Versatile’s Rich History in Tractors
Today’s announcement of a manufacturing arrangement between Kubota and Buhler is the latest change in the long history of the Versatile tractor.
The tractor traces its roots back to 1945 when Saskatchewan farm boy Peter Pakosh fashioned a grain auger in his backyard. That invention launched Pakosh and his brother-in-law, Roy Robinson (an Ontario farm boy), into machinery manufacturing. Their Versatile grain mover led to creation of the Hydraulic Engineering Company, which, in time, would also build a sprayer, harrow, and a swather. By 1952, Pakosh and Robinson would move their operation to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Building on the sales success of its Versatile swather, the company flourished through the 1950s and 1960s; the name of the firm changed to Versatile Manufacturing in 1963. At this time, the company cast its eyes at launching a tractor line. From that interest emerged the Versatile four-wheel-drive tractor in 1966, which would grow in popularity not only in Canada but the U.S. High Plains as well.
During the 1970s, the Versatile tractor line expanded with numerous model offerings, which, besides four-wheel-drives, would also include the revolutionary bi-direction tractor in 1970. The Versatile company would be purchased by Cornat Industries of British Columbia in 1976 (after a failed purchase attempt by Hesston International), which continued to manufacture the Versatile tractor.
But the agricultural depression of the 1980s took its toll on the firm, which saw its sales plummet. In 1987, Versatile, along with Sperry New Holland Company, was acquired by the Ford Tractor Company. A new company called Ford New Holland was created from these mergers.
Ford New Holland continued to sell Versatile tractors, still being produced in Winnipeg, both under the Versatile and Ford names.
The year 1993 witnessed two major changes involving the Winnipeg facility. First, Ford New Holland introduced its Genesis series of tractors, which would be built in Winnipeg. Later that same year, Fiat acquired the remaining shares of Ford New Holland changing its name to New Holland. That company’s four-wheel-drive tractors, however, continued to carry the Versatile name.
By 1999 New Holland merged with Case IH to create CNH Global. The following year the Canadian firm, Buhler Industries, acquired the Versatile name, tractor line (including the Genesis models), and the Versatile factory in Winnipeg. After this the tractors would be marketed under the Buhler Versatile name.
The final chapter in the Versatile saga began in 2007, when the Russian firm Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd. bought the majority share of common stock of Buhler. Rostselmash, however, continued to operate its acquisition under the Buhler Industries name. A year after that change, that company would rename all tractors models Versatile to draw on the brand’s heritage.