Versatile 700: One Powerful Tractor

1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor has the power to do just about any job

| June 2011

  • Denny May’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor
    Denny May’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor.
  • The grilles on later Versatile models differ from that on this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor
    The grilles on later Versatile models differ from that on this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor.
  • The powerful Versatile 700 is easy to work on, Denny says
    The powerful Versatile 700 is easy to work on, Denny says.
  • Denny found this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor had more than enough power to do the dirt-hauling he needs to do
    Denny found this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor had more than enough power to do the dirt-hauling he needs to do.
    Photo courtesy Tami May
  • This unretouched photo shows the superb condition of Denny’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor after more than three decades
    This unretouched photo shows the superb condition of Denny’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor after more than three decades.
  • A rear view of the 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 shows the 1-inch-thick steel hitch that makes Denny’s dirt-hauling much easier
    A rear view of the 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 shows the 1-inch-thick steel hitch that makes Denny’s dirt-hauling much easier.
  • One way Versatile tractors take advantage of their superior power is with dual tires, which transfer more power to the ground
    One way Versatile tractors take advantage of their superior power is with dual tires, which transfer more power to the ground.
  • This 1973 Oliver 1365 is similar to one Denny worked with when he was employed by an Oliver dealer years ago
    This 1973 Oliver 1365 is similar to one Denny worked with when he was employed by an Oliver dealer years ago.
    Photo courtesy Tami May
  • A 250 Cummins engine gives this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor plenty of power
    A 250 Cummins engine gives this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor plenty of power.
  • Denny’s 550 Oliver
    Denny’s 550 Oliver.
    Photo courtesy Tami May
  • Denny with his 1977 IH 3588 2+2, which he originally bought to haul dirt
    Denny with his 1977 IH 3588 2+2, which he originally bought to haul dirt.
    Photo courtesy Tami May

  • Denny May’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor
  • The grilles on later Versatile models differ from that on this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor
  • The powerful Versatile 700 is easy to work on, Denny says
  • Denny found this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor had more than enough power to do the dirt-hauling he needs to do
  • This unretouched photo shows the superb condition of Denny’s 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor after more than three decades
  • A rear view of the 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 shows the 1-inch-thick steel hitch that makes Denny’s dirt-hauling much easier
  • One way Versatile tractors take advantage of their superior power is with dual tires, which transfer more power to the ground
  • This 1973 Oliver 1365 is similar to one Denny worked with when he was employed by an Oliver dealer years ago
  • A 250 Cummins engine gives this 1976 Versatile 700 Series 2 tractor plenty of power
  • Denny’s 550 Oliver
  • Denny with his 1977 IH 3588 2+2, which he originally bought to haul dirt

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.”