Thread Number: 25205
The Bison
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Post# 283188   6/4/2014 at 22:44 (3,663 days old) by vacuumman206 ()        

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 (3,663 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 (3,663 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 (3,663 days old) by dysonman1 (the county)        
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 (3,663 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 (3,663 days old) by marks_here (_._)        
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 (3,662 days old) by vacman33 ()        

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 (3,662 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 (3,662 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 (3,662 days old) by vacuumman206 ()        

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 (3,662 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 (3,662 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 (3,662 days old) by dysonman1 (the county)        

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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 (3,661 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 (3,628 days old) by Kirbyking ()        

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 (3,627 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 (2,621 days old) 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 (2,617 days old) 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 (2,615 days old) 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 (2,596 days old) 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 (2,593 days old) 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 (2,592 days old) 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 (2,591 days old) 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???

Post# 377373 , Reply# 23   8/28/2017 at 15:51 (2,483 days old) by Phaeton (Los Angeles )        

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Hello All,
As you may or may not know I acquired a Bison Mark II that needed a slight repair and looks as near new as a lightly used vacuum can be. I don't believe it has been used in a long time, perhaps 10 to 20 years or more. I needed a belt for it so I went off to the local vacuum shop and I did take the old belt with me, getting the belt off was easy. Sorry all you Bison lovers but no belt lifter or hole to get to it, I guess it came new with some special tool other than a screw driver. Okay so they did not have any first hand knowledge of the Bison, neither did I until I got it a week ago. So we picked out a belt that was smaller but not as small as the Kirby belt which looked like it would be too tight. Without too much fussing, a lie, I got it on. Well the belt still slips when the brush roll touches the carpet. So now I need a bit of help from the persons that know which belt I need to buy. I should say the gear and white plastic socket for the square shaft are good. I don’t mean to be rude or disrespectful but I do not like this vacuum, sorry. I have 30’s Hoovers and Singers that I would rather use. I really need the right belt so please give me your recommendations. Was there a special tool Bison had for the belt? Oh, yes the bag is a bit faded.
I have another post I have to get caught up on about the Bison repair I did and about the Hoover 105 I just received. The base is 105 but I have been told the motor and handle are wrong for a 105 and are for a 102. I think I was on my 5th life back then and I just don't remember much about anything, Prohibition seems to stick out in my mind.
Thank you

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Post# 377428 , Reply# 24   8/29/2017 at 09:01 (2,482 days old) by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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I wish I knew more about these. Both of My Bisons came with good belts and so far don't slip so I've never replaced one. I bought a new in box one and I don't recall it having and special tool with it but I could be wrong. I'm not an expert, I just play one on T.V.

You say you don't like it much, that's not being disrespectful, that's your opinion that you are entitled to lol. Many don't care for it however, if you decide to sell it and your price is fair I can tell you you wont have any trouble as many on here are looking for one.

Post# 377569 , Reply# 25   8/29/2017 at 22:04 (2,481 days old) by Phaeton (Los Angeles )        

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I have a question about dysonmanl's Mark III and Centurion Bisons that are pictured in this Thread. They both have what looks like a white push down lever on the left side just behind the light and nozzle, what does it do? Also the both had a pad in the middle of the nozzle that matches the color of the Bison they are on, what is it a bumper pad? A you know I now have the Mark II and it does not have either of those on it. I still have not had any luck in finding a belt for the Bison that will not slip.
vacuser's Bison pictured above looks new and mine is also pictured but it used until it was a trade-in years ago from my understanding.
Thanks you looking,

Post# 377643 , Reply# 26   8/31/2017 at 09:20 (2,480 days old) by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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That white lever I believe is what releases the front nozzle for attaching the hose. Does the Mark II not have that? I can't remember, i'll have to look at mine.
The "bumper" is a cap for easy access to the belt. The first Bison did not have this. I'm told the Mark II is the first. I don't know why they call it that when it's the first. I keep waiting on someone to come up with another model that actually is the first. I wonder if a soft smooth Kirby belt will work? The ones used on the earlier models (not the textured tight belts) or maybe a Royal belt?
You say it's slightly longer than a Kirby belt,,,hmmmmm lets see, hey what about a Hoover concept powerdrive belt?

Post# 377645 , Reply# 27   8/31/2017 at 09:23 (2,480 days old) by kirbyvertibles (Independence, KS)        

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you know what, that lever wouldn't be the nozzle release would it? Heck now I'm drawing a blank. I haven't had a model with that in a long time. All I have now is the mark 2 and the very rare commercial Apollo

Post# 377658 , Reply# 28   8/31/2017 at 11:14 (2,480 days old) by Phaeton (Los Angeles )        

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Hello All and kirbyvertibles,
Thank you, so the made an easy access to the belt on the Mark III and Centurion. Do I cry now? I took the nozzle off and then struggled getting that belt off my Mark II. I took the 4 screws that hold the belt transmission out, (not sure if you call it that), the bottom plate and the brush roll. Putting a belt on was just dumb. What I would give for a Mark III nozzle if I were to keep the Bison. I wonder if the Mark III nozzle would fit?

