Thread Number: 25205
The Bison
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Post# 283188   6/4/2014 at 22:44 (1,170 days old) by vacuumman206 (Eastpointe, MI)        

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I have never been able to find sufficient information to get the whole story on the Bison cleaners. Wondering if someone can give me the spiel. I know the Bison was designed by a disgruntled Kirby employee who did everything he could to copy the Kirby without infringing copyrights and changing a few issues he found with Kirbys. What I was never aware of and am still unclear on is how many Bison variations there are and when the Bison was in production. It is my understanding there are (3) color schemes and I've heard of the Centurion and Centurion II, but have only ever seen the title Centurion on any Bison I've ever seen, pictured or in person.

Post# 283189 , Reply# 1   6/4/2014 at 22:46 (1,170 days old) by vintagevaclover (Athens, GA)        

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I am also wondering the same thing. I would love to add one of these beasts to my collection, but as several people on here say "they are rarer than crab's teeth" lol. I know basically what you have posted about them and nothing more.

Post# 283262 , Reply# 2   6/5/2014 at 10:19 (1,170 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        
I was the one!

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Who quoted that crab teeth phrase!tongue-out


Bison started in the early 1970s (the earliest I know of is 1974) with the green Mark II was HORRID! Some were known to break down during an in-home demonstration! They were sold Door-To-Door, and in Bison service centers. Legend has it the company president would lock the salesmen into a room and preach to them, followed by the line, 'I have better never hear of my vacuums being solt to black people or in trailer parks!'. Didn't give the company a good reputation. After that came the improved Mark III, then the Centurion Mark II. Slightly more reliable, but still sat in troubled waters.the company went out of business by the early 1980s. GE made the jet-engine motors Bisons are known for. wink

This post was last edited 06/05/2014 at 10:49
Post# 283263 , Reply# 3   6/5/2014 at 10:27 (1,170 days old) by dysonman1 (Rolla, Missouri)        
There were three models

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Mark II, Mark III, and Centurion. Kirby never sued Bison. U.S. patents only last 18 years, and there was nothing about the Bison that was a patented Kirby item at the time it began to be manufactured, which was 1971. The Bison was the brainchild of a Kirby Distributor in Ocala, Florida. He wanted to eliminate the belt lifter. The variable speed motor, used in carpet or tool mode, was unique. They are very heavy and very loud vacuums. The Bison was the inspiration for the Generation Three models. When I was a VCCC member, we went to the Kirby factory, and then onto the Kirby testing labs. John Lockner was Kirby's engineer, and he explained there was enough room behind the Bison's motor for a transmission. He also showed us the prototype for what will be the forthcoming "new Kirby". I have a good picture of Mike Pletcher and Clay Floyd playing with it.

Here are my two Bison's on display at the Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, MO

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Post# 283274 , Reply# 4   6/5/2014 at 11:05 (1,170 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        

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 With you running a MUSEUM on vacuums, I'm not surprised you would be here for corrections!tongue-out


I've since edited my post to include the Mark III model (that appears to be one going off the bag and label in your picture, next to the Centurion II).

The Bison used a VERY unique design to get around Kirby's were still required to manually lift the belt onto the spindle, but the spindle was in TWO pieces! You installed the belt on the spindle nested in the middle of the head's intake, and coupled with the motor spindle in a square lock. These were known to strip themselves, much like the infamous Hoover V2 4-brush design!


I found this picture to better explain!


Post# 283285 , Reply# 5   6/5/2014 at 11:35 (1,170 days old) by marks_here (Crossville TN & Altoona PA WOO HOO )        
I remember the Kirby man

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Hated working on them when they came in. He said they were horrible & told people that had them to switch to something different because parts were getting hard to find. I wanted one when they first came out but thought about what he said & now I guess if you have one not to use it or if you do have another one around for parts. Cheers!!! Mark D.

Post# 283334 , Reply# 6   6/5/2014 at 17:15 (1,170 days old) by vacman33 (Grand Junction Colorado)        

Very interesting can see where they used some designs in the Generations series Kirby. dysonman1, was wondering if you'd like to share any photos of proto-type kirbys. Maybe the "forth coming" machine you mentioned.

Post# 283363 , Reply# 7   6/5/2014 at 20:25 (1,170 days old) by vintagevaclover (Athens, GA)        

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I want one just because it's an oddity

Post# 283368 , Reply# 8   6/5/2014 at 21:19 (1,169 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        
you must've just started collecting,

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I was Bison-crazy! I tried to buy every old vacuum off youtube!

I've since learned to appreciate more than the ultra-rare, such as the humble Kirby, or the HOOVER!


I still wouldn't mind a Bison, but I'm not going to track down one in Lamar, Colorado! 

(Lat: 38° 5' 16.8966"
Long: -102° 23' 53.0556")0


There's even a UPS not far should you find one there!

