that New Zealand machinery history was being lost as vintage equipment was scrapped, so he started saving as much as he could. As a spare time project Lindsay set about restoring a Cat 22. Soon his “hobby got well out of hand” and over a 10-15 year period he amassed a  large collection of interesting vintage CAT machinery.

To share his love of machinery with the public, Lindsay had a 1500 square metre facility built in Rotorua to house and display the best of his collection. The new attraction was officially endorsed by Caterpillar Incorporated and Goughs NZ.

The New Zealand Caterpillar Experience was officially opened on 19 May 2006 when Lindsay cut the yellow ribbon with a razor sharp axe on a Totara post. Well known TV personality Gary McCormick entertained the large group of invited guests which included the Minister of Tourism, Wally Stone and Brian Hogan the Managing Director of Goughs.  This memorable evening featured New Zealand themed cuisine and refreshments and the following day the doors were open for business!

Lindsay Willis
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