No I don’t think white push down lever is the nozzle release as the silver lever in front of it and between the nozzle and fan cage is for that. On your, kirbyvertibles, Centurion they put a matching brown foot pad on the nozzle release it looks like.

Pictured above are 3 Mark IIs, super-sweeper’s, vacuser’s and mine and you can see the nozzle release. On super-sweeper’s picture you can almost see the for screws that keep what I called the belt transmission attached to the nozzle.

The Royal belt is a great idea as they were slightly longer/bigger then the Kirby, thank you kirbyvertibles. I will let you know if it works within a day or two as I don't have an easy access opening or port LOL and cry.

Thank you all for adding to the Bison Saga,

Post# 377660 , Reply# 29   8/31/2017 at 11:37 (2,480 days old) by Phaeton (Los Angeles )        

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Oh, Sorry all the above Bison Mark III and Centurion are dysonman1's not kirbyvertibles'. Sorry for the mistake and error in my above Post.
Thank you,

Post# 377667 , Reply# 30   8/31/2017 at 16:34 (2,479 days old) by Phaeton (Los Angeles )        

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Hello All again,

I just got back from the local Vac Shop. I took kirbyvertibels, and got a Kirby belt, a Royal belt and I also got an Oreck XL belt as it came closer to matching the Bison belt I taken off plus it was smaller. Can you believe the Oreck XL belt was the winner? So the struggle of getting belt on was worth it. I vacuumed a thick pile carpet and the brush roll never stopped turning. I used the Bison on maximum speed just to see if it would pick up all the falling plaster. Seriously it did a great job on the carpet.

You know how the older or all of the Kirby’s have a sliding stop that allows to tilt the front up when you press down on the handle when vacuuming to go over something. I cannot find any such devise on the Bison. Am I just not seeing it or is there no second stop?

Referring to the picture above the super-sweepers supplied, Is that a Bison Mark I? I know it is not a Mark III as it has the buffer take off at the back of the machine. On the nozzle the back plate of what I have called the belt transmission is radically different than my Mark II. Especially the white nylon/plastic coupler to the square shaft on the machine. Even the fitting with 3 receptors on the fan cage are unlike my Mark II. So is it a prototype or a Mark I? Note even the model number plate on the fan cage are different design.

Thank you kirbyvertibles and all of you. I believe with a few more answers the Bison Soga will be complete. While my Bison owes me nothing I am not sure about keeping it.
As an odd machine, it is a novelty to own and that might be how I should look at it

I again have added a few pictures

Thank you all for looking,

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Post# 462765 , Reply# 31   4/30/2023 at 14:21 (412 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        

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I would love to have one of these Mark 2 Bison's, I want my neighbors to think I vacuum with a jet engine, lol

Post# 464483 , Reply# 32   7/10/2023 at 16:23 (340 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        

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In regards to looking for a Mark II, I have finally found one, willpower pictures if I am able to aquire it

Post# 464755 , Reply# 33   7/22/2023 at 09:36 (329 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        
Bison hose

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Would anyone have a spare hose for a Mark ii?

Post# 464860 , Reply# 34   7/27/2023 at 15:24 (324 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        

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My Mark III

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Post# 464867 , Reply# 35   7/28/2023 at 01:04 (323 days old) by Kirbytex85 (Houston, TX)        

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Here is my Bison, was a display in Deer Park, NY at a vacuum store for years. I bought from a Kirby collector in the UK. Machine has never been used to vacuum, it does run thought. I turn it on periodically. You can tell by the inside of the bag it is as never used. I’ve had it for close to 15 yrs, hard to remember but I believe the person I got it from bought from the vacuum store owners.

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Post# 464875 , Reply# 36   7/28/2023 at 14:46 (323 days old) by huskyvacs (Gnaw Bone, Indiana)        

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Congrats on your Bison finds, guys! The hunt still continues for me! I've come across 3 so far and not been able to secure one yet.

Post# 464941 , Reply# 37   7/30/2023 at 14:55 (321 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        

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I am on the hunt for a hose now for my Mark III, did these have floor dusting pads like Kirbys did?

Post# 465401 , Reply# 38   8/20/2023 at 15:03 (300 days old) by Nova_Candy (New Jersey)        
Emtor seal

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What gasket seal is used at the neck that locks into the exaust?

Post# 468984 , Reply# 39   1/26/2024 at 06:43 by OldCrankman (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)        

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Personally from my experience with my Bison Mark II, I had better experience with a Kirby belt to work rather than a Oreck belt to work. I just used a flat head screw driver to lift the belt on the shaft due to how tight it was.

Post# 469008 , Reply# 40   1/27/2024 at 19:20 by OldCrankman (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)        
How many Bisons where made?

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I used the patent number from my Bison from lowest to highest number and apparently they only produced 65,955 machines.

Post# 469017 , Reply# 41   1/27/2024 at 20:48 by huskyvacs (Gnaw Bone, Indiana)        

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They may have produced that many but they certainly did not sell that many. There was a post from someone here years ago that had an entire van load of NOS Bison vacuums he got off a pallet, where on earth he found them I do not know.

For how seldom they show up I do not think even but 2% of that amount survive, as they were prone to breaking so easily.

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