The Vapormatic Company was founded in Budleigh Salterton, East Devon, in 1949 by Arthur E. Lea, a former sales executive with Shell Petroleum, and Ron Foster, an Engineer who had designed and developed a device to convert petrol engines used on agricultural tractors to run on tractor vaporising oil.
The "Vapormatic" conversion kit played a part in the search for cheaper agricultural production in the times of rationing just after the Second World War. A number of different manifold conversion kits were manufactured by the company for petrol engines used in agriculture at the time. Vapormatic manifolds are still to be found in use today. The model fitted to the Ferguson TE20 tractor petrol engines was the most popular and well known product.
Here we see the Vapormatic’s founder Arthur Lea at a company dinner. During the 1950's the Company expanded rapidly selling Vapormatic conversion kits into agricultural markets around the world.
The company also developed a related agricultural products range including; - wing carriers for tractors, Matic plough shares, Ferguson spanners, brake safety devices, and various replacement tractor and implement parts.
With the growing use of the diesel engine in agriculture in the 1950's the "Vapormatic" manifold market became limited, so the Company developed its range of replacement agricultural parts and continued to expand its worldwide business operation.
Innovation and aggressive marketing employed by the company had helped to establish the Vapormatic name in agricultural communities across the world. The highly successful range was marketed through an international network of dealer contacts. The manufacturers of tractors and machinery enjoyed a buoyant market at this time and paid little attention to the supply of spare parts. This situation was exploited by Vapormatic.
Also in this decade:
1963 - Formation of The Vapormatic Co (Ireland) Ltd in Dublin - Formation of Vapormatic France S.A.R.L.
1964 - Formation of The Vapormatic Co (Australia) Ltd in Melbourne
This decade saw continued major expansion of the product range and growth of the customer base. The first major investment in information technology came in 1973 with the company's first computer, an IBM System 3. By the mid 1970's Vapormatic had far outgrown its premises on the old Gas Works site in Budleigh Salterton. A five acre green field site was purchased on a prestigious new trading estate alongside the M5 motorway in Exeter.
The new building was planned and built specifically for the storage and worldwide distribution of spare parts. Phase 1 of the development providing office accommodation, development areas and studios of 12,000 square feet, with factory and warehouse space of 48,000 square feet. Building work commenced on 1st October 1976 and was completed in July 1977.
Also in this decade:
1976 – Vapormatic was the victim of industrial espionage, widely reported in the media at the time.
1977 - Vapormatic becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Grovewood Securities Ltd, itself a subsidiary of Eagle Star PLC.
The 1980’s saw large changes to the way Vapormatic conducts its business. 1986 saw the beginning of the "Stockists" program in the UK. The concept was of a strong dealer network offering the complete Vapormatic product range to both trade and retail customer base nationwide. Today there are over 80 Vapormatic Stockists around the UK, offering an unrivalled level of service.
Also in this decade:
1983 - IBM System 38 computer installed.
1984 - Eagle Star PLC becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco PLC. The 1980's saw the instigation of some major parts marketing initiatives.
1984 – ‘Allmakes’ parts marketing program instigated, creating new marketing opportunities for customers throughout the world.
1985 - Agriparts Canada purchased and name changed to Vapormatic Canada. 1985 - Implementation of Phase II in Exeter operation development providing a further 13,000 square feet of warehouse space.
1986 - Vapormatic becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolseley PLC, a major British based group of Companies, quoted on the London Stock Exchange. ‘Partmart’ – a complete parts merchandising system was developed to efficiently promote the Vapormatic brands in customer’s premises.
1987 - Vapormatic wins the prestigious "Queens Award for Export Achievement"
1989 - Formation of Vapormatic Spain in Barcelona.
The 1990's saw major changes in OE manufacturers approach to the parts business. Realising what Vapormatic had discovered over 40 years earlier, OEM’s began to expand, widen and strengthen their product ranges. Not to be outdone, Vapormatic too increased it's offering with additional ranges including; JCB, Zetor, Deutz, Fiat and Renault.
Also in this decade
1993 - Vapormatic France SARL re established. Continued investment and development of the UK Stockist network leads to a network of more than 75 independent distributors.
1994 - Wolseley PLC acquires Riverside Tractor Parts in Memphis, USA on behalf of Vapormatic.
1994 - Vapormatic becomes the first Company in the agricultural parts aftermarket to achieve ISO9002 quality accreditation.
1994 - Partsworld Retail Stockist operation opened by Vapormatic to gain direct retail experience of a UK agricultural parts operation.
1996 - Formation of Vapormatic Zimbabwe Co (PVT) Ltd and Vapormatic de Mexico, SA de CV.
1997 - Vapormatic Spain opens new branch in Seville, southern Spain.
1998 - Vapormatic becomes the major supplier for the "Heritage" parts range to AGCO in North America.
1999 - Vapormatic Spain opens Leon branch in North West of the country.
1999 - A major investment in a new fully integrated Mapics computer system running on IBM AS400 technology.
Large changes were once again happening for Vapormatic when in 2001 the business was acquired by John Deere, the largest agricultural machinery manufacturer in the world. With bold ambitions, Vapormatic set about reasserting itself as the leader in alternative spare parts for all makes of tractor.
Also in this decade
2000 Vapormatic celebrates 50 years of supplying quality tractor parts and accessories to farmers and engineers worldwide.
2001 Vapormatic purchased by John Deere, one of the largest, longest established and most respected agricultural and industrial machinery manufacturers in the World.
2002 Upgrade to ISO9001:2000 quality accreditation, providing quality system controls throughout the business. Online services provided for our trade customer base (Vap Point) allowing 24 hour access to technical information, availability, pricing and ordering facilities.
2003/4/5 Range development, cataloguing and web services development continues. New ranges including air conditioning components and servicing equipment, crop sprayer nozzles, enhanced accessories range and lubricants range, updated Massey Ferguson, Case IH, Ford New Holland, John Deere and Deutz tractor parts ranges.
2006 Hydraulics, Telehandlers and Grassland ranges launched.
2007 New Claas and Kubota ranges saw the company diversify into harvesting and compact tractors. A significant Fendt update shows growing commitment to the German market.
2008 The Vapormatic range of Short Motors is launched, supplying fully assembled engine blocks for popular makes of tractor.
2009 The Vapormatic Vehicle Immobiliser is launched, the first such product designed specifically for the agricultural industry; showcasing the company’s ability for technical innovation and customer support. The products wins industry awards and is accredited to the Thatcham P2 standard.
2010 Vapormatic celebrates 60 years in business.
2010 Mexican market continues to grow strongly and an additional warehouse is opened in Guadalajara, Western Mexico.
2011 Expansion of the Perkins Short motor range, to include 4 cylinder engines.
2011 Formal alliances with 'A&I products' and 'Sunbelt outdoor products' in the USA were established. These alliances provided mutual benefit to all companies by providing access to each of the respective company’s portfolio of products.
2012 Vapormatic started the integration of new product programmes of Combine parts and Turf and Groundscare parts with A&I and Sunbelt respectively.