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Buhler Versatile

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Peter Pakosh, founder of Versatile Manufacturing Ltd., was one of the early pioneers in Canada’s agricultural equipment manufacturing industry. In 1945, the company started by producing small-scale farm equipment such as a grain auger, field sprayer and swather. However, it would soon go on to become one of the first manufacturers to mass-produce four-wheel drive tractors.

From the company’s humble origins, Versatile is best remembered as a company that built simple but well constructed machines at affordable prices and as a result, developed a loyal brand following with western Canadian farmers. Before passing away in February 1999, Peter Pakosh was recognized by the Equipment Manufacturer’s Institute (now called the Association of Equipment Manufacturers) for his achievements contributions to the industry.


[edit] History

Born on June 1, 1911 in Mikado Saskatchewan, Peter Pakosh’s rural farm upbringing cultivated him for a career in Canada’s farm equipment manufacturing industry on a scale similar to that of agricultural equipment pioneers Case, Deere, and International Harvester.

[edit] The Birth of Versatile

In 1935, Pakosh attended engineering college in Winnipeg and then moved to Toronto to work as a tool designer for Massey-Harris.[1] As a dedicated machinery buff, he approached a head draftsman at Massey-Harris for a promotion in the design department but was rejected. This prompted Pakosh in 1945 to build a grain auger in the basement of his Toronto home.[2] His first grain auger proved to be a success with western farmers. Working off of his small success with the grain auger, Pakosh teamed up with his brother-in-law Roy Robinson, a machinist, to next build a field sprayer. This too was built in the basement of Pakosh’s home. In 1947, with the design of two machines under their belts, Robinson and Pakosh started a new company called Hydraulic Engineering Co.[3] In 1947, Pakosh added a harrow drawbar to the company’s product line now referred to as ‘Versatile.” By 1953, Pakosh and Robinson relocated their business from Toronto to Winnipeg to be closer to the agricultural market. In addition, the company was now manufacturing a full line of products that included augers, field sprayers and self-propelled swathers.

[edit] Establishing the Versatile Name

By 1960 Versatile had gained ready acceptance from the farming community for its products. The same year, the company introduced a pull-type swather, followed up by a self-propelled, hydrostatic swather in 1968 and a self-propelled combine with full hydrostatic drive in 1970. In 1963, Versatile became officially incorporated as a public company under the name Versatile Manufacturing Ltd. and shortly thereafter, began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In 1964, the company expanded and built a new head office and factory in Fort Garry, Winnipeg. Versatile swathers were also accounting for 60 percent of total North American sales.

Versatile continued to offer its products at affordable prices and this contributed greatly to its growing success. While major competitors sold equipment to branches that then turned around and sold them through a network of dealers, Versatile had removed the “middleman” by selling directly to dealers. This meant it was able to pass on substantial savings to the farmer.

[edit] Four-wheel Drive Tractors

Versatile was always pushing the envelope when it came to developing new types of tractors. Some experiments were met with success, while others were not. Versatile would be one of the first manufacturers to mass-produce a four-wheel drive tractor. The company would remain steadfast in this market during its years in operation.

Part of the reason behind this was Pakosh’s business formula for building basic, simple machines that could do the job and yet still be sold at prices mainstream farmers found appealing. This was the philosophy he adopted when he introduced the company’s first four-wheel drive tractors in 1966. While John Deere, Case, and International Harvester had already entered the four-wheel drive tractor market, their tractors were not being mass-produced because production costs were still to high to offer the four-wheel drive tractors at a cost farmers were willing to pay. This gave Versatile an opening to establish some market dominance. The company placed heavy emphasis on pricing and positioned its tractor as a “four-wheel drive” tractor at the price of two-wheel drive. The tractors were also marketed for speed and their extra pulling power giving farmers the ability to plow, cultivate, and seed more acreage in less time. Also, because of the flotation on four wheels, farmers could work their land sooner, even on wet ground.

The company’s first four-wheel drive tractors, the D100 and G100, featured Articulated steering, standard hydraulic brakes, 12 speeds, and good overall hydraulic systems. As “component constructed tractors,” they could easily be repaired without disassembly or being brought to a shop. The tractors were offered for less than $10,000, and into the second year of production, the company had outsold any other maker of four-wheel drive agricultural tractors on the market.

