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Versatile 1080 “Big Roy”

Versatile 1080 "Big Roy"

The Versatile Model 1080 was designed and built in 1977. There is some suggestion that the design was aimed at the Australian market as Australia possesses many large farms with all acreage in one block. A very large tractor in Australia would pose fewer problems than it would in North America where large farms have their land base in a number of scattered blocks. This means farm machinery must move on roads. Large tractors and their associated machinery pose significant problems in road transport.

There is also suggestion that tractor manufacturers were engaged in a battle for bragging rights for the largest and most powerful tractor. In 1977, Steiger Tractor was experimenting with their Panther Twin ST650 of 650 horsepower and Big Bud was bringing out the Big Bud 747 tractor with 760 horsepower. Versatile’s Model 1080 was their entry in this competition.

But whatever the reason behind the Model 1080, the President and General Manager of Versatile, Roy Robinson, decided Versatile needed a high horsepower tractor and issued orders that the Model 1080 was to be designed and built. What emerged from the designers drafting table was a four axle horsepower tractor powered by a Cummins KTA-1150 diesel engine that generated 600 horsepower. The four axles mounted a total of eight 30.5 X 32 tires. The 1080 design reversed conventional four wheel drive tractor design as the engine is located at the rear of the tractor. A modern, spacious cab is located ahead of the engine compartment with a 550 gallon fuel tank located ahead of the cab.  The cab is accessed from either side through sliding doors and ladders that slide into the body of the tractor when not in use. Vision to the rear of the tractor from the cab is very limited as the engine compartment was quite tall. To allow vision to the rear, a closed circuit TV system was installed with a dustproof 120 degree camera pointing down at the drawbar and a 9-inch TV monitor installed in the dash where the operator could easily view the TV. In 1977 this was definitely cutting edge technology!

The tractor possesses a six-speed manual transmission which provides speeds between 3.7 mph to 13.2 mph. Twelve 60-watt lights provide illumination for night field operations.  Engine cooling is provided by two radiators of 85 quart capacity with two mechanically driven fans of 28″ diameters drawing air through the radiators.  The tractor is over 30 feet long, 11 feet high and weighs over 30 tonnes when ballasted for field operations.

The tractor articulates between the second and third axle. The articulation joint, as well as allowing movement from side to side which was necessary for steering, also allows for vertical movement of 10 degree plus or minus. This movement is necessary to allow the tires to remain in contact with the ground as the tractor moved over uneven ground. The tractor will steer 40 degrees to one side or the other.

The four-axle design, however innovative, was the tractor’s downfall. While the four-axle design allows enough rubber on the ground to use the engine horsepower while allowing the tractor to remain fairly narrow, the result was all four tires on either side run in the same track and cause severe soil compaction problems within this track.  Versatile’s Model 1150 which appeared after the Model 1080 and featured 475 horsepower, reverted to the standard four-wheel drive tractor design. The 1150 either uses very wide tires installed as duals on all axles, or mounts triple tires on all axles. Todays four-wheel drive tractors are approaching 600 horsepower and either use triple tires “all the way around’ or use the newly emerged rubber track design.

A closer inspection of the tractor shows that it was still very much a work in progress. Accessing the underside of the tractor reveals that many design alterations were made during the tractor’s life, as the frame work bears many weld marks where pieces were cut out and later welded back in. While the camera allows for some vision to the rear, this vision is still limited. As well, vision to the front is not great as the design of the cab floor, the hood and fenders result in the operator not being able to see the ground within 20 feet of the tractor’s front end.

The Model 1080 never entered production, and the tractor at the Museum remains the single example produced. The tractor was donated to the Museum in the 1980s along with other pieces from Versatile.

Where did the nickname “Big Roy” come from? Roy Robinson the President and General Manager of Versatile instructed the engineers to design and build the Model 1080. Mr. Robertson stood 6 foot, 4 inches and was a larger than life character with a standard attire of cowboy boots and Stetson hat. It was a natural therefore, to name the Model 1080 “Big Roy”.

Big Roy - Photo Credit: Versatile Company
Photo Credit: Versatile Company

A promotional photo of Big Roy taken after the Versatile Company returned the tractor to its “as built” condition during the winter of 2015 / 2016. The Versatile Company approached the Manitoba Agricultural Museum with an offer to restore the tractor and the Museum agreed. In the fall of 2015, Versatile transported the tractor to its Winnipeg plant where the tractor was originally built. Over the winter of 2015 / 2016 the tractor was disassembled, various components repaired, reassembled and the tractor repainted to the factory paint scheme that it originally possessed. The Manitoba Agricultural Museum deeply appreciates the effort, work and dedication Versatile and its employees displayed in returning Big Roy to pristine condition. Big Roy – a true Manitoba treasure!

“Big Roy” 4 Axle – 8 Wheel Drive Tractor Model 1080

Wheelbase: 22.2 feet
Overall length: 30.5 feet
Overall height to top of cab: 11 feet
Engine to transmission
Transmission to drop boxes
Drop boxes to Axles
Spicer Glidecote telescoping action
Articulated frame 8 wheel drive
Oscillates to 10 degrees in both directions
Cummins KTA 1150-600
RPM: 2100
BHP: 600
Tire Size
30.5×32 singles
Articulated frame, 40 degrees in both directions
Fully hydrostatic actuation
Vehicle Weight
Shipping Weight: 54450 lbs
Operating Weight: 57580 lbs (with fuel)
20″ disc. and caliper, self adjusting, driveline mounted
Caliper parking brake – mechanically actuated by over center lever
Versatile Design – Independent module type with rollover protective structure
Fully isolated on rubber mounts
Acoustically insulated interior
Tinted safety glass
Height – 69.5 inches inside (stand-up design)
One operators seat, fully adjustable
Two additional fixed seats
Turning Radius
(Measured to outside edge of outer tire)
26.6 feet with 30.5×32 single tires
12/24 volt negative ground system w/ Series Parallel Switch
Two 8D-900 amp 12 volt batteries
Eight 60 watt working lights (exceeds ASAE 279.6)
Four additional cab mounted working lights
Drive System
Multi-plate dry 15.5 inch clutch
Mechanical 6 speed transmission
Cooling System
Capacity: 85 U.S. quarts
2 radiators rubber mounted
Independent surge tank
Quick removable perforated metal grill screen
Fan: 28″ diameter (6 blade suction type)
Rear View Camera
Dust proof camera with 120 degree wide angle lens
9 inch monitor inside cab
12 volt DC closed circuit system
Final Drive
Rolling radius of drive wheel 31.5″
Total ratio of final drive: 27.41
Exhaust System
Muffler is rubber mounted
Built-in spark arrestor (where mandatory)
Fuel Tank
550 (U.S.) gallons
Mechanical speeds:1: 3.7 mph, 2: 5.1 mph, 3: 6.48 mph, 4: 7.5 mph, 5: 10.4 mph, 6: 13.2 mph

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