Versatile 700: One Powerful Tractor
1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor has the power to do just about any job
Denny May’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor.
Denny May bought his 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor with a very specific purpose in mind. “I was digging some ponds on my property,” he explains, “and you can’t pile the dirt in the wetlands, so I had to buy 4-wheel-drive tractors to haul it away.”
First he bought a 1977 International Harvester 3588 2+2 to pull a haybine on wet ground. “When I started to dig my ponds I took an old dump truck, removed the cab and front axle, and made a dump box,” he says. “I cut off the hitch and put another hitch on so it hooks in the tractor drawbar. But the 3588 wasn’t powerful enough and the hitch wasn’t strong enough.”
Tracking down a Versatile
Denny – who lives in Anoka, Minn. – needed a more powerful tractor for the pond work. He had heard about the abilities of Canadian-built Versatile tractors, so when he learned of one for sale at auction in Princeton, Minn., he jumped at the chance to look at it. “I had heard how easy they were to work on if you had any mechanical problems with them,” he says. “This one seemed like it was almost new, but when I hopped up into the cab, I found out I couldn’t get it started. Needless to say, it didn’t sell.”
A friend of Denny’s knew the Versatile 700 tractor's owner, so they traveled to North Branch, Minn., to examine the machine again. “This 90-year-old bachelor had bought three brand-new Versatiles,” Denny says, “but he decided to sell them because he couldn’t get up on the tractors any more at 90 years of age.”
The Versatile 700 was as pristine as Denny remembered it. “This 1976 700 Versatile Series 2 had only 1,600 hours on it,” he says. “All it had done was run a planter and sprayer in the fields simultaneously. The sprayer tank sat on a set of tubing iron bolted on the tractor.”
The tractor’s refusal to start remained a problem – but not for long. “I didn’t realize the Versatile had a Murphy switch on it, because it wasn’t in its usual location where you‘d find one,” Denny says. “You had to reach down under the dash to find it.”
Murphy switch a lifesaver
The Murphy switch was used on the Versatile to monitor sensors for temperature, oil and transmission pressures, and determine presence of leaks. If a leak is detected, the switch automatically shuts down the engine.
“Murphy switches aren’t common on many machines, probably because of their cost,” Denny explains. “I ordered a Gehl skid loader that is oil cooled with a Murphy switch to shut it down. The switch cost me an extra $500, so my guess is adding an option like that after purchase of the machine would cost twice as much, or about $1,000, which prevents a lot of people from adding them. But most irrigation water pumps that run unattended have Murphy switches.”
The Murphy switch saved Denny and his wife, Tami, a huge repair bill, he says. The couple run D & T and Son Excavating. On one occasion when Tami was driving a business dump truck, the engine quit. “She called me and said it just stopped,” Denny says. “I told her to wait half a minute, start the truck up again and get it off to the side of the road. I discovered that an idler pulley bearing had gone out. The Murphy switch shut the engine down and saved the motor. For what they cost, everyone should have a Murphy switch today.”
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