[edit] The Hydro-mech Tractor

The hydro-mech tractor, first introduced in 1973, embodied the company’s ingenuity but was a concept that became quickly short lived after Versatile decided it wanted to focus on four-wheel drive tractors. The hydro-mech Model 300 tractor, a row-crop tractor powered by a Cummins V6 diesel engine, was the company’s first “live” power take-off tractor. What made the model unique was its ability to be driven both hydrostatically and mechanically by using the clutch. Considered ahead of its time, 200 units were built before the company halted production.

[edit] The Bi-directional Tractor

In 1977, Versatile introduced a new concept called a bi-directional tractor that featured a loader mounted on the tractor’s rear as opposed to the front, and the ability of the operator to swivel around in the cab to operate it. The Model 150 tractor was a “push-pull tractor” that incorporated a “number of self-propelled machines into one” and was used mainly for heavy swathing and mowing. The model was later taken over my New Holland and modernized and reintroduced in 1998 as the TV140.

[edit] Big Roy: the World’s Largest Tractor

Another tractor Versatile tried to introduce in the late 1970s was called Big Roy. Labeled the world’s biggest tractor, the Versatile 1080 was a 26-ton, 600 horsepower, eight-wheel drive monster tractor with a five gallon (19 L) Cummins engine placed in the rear, and a 554-gallon (2,100-L) fuel tank located in the front. Though the tractor piqued interest, it never went into full production because of high development costs and the fact that no implements could be used in combination with the machine that would match its pulling power. Today, the tractor is displayed at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum.

[edit] New Ownership

Thirty years after forming a partnership and building the company’s first machines out of the basement of his Toronto home, Peter Pakosh, along with Roy Robinson, decided to sell Versatile and retire. In 1976, after a failed attempt by Hesston International to acquire the company, Vancouver-based Cornat Industries bought a majority share in the company and released some new tractors targeting the soy and corn row-crop market.[4] Other corporate developments in the late 1970s included a joint agreement with Fiat to market the company’s four-wheel drive tractors in Europe.

[edit] Ford

In 1987, Versatile and the Sperry New Holland Co. based in Pennsylvania were both acquired by the Ford Tractor Division and renamed Ford New Holland. Ford purchased Versatile for $34.5 million.[5] Though Ford continued to reproduce Versatile tractors and use the company’s red and yellow trademark colors, the name Ford now appeared on each tractor’s grill. By 1989, Ford abandoned the Versatile red and yellow color scheme for blue but still advertised the tractors as “the same tough reliable workhorse that’s been first choice in four-wheel drive for so many years.” [6]The Versatile brand simply was a memory by now buried underneath the Ford name and blue paint.

[edit] Fiat

Fiat acquired the remaining shares of Ford New Holland in 1993 and then changed the company’s name to New Holland. Part of the agreement was that Fiat would have to still use the Ford name up until January 1, 2000 after which time it was to be permanently eliminated.[7] Over this period, New Holland would emerge as a market leader in four-wheel drive tractors and would incorporate the Versatile name on its tractors beside Ford’s.

[edit] Buhler Versatile Inc.

In 1999 Case and New Holland announced their intention to form a merger and reform as CNH Global. This merger would come to create a new global conglomerate and as a result, the U.S. Department of Justice demanded that Case New Holland divest Versatile. John Buhler, president and managing director of Buhler Industries made an offer to purchase Versatile but the U.S. Department of Justice considered Buhler an ineligible purchaser. Buhler took his offer from New York to Washington and even elicited the interest of Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, in the controversy. Not giving up the fight, by 2000, Buhler was given final approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Canadian government to purchase Versatile and its plant and assume manufacturing and distribution rights for the two lines of tractors. Buhler Versatile Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Buhler Industries Inc. and began producing tractors that were sold through Buhler’s distribution system as well as that of CNH Global. [8]

[edit] The Company Today

By 2001, Versatile was once again independent. Buhler resurrected the original Versatile yellow and red color scheme as well as the name in the production of its new lines of tractors, bringing the story of one farm boy’s dream full circle.

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] References

  1. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 18
  2. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 20
  3. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 26
  4. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 90
  5. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 99
  6. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 102
  7. Pakosh, Jarrod, Versatile Tractors: Farm Boy’s Dream, 104
  8. History. Buhler. 2008-09-22.

[edit] External Links