Versatile Part II

A barn in a field at sunset
December 23, 2023

In 1963. the Hydraulic Engineering Company was incorporated as a public company under the name Versatile Manufacturing Ltd. and listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

That year, Versatile sold 1,049 sprayers, 1,492 grain loaders and 3,633 swathers across five provinces and eleven states.


A new 168,000-square-foot factory was built in the Winnipeg suburb of Fort Garry, becoming the largest swather production factory in the world, accounting for 60% of North American sales.


Soon after, the PT42 pull-type combine was introduced, which was the first combine manufactured in western Canada. The PT42 had a 75-bushel grain tank selling for $4,100, while the nearest competitor sold for $7,100.


By 1965, Versatile Manufacturing was the largest swather manufacturer in the world.

In 1966, despite the negative feasibility study from a consulting firm, Versatile entered the four-wheel-drive market. The marketing group concluded that there was no potential for four-wheel-drive tractors as none were sold in the marketplace.


The Versatile D100 tractor was born as a rugged, powerful tractor with a simple design.

The D100, with a 363-ci 6-cylinder Ford diesel engine, had 100 hp at the drawbar. The G100 had a 318-ci 8-cylinder Chrysler engine. The tractors had twelve forward speeds and four reverse.


The first articulated model was not fancy and had no cab option selling for less than $10,000. Over 100 Versatile tractor units were sold in 1966.

Also in 1996, Versatile introduced their first SP420 combine.

1967, the D118, G125 and D145 tractors offered one gas engine and three diesel options. The D188 was equipped with a 352-ci Cummins V6 producing 188 horsepower at the drawbar. The G125 had a 391-ci Ford V8 gasoline engine with over 125 horsepower selling for $8,600. The most expensive model, the D145, with a 470-ci Cummins V8 diesel, sold for $12,200.


Versatile was the first to mass-produce four-wheel-drive tractors as their production costs were lower than the larger competitors.


Versatile-designed components, such as the heavy-duty axles and transmissions, allowed for a price tag that was equal to their competitor’s smaller two-wheel-drive tractors.


The simple design of the Versatile allowed for many field repairs instead of the dealer’s service shops.


Versatile marketed their tractors as having three advantages over the conventional two-wheel-drive tractor: speed, efficiency and economy.


The successful launch of the Versatile tractor led to a 127,200-square-foot addition to the Fort Garry factor in 1967.

Read Versatile Part III HERE

References:

Pakosh, J. (2003). Versatile Tractors: A Farm Boy's Dream. Boston Mills Press.

A versatile tractor

Trent Klarenbach | Klarenbach Research