Today’s History Nugget is about Northern Commercial Company’s Caterpillar dealership. A few years ago N.C. Machinery moved out to their brand new location off Van Horn Road from the prior shop on the Old Steese Highway near Trainor Gate Road. This is one of Fairbanks’s historic businesses and some of its story was published in a 1967 special edition of the News Miner that showcased the history of the entire Northern Commercial Company.
Here is what they had to say about selling Cats:
Fairbanks Daily News Miner- July 20, 1967
N.C. CAT SERVES HUGE AREA
In the early 1930’s Northern Commercial Company experimented with a new line of merchandise in Alaska…Caterpillar tractors.
Old-timers said the machines “would never catch on” but N. C. set up shop anyway, in the back of the hardware department in the Main Mercantile Store at Fairbanks.
“That first shop consisted mostly of fan belts and gaskets,” says Ed Prince, manager of N.C. Cat today. “Pete Miscovich bought the first cat, a diesel 75 tractor. It probably cost him $7 or $8 thousand and had about 75 horse power.”
By 1937 Cats had “caught on” and N.C. moved to a location on Third Avenue. At that time their building was the largest in the city. N.C. Cat stayed on Third Avenue until February, when they began moving into their new building on the Steese Highway. The bids for the building were awarded September 16, 1963 and the building construction started the next day.
“Nobody in Alaska builds in the winter except Cheechakos like N. C.- they’ve only been here 200 years,” Prince said with a laugh. “The day they started pouring concrete floors it began snowing. They put a cover over the skeleton and just kept pouring. When they were setting and erecting the steel beams the temperature dropped to -38, but the builders kept right on working.”
The new plant, which includes parts, sales, and service has double the floor space the old building had. “We were actually our own general contractors,” Prince said.
N.C. Cat in Fairbanks distributes to all of Alaska, Wester Washington and the Yukon Territory. “Territory-wise, we are the largest Cat distributor in the world,” Prince said.
The 75 horse diesel that Pete Miscovich bought in the early 1930’s has now been replaced by the DC-8 with four times the horse power and eight times the price…and the “8” is the smallest N.C. Cat available. That is a lot of progress in 30 years.
Note: One of the very early Caterpillars purchased from N.C. was a 1929 Fifteen Horsepower Gasoline Tractor Engine. That machine was recently fully restored to showroom condition by local Fairbanksan Jim Gibertoni who has had it on display at N.C. Machinery last spring. This history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Fairbanks Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.