The featured exhibition for the 2012, 58th annual Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede is Versatile Farm Machinery.
Versatile had its beginnings in 1946 with Peter Pakosh a farm lad from Mikado, Saskatchewan who had gone to work for Massey Harris in Toronto. Peter’s father, Peter and his brothers were all particularly mechanically inclined. Peter had wanted to join the design team at Massey Harris but was rebuffed and offered a position in the drafting department. He was told he would have to spend 5 years in the drafting department before possibly joining the design team. Disappointed, Peter designed a simple grain auger and presented it to Massey who again were not interested. As a result Peter set about making a few of these augers in the basement of his home. Having success selling these augers he then set about making a lot of 50 augers in his second year. He joined with his brother-in-law Roy Robinson who had an Ontario farm up-bringing and was working as a machinist in Sudbury, Ontario. Together, on a handshake deal they became partners in Hydraulic Engineering and used the brand name Versatile for their product. Hydraulic Engineering prospered and over the next few years they added harrow bars and (fan type) field sprayers to their line. By 1952 business was so good that they decided to move their manufacturing facility to Winnipeg, Manitoba where they built a new facility at the corner of Partidge and Aikens in the city’s North Kildonan district.
Immediately Peter set about designing a “Self-Propelled” swather; and the famous Vesatile swather was born in 1953. (Apparently the first 100 swathers had a “hydrostatic” drive transmission (one of these will be on display at the show). Over the next 10 years Versatile prospered so well that in 1963 the company was taken public with Pakosh and Robinson retaining controlling interest and a new plant was built on Clarence Avenue in Fort Gary (Winnipeg). During these years; combines, the also famous “400 Hydro-Static Drive” swather and in 1966 “4WD tractors” were added to the now almost full line of agricultural equipment.
Being of retirement age, in 1978 Pakosh and Robinson sold their interests in Versatile to Cornat Industries of Vancouver. Cornat had extensive business interests including ship building, freight handling and refrigeration and initially prospered with Versatile. However with the downturn in the farm economy as well as having difficulties with some of their other interests were forced to divest of Versatile. In 1988 Versatile was purchased by Ford Motor Company and combined with New Holland (which Ford also acquired about the same time) to form Ford New Holland. And so it was, that the Versatile 4WD tractor became the Ford 4WD. In 1993 Ford sold Ford New Holland to Fiat although this did not particularly affect the product line. In 1999 Fiat acquired Case IH and proposed to combine all under one umbrella corporation called CNH. In order to obtain US regulatory clearance Fiat/CNH were required to divest themselves of the Versatile plant and tractor due to concerns over market share. The Versatile plant and brand (tractor) were purchased by Buhler Industries and successfully operated as Buhler with the Versatile brand until 2008 when an 80% interest was purchased by Rostselmash of Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Today Buhler Industries is flourishing; once again fully under the brand name Versatile.
Though Versatile has endured a sequence of ownership it is a tribute to the heritage of the Versatile name that no-one, not even when Ford proudly displayed their name on the tractor did they ever completely remove the name Versatile from the hood of the tractor. More recently, the present ownership has declared that “Versatile” will be the only name associated with the tractor and additionally as they return the company to a full line offering, all of their agricultural equipment is receiving the Versatile name.
Of further note it is interesting that though Versatile has had a sequence of ownership; Versatile tractors continue to be designed and built since 1966 by a continuity of engineers and production personnel in the same facility as the very first Versatile tractor emerged from.
Some of the featured exhibits will be:
Big Roy- Model 1080 8-wheel drive tractor built in 1977
Model D100 – Versatiles first model of 4WD tractor
Model D100 – the unrestored “Production Pilot Tractor” of the Model D100 (the very first Versatile tractor) See the many differences between this tractor and the regular production Model D100.
Giant Model 1156 – this was a regular production Versatile tractor using the same engine as Big Roy
Early Versatile Combines
All the early Versatile tractors G125, D118, D145
See the Versatile Hydro-Static Drive from 1954
This is just some of the Versatile items on display. There will also be displays of Versatile toys, advertising and promotional items, internal correspondence and more.
Also featured will be several of the “new” Versatile tractors and possibly the new “Versatile Combine” .