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Original Versatile 4-WDs on display at Austin museum

While the name Versatile is usually associated with four-wheel-drive tractors, Versatile began by manufacturing augers and sprayers then harrow bars. After the company moved from Toronto to Winnipeg to cut shipping costs to its Prairie customers, Versatile moved into the production of swathers and combines.

In 1966, Versatile designed an articulated four-wheel-drive tractor and put this design into limited production. This tractor came out in two versions — the D-100 powered by a Ford six-cylinder diesel engine and the G-100 powered by a 318 Chrysler gas engine. These tractors were an immediate success with sales being so good that Versatile sold out of tractors in advance of the 1967 manufacturing year. An expansion to the Fort Garry plant was built in 1967.

As well, the D-100 and G-100 were replaced by the D-118 powered by a Cummins V6 diesel, the G-125 powered by a 391 Ford gas engine and the D-145 powered by a Cummins V8 diesel.

While laughably small by today’s standards, the D-100 and G-100 revolutionized tractor power on the Prairies for a number of reasons.

Versatile kept the cost low, often equal to the competitor’s two-wheel-drive tractors of lesser power. Use of “off the shelf” engines and other components helped keep costs low in addition to the reduced shipping costs resulting from the tractors being built in Winnipeg.

The simplicity of Versatile’s design often meant components could be replaced in the field rather than in the shop. This reduced downtime which impressed farmers. A mechanic could often repair a Versatile transmission in the field in four or five hours whereas a competitor’s tractor would be in the shop and require 40 or more hours for the same sort of repair.

Versatile mass produced its four-wheel-drive tractors where other manufacturers in the 1960s produced small runs of four-wheel-drive tractors which added to their cost and selling prices.

Four-wheel-drive tractors offered the farmer increased efficiency, better economy and as they could pull bigger equipment increased field-operation speed.

D-100s are a fairly rare tractor today and the Manitoba Agricultural Museum is pleased to have a D-100 in original condition in the collection.

The feature at the 2012 Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede is Versatile Equipment. As well as the D-100 there will be a great selection of Versatile equipment on hand from private collectors as well as other Versatile pieces from the museum collection including the only Model 1080 built. The 1080 is better known as “Big Roy” and features four drive axles powered with a 600-horsepower Cummins diesel.

The reunion runs from July 26 to July 29 at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum so come on out and enjoy a day taking in the reunion and museum. For more information on the reunion and museum, visit ag-museum.com.

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