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The Versatile Tractor: A Tradition of Reliability and Innovation

Versatile tractors were large, four-wheel drive machines.

| May 2014

  • Front view of the new Versatile Model 550.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • Side view of the Versatile 550.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • The one and only Versatile 1080 “Big Roy” at a Thresherman’s Reunion at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • The first Versatile tractor from 1966.
    Photo courtesy Charles H. Wendel

When I was 7 or 8, my father and my uncle (who were partners at the time) swapped an old McCormick-Deering 10-20 tractor for a used Farmall F-30. The red F-30 paired with a 3-bottom John Deere plow was a big tractor at a time when most of the neighbors who had tractors were using 1- and 2-plow machines. Well, that big F-30 would have looked like a pedal tractor next to the huge Versatile 550 I saw displayed at a county fair I attended last summer.

A new life in a new land

Emil Pakosz, a young Polish emigrant, came to the U.S. in 1905, and by 1907 had married a Polish emigrant girl. At that time the Canadian government was giving 160 acres of western land to immigrants for $10, provided they improved and lived upon the land, so the young couple moved to Saskatchewan to take advantage of the offer.

They built a one-room log cabin and a small barn and bought a yoke of oxen and a plow to break the virgin soil for wheat. In 1911 their first child, Peter, was born. The elder Pakosh (who had Anglicized the name) prospered and kept buying additional land until by 1924 he owned a full section (640 acres).

From an early age Peter was mechanically inclined and loved to work on farm machinery. His father bought a steam threshing rig when Peter was 15 and entrusted the boy with its operation.

Starting out at Massey-Harris

The Great Depression hit the Pakosh family hard. Peter graduated high school in 1933 with poor prospects, so in 1935 he went to Winnipeg in Manitoba and studied to become a mechanical engineer. A year later he married and both he and his wife worked while Peter continued his schooling. In 1940 the young couple moved east to Toronto and Peter was hired as a draftsman at Massey-Harris. The young draftsman had an idea for an augur-type grain conveyor and sought a transfer to the M-H design department where he could pursue his ideas. He was turned down as being too inexperienced, so Peter built a prototype grain augur in the basement of his home.

The augur showed promise and Peter decided to build 10 more but lacked money to buy materials. His wife, Adaline, had been saving for a fur coat, but gave the money to Peter, who built the augurs in the basement and soon sold them all.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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