Back in January, Grainews was invited into Versatile’s Winnipeg tractor assembly plant to follow the restoration of the classic Big Roy, eight-wheel drive tractor, which has been a brand icon since the 1970s. The Grainews video team documented the work being done to the tractor by company employees throughout the restoration process. The goal of the restoration was to bring the tractor back to what it once was. Time had taken its toll on it, like it does on all machines.
After months of work and the expenditure of an undisclosed amount of money, staff at Versatile — including at least one employee who had originally helped build the tractor — have wrapped up the project. In early July Big Roy was finally ready for his first official public viewing. That took place at the company’s Sanford R&D facility as part of the presentation event for buyers of the Legendary Limited Edition tractors. The new owners of those special edition machines were the first to see the refreshed Big Roy.
The entire event including the presentation of keys to customers of the LLE tractors and the Big Roy debut was a long time in the making, according to Versatile’s marketing manager Adam Reid.
“It turned out better than we thought,” he said. “We had about 130 people here between dealers and customers. The response to these (LLE) tractors from the very first time we showed them has always been spectacular.”
Despite the enthusiasm about seeing their own LLE tractor for the very first time, arguably it was Big Roy’s dramatic entrance that stole the show. The tractor rolled out from behind closed doors in the evening as the entire crowd gathered to watch and eventually give it a close inspection.
“I’ve seen it at its very worst; and now I’ve seen it at its very best,” said Reid of the restoration work. “The partnership we have with the museum is fantastic. People come from all over the world to see it. And now there is a showpiece there that will accurately depict who we think Versatile is.”
But Big Roy will first spend the summer on tour with Versatile, forming the centrepiece at its show displays around Canada and the Northern U.S. Its first stop was the Ag in Motion show near Saskatoon in late July.
“It’s a world-wide attraction and now it’s going to make the show tour with us,” Reid added. “We’re going to show it to people who remember that era of Versatile, who remember when this was just a monster tractor. And what’s funny is when it was in the R&D bay being restored and it was parked next to a Delta Track, the Delta Track is several feet higher and the dimensions aren’t that much different. But in its day, Big Roy was earth shattering. It was groundbreaking. No one had seen anything like it. The fact that we’re able to bring it back for the 50th anniversary is very fulfilling for us.”
For a video look at Big Roy’s restoration and debut in Sanford, Manitoba, go to Grainews.ca and watch the e-QuipTV episodes.