The D100: Versatile's First 4WD
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This is the tractor that broke through the barriers in marketing four-wheel drive agricultural tractors. The Model 100 (D100 diesel, and G100 gasoline) was Versatile’s first Four-Wheel Drive tractor. Peter Pakosh and Roy Robinson, (equal partners in the company begun by Pakosh in Toronto in 1947) had been producing an ever increasing line of innovative and competitively priced farm equipment. These men had envisioned producing a four-wheel drive tractor for some time. Farmers had been hooking two tractors together for years, hired help was becoming more expensive and harder to get, the size and horsepower of the larger tractors was now getting into the area where there was significant advantages with four-wheel drive and during this same time period the average farm size was increasing rapidly. Versatile had enjoyed many years of increasing sales and in particular their “self-propelled’ swather now dominated the grain growing areas where such a machine was used. The time now appeared correct for the introduction of such a tractor; well designed, well priced and a tractor which would be in demand by not just the very largest of farmers who ran more than one large unit but a tractor which was priced for the average farmer who would purchase a tractor in the upper horsepower range of what was available in 2-wheel drive. This new tractor would also be attractive to them because it would be priced similarly to available 2-wheel drive tractors offered by the full-line majors yet present the additional advantages of Four-Wheel Drive.
It is no coincidence the new Versatile Four-Wheel Drive of 1966 delivered 100HP to the drawbar and that it was priced similarly to the large two-wheel drive tractors. Four-wheel drive was not new in 1966, but it had never proven particularly successful in sales. The objective of developing a quality four-wheel drive tractor at the price of a comparably powered two-wheel drive was a major departure from all of the four-wheel drives offered by the major full-line machinery companies. John Deere, IHC, and Case had all entered the four-wheel drive market. John Deere in 1959, IHC and Case in years following. John Deere had dropped out of four-wheel drive in 1964 and Case an IHC were unable to average sales of any more than two or three hundred units per year. This tractor would be priced at less than half the price of the Case and IHC tractors and at about one third of the price at which John Deere had offered the 8010/8020 model. Versatile on their entry year sold 125 units of the D100 and G100 tractors. Not bad for starters. As you will learn in a subsequent article Versatile sold over 1000 tractors in their second year. That has to say something about the idea (product) and the timing of Versatile’s entry into four-wheel drive.
It would seem that somewhere in 1964 Pakosh and Robinson became serious about producing four-wheel drive tractors and built a proto-type tractor. I have an original picture on the back of which is written: “First Proto Tractor- June 15, 1965”. The first tractor built looked remarkably like the D100. Some differences were evident from the production model to follow. The height of the hood appears to have been a little lower than the production model, the grill/radiator portion of the hood appears to have horizontally longer sides, the hydraulic oil tank was mounted on the rear section of the tractor directly behind the operator (production models had it mounted beneath the operators platform on the inner side of the frame) and there were two taller vertically positioned fuel tanks also mounted on the rear section of the tractor directly behind the hydraulic oil tank. Seating appears to have been similar but less refined. Otherwise the tractor appears to have been very much as it went into production. The wheels and planetaries are indistinguishable from the production model, as is the shape of the frame and the shape of the hood and grill.
A more refined looking proto-type but still pre-production is shown on this site. This tractor had headlights mounted on the upper outboard sides of the front cowl of the tractor. Production tractors had the headlights mounted inside the upper section of the grill. The air cleaner on the D100 was mounted under the rear of the hood with the stack extending up through the hood. The G100 had the air cleaner mounted outboard in a similar position to the picture shown (I believe the picture shown is a diesel model.). The introductory advertising and the Operators Manual for the 100 Model used the pre-production proto-type as pictured to the left of this description.
From this development emerged the model D100 (Ford diesel powered) and the G100 (Chrysler gas powered) Versatile tractors. Based on a sequence of events and reference to the fall of 1965 by Peter Pakosh in his memoirs, I believe that the 100 Model went into production in the fall of 1965. The D100 and G100 were sold as 1966 models and while there is some evidence in correspondence and advertising that there was intent to offer it again in 1967, I have no further evidence to indicate that it was in fact available for a second year. It is probable that the new G125 and D118 models introduced for 1967 rather eclipsed the 100 Model and it was discontinued. The answer to this question is somewhat confounded in that there does not seem to have been an exact serial number listing of these tractors kept. I have derived from reliable sources that there were give or take of 100 diesels and 25 gas tractors produced. These tractors were shipped to dealers in both the US and Canada. John Nelson of Monroe, Nebraska owns a G100, Serial number 50002 originally purchased new by his grandfather Francis Johnson of Oberlin, Kansas in 1966. Reportedly, this was the first Versatile tractor sold in the US and John has restored this tractor and has displayed it at a number of fairs and expositions.
The Model 100 was a component built tractor as were all Versatiles to follow. Each of these components was purchased from reputable, proven suppliers, which no doubt initially contributed to the credibility of the tractor. The 363 cubic inch I6 cylinder diesel was purchased from Ford, the 318 cubic inch gas industrial V8 was purchased from Chrysler, transmission was from Spicer as were the drive lines, the 4-speed drop box from Funk, the axles and planetaries were purchased from Clark and the hydraulic pump from Cessna. All of these units gave good service; but I do understand that the drop box was not as heavily built as it should have been for the power of the tractor and the work put upon it.
With production of only 125 units the D100 and G100 tractors are surely excellent collector items and although not many have begun collecting four-wheel drives there certainly won’t be enough of these to go around. Imagine how proud you would have been to take one of these beauties to the field in the spring of 1966. This tractor is pleasingly configured, the ‘Versatile Red’ tractor with yellow grill, wheels and decaling showed very nicely; not to mention that you had just bought in to the new “four-wheel drive” direction in agricultural power. A very progressive farmer indeed and at the price of a conventional two-wheel drive tractor of similar horsepower.
I have two of these tractors a D100 and a G100. I have used the D100 on a dirt scraper, a six-bottom plow and a deep tiller. The tractor handles beautifully, throttles nicely and has a distinct solid and smooth feel to its operation. The steering is smooth and positive and imparts a good feeling of control. From a collector’s point of view (that’s me), these are truly great collector pieces. They are few, they are showy in their red and yellow colors, they are useable, they are fun in that they are nimble and maneuverable and when you sit atop the operators platform (no cab) and throttle the tractor in high gear it gains momentum with decisiveness and a smooth engine roar that is exhilarating. (Do I like these or what?)
I am interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with these tractors and if you happen to have one or have connection to an original owner please contact me. I would very much like to speak to people who have farmed with a D100 or G100 and I am also interested in obtaining pictures of these tractors.