Versatile Part I

Headshot of Trent Klarenbach, founder of Klarenbach Research
Trent Klarenbach
April 11, 2024
A farming swather
April 11, 2024

Peter Pakosh was born on June 11, 1911, and raised on a farm southwest of Mikado, Saskatchewan. Following high school in Canora, Peter attended engineering college in Winnipeg before moving to Toronto to work in one of the world’s largest farm equipment manufacturers, Massey Harris.

Peter was fascinated with hydraulically operated farm equipment. While not considered for the design department, he decided to go ahead and design equipment “just to show them I had some good ideas.”

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In 1944, Peter rented a house and began using the basement for designing and building his first grain auger. The simple design, with few moving parts, was superior and less expensive to others on the market, with western Canadian farmers purchasing Peter’s first ten augers. This success led to the construction of another fifty augers. These augers were seventeen feet long at first before becoming twenty-one feet in length.

1946 saw Peter’s brother-in-law, Roy Robinson, a machinist, becoming a half-partner in the company.

In 1946, field sprayers entered the market, and with the pair seeing an opportunity, they assembled their first fan-type sprayer in the same basement.

The Hydraulic Engineering Company was formed in the spring of 1947, with Pakosh in charge of design and Robinson handling purchasing, sales and manufacturing.

A third product, a harrow drawbar, was added in the fall of 1947, leading to Peter dubbing their line of products “Versatile”.

In 1950, freight costs led the pair to relocate the central manufacturing plant to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

By 1951, demand for the Hydraulic Engineering Company and its Versatile line of equipment grew so fast that Peter decided to leave his Massey Harris job.

In 1952, the entire company was re-established in Winnipeg.

By 1954, the first Versatile self-propelled swathers were on the market. The Model 103 swather used Wisconsin air-cooled engines and had variable reel speeds for different corps and conditions. More importantly, the Model 103 was the only one with a conventional steering wheel, while the competition still used the awkward lever-actuated clutch-drive systems.

A drastic economic downturn in Canada threatened the company’s existence, forcing ad expansion into Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Following this expansion, some large, well-established competitors threatened their dealers with the cancellation of contracts if a single Versatile swather was found on their sales lot. Peter and Roy were not intimidated and flooded the market before the competitors could carry out the threats. If the competitors carried out their threats, they would leave a wide-open market in their territories to Versatile’s advantage.

In 1960, Versatile added the M-10 pull-type center-delivery swather, which proved popular.

The early 1960s brought growth beyond Peter and Roy's wildest dreams with the red and yellow paint found on many farms in western Canada and the northern states.

The Versatile story will continue next week.

Read Versatile Part II HERE