As early as 1981 Caterpillar was looking to created a rubber-tracked crawler to add to its extensive line of steel-track tractors. The aim was to create a machine that could run down the highway and not tear up the road.
The concept of utilizing rubber tracks in lieu of steel was by no means new. Cleveland Tractor Company had experimented and then sold a crawler, the Model HGR, equipped with rubber tracks between 1945 to 1948. That concept had its drawbacks including a propensity for the rubber track to crawl off track assembly.
Caterpillar set about to correct such problems by creating an entirely new track assembly and suspension system. Titled the Mobil-Trac system when it was introduced in 1986, the rubber tracked Challengers hit the market to much acclaim . . .and then sold like hotcakes. In a short time Caterpillar fashioned a row-crop version of the Challenger that ran on narrower tracks.
The success of the Challenger 65 caused the competition to respond. In 1996 Case IH introduced a four-wheel-drive tractor equipped with rubber tracks they called the QuadTrac system. Two years later, John Deere introduced a belted-tracked version of the 8000 series tractors. Both the Case IH and Deere tracked tractors remain in production today. And as for the Challenger, well, it was sold to AGCO which not only continued to produce the crawler but fashioned an entire machinery line around the Challenger name.