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Father and son restore a classic Versatile tractor

An on-farm restoration brings a D-118 tractor back to nearly new condition

Darren Rigaux, who farms near Swan River, Manitoba, and his father, Eddy, have a long-term loyalty to the Versatile brand name. They’ve been using the red tractors on their farm for decades. A couple of years ago, they were inspired to find and restore an old Versatile tractor. Darren emailed to tell us about it.

“Over the years we have become sort of enthusiasts, I guess you could say,” Darren wrote. “We have been running Manitoba-built Versatiles almost exclusively on our farm since 1982 and have never had any major problems with any of them.

“A few years ago we attended the Thresherman’s Reunion in Austin, Manitoba, and that year’s featured manufacturer was Versatile. Seeing a few restored Versatiles kind of got our blood pumping, I guess, so we set out to find an old one to restore — easier said than done. Though there were many sold, they’re still hard to find.”

When it arrived, the tractor was in reasonably good mechanical condition but needed a facelift.

When it arrived, the tractor was in reasonably good mechanical condition but needed a facelift.
photo: Rigaux family

But eventually the two did find a suitable candidate for a restoration.

“One day my father got a call from an old friend in Pangman, Saskatchewan, telling him of an auction near Regina with a D-118,” he explains. He went to the sale, found out the tractor was in running condition and bought it for $2,400. We spent about $1,000 to have it trucked to our yard and slowly started work on it. First we took off the cab and duals because we wanted the tractor to look original, these were add-ons, you could order a Versatile with a cab but they were not their own.”

Mechanically, the tractor was in pretty good condition, but it did need a few repairs. A seal kit was installed in the steering cylinder, the starter solenoid was replaced and the rear brakes were rebuilt.

“We noticed two leaking wheel seals so we just replaced all four as the other two probably were not far behind,” he adds. “This took some time because these old Versatiles have huge outboard planetaries. Mostly just heavy and awkward but you have to line everything up just right to get them back on.”

After sandblasting, new primer and paint and a lot of man hours, the D-118 looks like new again.

After sandblasting, new primer and paint and a lot of man hours, the D-118 looks like new again.
photo: Rigaux family

From there, the pair turned their attention to cosmetics. The tractor needed to have some rust removed before getting a coat of paint.

“We did the bulk of the work on it over the winter of 2014. There weren’t too many things wrong with it,” he continues. “Sandblasting was done by East Side Sandblasting out of Winkler. I took them what I could and they came to do the bulk of the work on farm. Total bill was only around $900 — not bad for that hard of work. I would never attempt another restoration without sandblasting all I could. As soon as that was done we rolled it into our shop for some primer. I did all the painting myself using the red and yellow from Versatile, and I found a place in Brandon that sold me high heat paint to colour-match the old Cummins beige. Since I’m not a mechanic, we didn’t want to remove the engine for paint. It wasn’t leaking so instead I used a tonne of degreaser and decided to paint it still on the tractor. It actually worked out really well, the paint is of very good quality.”

Replacement decals were created by a specialty firm in Brandon, because original replacements are no longer available.

Replacement decals were created by a specialty firm in Brandon, because original replacements are no longer available.
photo: Rigaux family

The hood decals are no longer available, so Darren took photos and measurements of the existing ones and had a specialty shop create replacements for about $150. Then the tractor was also given a new set of 18.4 x 30 tires.

“As for right now we have no plans to ever put the cab back on but might consider duals, it would look pretty mean I think, says Darren. “We have a great deal of pride in this tractor and are considering taking it to Austin this fall if the timing works out.”

Editor’s note: If you’ve restored a classic machine, get in touch and tell me about it.

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About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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