2009 Caterpillar 797

Front Left 2009 Caterpillar 797 Truck Picture

The Caterpillar 797

by Adam Hart-Davis

The Caterpillar 797 is one of the world’s most famous trucks, and with good reason. An all-American, ultra class haul truck; its current payload is a massive 400 tons.

The 797 is immediately recognisable for its enormous size. The current configuration has the truck at over 21ft high and nearly 50ft long, making it larger than many buildings. The machine’s operating weight is over 680 tons, with each tire being nearly 6 tons each.

With a price tag new of around $5 million, and tires costing in excess of $40,000, the 797 is one of the most expensive trucks money can buy. Their popularity however, means that getting hold of a used one would require a specialist truck locator.

Designs for the 797 began in 1997, with Caterpillar wanting to meet the demand from large-scale mines. It was the very first vehicle in the Caterpillar line-up to be designed with the aid of computer software, which meant it was built to a very high specification. The first two trucks rolled off the line in 1998, with a payload of 360 tons, and were exclusively used at Caterpillar’s testing grounds in Arizona. The third and fourth went to Utah, to the Bingham Canyon Mine.

The engine designed to power this heavy brute was composed of two 12 cylinder engines placed in tandem making it a 24 cylinder engine. It's dynamics included having four stroke diesels being turbocharged with electronic unit injection and aftercooled. To help out in the power department, the 797 Caterpillar series had rear axel mounted seven-speed planetary transmissions.


In 2002, Caterpillar unveiled a replacement, the 797B, which enjoyed several improvements over the original. They payload was increased by 20 tons, and to compensate for this, the original 3,211hp was upped to 3,370hp using twin turbochargers. Customers first received the 797B in October that year.


Testament to the 797B’s ability and popularity, the truck was not altered until 2008. It was announced at MINExpo International in September, but was not in production until a year later. Again, the truck received was a powertrain and payload upgrade. The vehicle was improved to carry today’s standard of 400 tons, and was given a new engine. This engine, the C175-20 is far more powerful and yet more efficient than the outgoing one. It has 3,793hp and will operate at an altitude of 16,000ft.

Adam Hart-Davis writes for http://www.trucklocator.co.uk. Visit them for a wide selection of new and used trucks.

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