In 2004 Versatile jumped out in front in the horsepower race with its 535 tractor, flagship model in the company’s HHT (high-horsepower tractor) line introduced with the smaller 485 and 435 too. The model numbers also represent respective horsepower ratings.
It took awhile for other manufacturers to catch up with the kind of power the 535 delivered. But being at the head of the pack is nothing new for tractors wearing the Versatile name. They have been on the cutting edge of innovation ever since the first articulated tractor came off the assembly line in 1966.
Versatile tractors have always been industry leaders rather than followers. In a bold move, the company actually became the first manufacturer to mass produce articulated four-wheel-drive tractors. During the mid-1960s other manufacturers offered the new concept—four-wheel-drive tractors—in limited numbers, but producers showed little interest, mainly because the tractors were cumbersome, inefficient and expensive. But introduction of the first 100-Series tractors by Versatile changed all that.
Versatile built four-wheel drives to a different standard. Efficiency, ease of service and durability were the cornerstones. And that philosophy is as central to tractor design at Versatile today as it was then.
When engineers began the design process for HHT tractors, they first listened to what producers were asking for in a field tractor. “The company set out to create a totally new tractor platform that embodied the most-asked-for features. At the top of the list was ‘keep it reliable and simple,’” says Grant Adolph, chief operating officer for Versatile’s Winnipeg tractor plant.
And a close inspection shows that HHT designers met that request. Despite the size of these giants, servicing can usually be done with both feet firmly on the ground.
Sight gauges are positioned at eye level at various points around the engine compartment. They allow operators to check fluid levels at a glance, saving time on morning inspections. As another example of ease of service, the engine air filter is positioned just below the intake stack at chest level, so replacing it is a breeze. And checking electrical fuses, located behind the cab’s B-pillar panel, can be done from the operator’s seat.
Cleaning chaff and dirt from radiators and condensers can be a real chore on some tractors, but not on an HHT. With a swing-open grille, access to the tractor’s cooling system is as easy as opening a door.
And getting up close to the Cummins QSX 15-litre engine is no problem when the two side panels are raised. It’s actually possible to kneel right beside the engine and reach over top if necessary without removing any panels or shields. Ease of service was something customers insisted on in any new tractor design, and Versatile’s engineers clearly delivered it.
Getting in and out of the spacious cab is a real treat, too. Extra-wide steps are positioned at a convenient and safe angle for an easy climb. But once inside the cab, you may not want to get out at the end of the day. Versatile offers a variety of entertainment systems including satellite radio capability and multiple-disc CD players. Also, the larger cab offers more elbow room than previous models, and has a buddy seat for a passenger to ride along.
Despite the massive size of these tractors, getting a good look around is easy from the operator’s position. The increased glass area gives a panoramic 360-degree view, and all controls are placed in easy reach on a console at the operator’s right hand. Hydraulic adjustments, along with gear or throttle changes, can be done without moving your elbow off the seat’s armrest.
To deliver all those horses from engine to wheels, HHTs can be ordered with either a 12 X 4 Quadshift mechanical transmission or a 16 X 4 Cat TA22 power shift. Aside from providing maximum performance in the field, the Cat power shift’s top speed of 40 km/h makes moving equipment over long distances quick and efficient. That extra speed can be a significant advantage for the many producers who now farm several parcels of land miles apart.
And because hydraulic capacity is critically important today, these tractors offer a standard 208-litre-per-minute (LPM) flow rate or an optional 303 LPM upgrade. That capacity ensures HHT tractors can easily handle any high-flow hydraulic demand.
With the optional electronic control package, activating a hydraulic circuit can be as easy as pushing a button. Electronic control replaces standard lever controls with electrical switches, and up to eight SCVs can be ordered with this package. The ease of operation offered by these simple controls helps reduce operator fatigue at the end of a long day in the seat.
To reduce the number of refuelling stops, Versatile has equipped HHT tractors with a massive 1,325-litre fuel tank. “Our customers wanted enough capacity to operate for 18 hours under full load,” explains Grant Adolph.
With the HHT tractors, Versatile has again demonstrated that “versatility” is a word that applies just as well to the current line-up as it did to the 100-Series back in 1966. And the HHT line is just one of the latest in a family of innovative models to come down the very same assembly line that built the first tractor to proudly wear the Versatile name.