Post# 283395 , Reply# 9   6/5/2014 at 23:37 (1,169 days old) by vacuumman206 (Eastpointe, MI)        

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thanks for the info and clarifications! I have never seen the mark II or III. Only the Centurions. And up until recently I didn't even know those came in more than one color. I love having this machine but hate knowing its a dog eat dog market to get parts or attachments for it.
BTW, does the Centurion take a 12v light bulb, because a 120v bayonet just glows when installed?

Post# 283403 , Reply# 10   6/6/2014 at 02:00 (1,169 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

Any Bison Mk 2's still surviving-would like to see one.And yes,would like to have both the Green and Brown Bisons in my collection.Strange machines.Could see why the floor nozzle coupler would wear-its plastic!Now if it were metal like on the motor-probably no problem.Would the belt in the floor nozzle itself need routine replacement?Or is it some sort of gear system?

Post# 283417 , Reply# 11   6/6/2014 at 08:27 (1,169 days old) by super-sweeper (KSSRC Refurbishment Center)        
the nozzle,

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Used a belt you have to install on the geared rod, but once it was on you were free to easily remove the nozzle at any time!smile


The picture I posted above is a Mark II, Tom's picture has the Mark III upright next to the Centurion II.


Post# 283434 , Reply# 12   6/6/2014 at 10:13 (1,169 days old) by dysonman1 (Rolla, Missouri)        

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The difference between the Mark II and the Mark III, was the Mark II has a power take off port on the side, to provide power for the shoe polisher attachment as well as Bison's version of the Handi Butler. Mark III models didn't have the power take off port.

Post# 283561 , Reply# 13   6/7/2014 at 02:25 (1,168 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

In the picture of the Bison with the floor tool removed-can see a PTO opening on the rear back of the motor housing-interesting!What sort of "Handi Butler" did the Bison have? Was it like the Kirby's-And would be neat to use the PTO to power other things besides the shoe poilsher and Handi Butler type attachment.At least with the Kirby when the floor tool was removed-the belt isn't under tension.Same with the carpet cleaning tool.So the Kirby belts could possibly last longer.If you had to store the Bison floor tool-you would have to take the belt off the shaft adaptor.

Post# 288079 , Reply# 14   7/10/2014 at 14:50 (1,135 days old) by Kirbyking (NW Burbs of Chicago)        

R U looking for a MARK III? I have one with tools, manual, and box. I am in the NW Burb and U R in the NS Burbs? I read your post in June but was in the hospital. Unable to find your post. I am looking to sell this local pick-up only. I don't want to have to pack and ship it. I have no mechanical skills and don't know how to remove the handle. Someone else put it together. I don't even change my own belts! If interested, let me know.

Post# 288159 , Reply# 15   7/11/2014 at 01:19 (1,134 days old) by Jaker15 (Meridian, ID)        

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Kirby DID indeed sue the Bison company in 1983 and they were shut down immediately. Why in the world would Kirby use the Bison's design? After that massive patent infringement? I think not.

Post# 370561 , Reply# 16   4/12/2017 at 12:55 by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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So Bison started with mark II? Why do I see models that just say Bison? Also the one I'm talking about doesn't have the green plastic belt cap in the nozzle like the II and III

Post# 370826 , Reply# 17   4/16/2017 at 15:44 by vacuser (milford,ohio)        
bison reply

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here's mine. i have two sets of attachments. they are just neat vacuums & they look good.a little gawdy to vacuum with in the carpet mode but the hose mode is nice.

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Post# 370932 , Reply# 18   4/18/2017 at 08:59 by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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is yours a Mark I or II

Post# 371845 , Reply# 19   5/6/2017 at 15:56 by vacuser (milford,ohio)        
to kirbyvertibles/ bison

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i'm vacuser & my bison is a mark II.

Post# 372000 , Reply# 20   5/10/2017 at 13:04 by broomvac (N/A)        

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I like dysonman1's story about how the Bison inspired the Generation series since there was enough room behind the motor for a tech drive transmission.

Bison blatantly ripped off Kirby and failed pretty miserably. Kirby then ripped off Bison and created the most successful line of vacuums in the company's history. Poetic justice!

Post# 372038 , Reply# 21   5/11/2017 at 08:48 by Oreck_XL (Brooklyn, New York 11211)        

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Did I not hear rumor on here that there WAS a Bison prototype which had power drive? I can attest to the flimsiness of the design as I have a Centurion where the plastic handle above the power unit broke in shipping. I super glued it as best I could but of course it's not the same.

- Hershel

Post# 372072 , Reply# 22   5/12/2017 at 09:27 by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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Yes there was a Bison proto with a transmission made by James Keeler inventor of the Kirby bagless dirt cup.

So was there a model before the Mark II or did they start with Mark II?
Also when did Bison start? I heard one time it goes as far back as 1967???

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