The venerable 3207 moves into the passing lane as Caterpillar boosts it to 425hp

CATERPILLAR, The company that inspired Alexander Botts and the Earthworm Tractor Company, understands that the engine business is no place for weaklings. Engines have always been a crucial part of Caterpillar's success, of course- from its earliest steam traction engine that pulled combine harvesters, to gas engines for the revolutionary crawler tractor, to the latest, greatest Caterpillar 3208TA. Not satisfied with the 3208 already being one of the most popular mid-range diesels on the powerboat market, Caterpillar has engineered another big boost in its output.

The newest member of the Caterpillar 3208 family is rated at a muscular 425hp, up from 375. Package length, width and height of the 425 is the same as the 375. Even though its dry weight jumps a modest 200lbs., the horsepower-to-weight ratio remains under the diesel goal of 5lbs..hp. Fuel consumption is still miserly, under 14gph at cruising speeds. The remainder of the 3208 family includes the turbocharged-intercooled 375hp model, turbocharged 260- and 320-hp models and the 210 naturally aspirated engine.

Interestingly, the 425-hp rating of the tried and tested 3208TA more than doubles the capability of the original engine. Yet the Caterpillar 3207 is a story of not just numbers. It began as a clean-sheet-of-paper design in the mid-1960s. The gas engine was still the dominant powerplant in trucking after 70 years of diesel development. However, International Harvester's DV550 and GM's Toro-Flow were leading the charge toward diesels to reduce operating costs.

In an unusual move, but because it hat had little diesel experience, Ford asked Caterpillar to convert their Super Duty gas engine into a diesel. Caterpillar respectfully said no thank you, knowing that the block wasn't suitable for such a switch. They did agree to develop a new, quick-responding diesel that would approach the acceleration of a gas engine. By that time, Alexander Botts had quit his job. Truth be told, no one knows if Alexander Botts was ever employed by Caterpillar, for he was a fictional character. William Hazlett Upson created Botts and the Earthworm Tractor Company, and their rival Behemoth Tractor Company, for the Saturday Evening Post. For well over half a century the magazine chronicled the American way of live, at least middle-class life. 

Alexander Botts began his career as a salesman and soon was promoted to sales manager. He resolutely traveled the country, demonstracting that Earthworm tractors were better than those made by Behemoth. He discovered jet-propelled tractors, went to sea, and reminded skeptics that they laughed at Edison, too. Botts regularly cabled Mr. Henderson, Earthworm's president, to fill him in on the problems he ran across in the field and the solutions he dreamed up to solve them.

Eleven Hundred or Something...

This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, July 1989 and is written by David Speer. For more great boat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at:

If you're looking for general boating parts, head to West Marine Online and check out their specials. If you are in search of model-specific parts, search your local CAT dealer.