I had a new Cat 385 that was delivered probably in 2003 or 2004. I ordered it equipped with a mass excavation boom and a short stick. I knew it would limit our ability to go very deep, but most of the jobs we were bidding on were hard rock jobs. When I compared the different stick and boom configurations, the breakout force of the one I ordered was almost double of a long stick machine. If we were going to be successful digging hard rock we need the most force that we could get at the teeth.
The machine totally lived up to our expectations in every way. I have always used the philosophy to work the biggest baddest machine my money could buy. Of course there are limitations to using large machines in areas where they won’t fit. But for big line work, bigger is better 95 out of 100 times.
As for of my reasoning is if you are paying a man to operate a machine, he should be grabbing the most ground with every bucket full.
We were going along getting more and more work. Much of it was deeper. So I ordered another 385 Cat. This time with a long stick, to give us more options.
The machine didn’t arrive when I was told it would. Those machines were built in Belgium at that time. I was told that the ship was delayed because of weather. We had a job that was waiting on the delivery of the new machine to start. I was trying to be understanding but I had a job to do.
I received a call that the machine was at the port being unloaded and they would come straight to the job with it. Usually Cat would want to send it to one of their shops and check things out prior to delivery, but given the size of these machines they were bringing it straight to the job site to assemble it.
Then I got the call. The most unbelievable call of my life. While unloading the machine they had dropped the counterweight and it was broken into two pieces. My salesman was a little nervous having to call me, I could tell.
I told her, (yes my Caterpillar Salesman for the passed 20 years is a lady) that they needed to find one and find it fast. There had to be a 385 somewhere in the nation they could rob a counterweight off of. I didn’t care if it was used. They could put a used one on it and swap them out later, but that machine had to be running. I think I told her that if it wasn’t ready to dig in 5 days, that I’d cancel the purchase. I had already found out that the Komatsu dealer has an equivalent machine they could have to me within 5 days.
I really wanted the Cat machine. While I like both brands, I wanted to pair up the Cat’s. I thought that was just a better plan.
There was no other 385 counterweight that they could find. Then I got word that they would have a new counterweight here in 3 days. They air-freighted a new counterweight from Belgium, that weighed in at around 25,000 lbs. Yes they put one on a plane and sent it to Texas. The machine was ready to dig within the 5 days.
Sometimes you just have to stand your ground and demand service. When that doesn’t happen, always have an alternate plan.
A stock photo of a 385 with the counterweight sitting on the ground.
Below is a video from YouTube (not us) showing a counterweight being installed.