1975 Cub Cadet to Custom Wrecker

A fleet of custom Cub Cadets totally equipped for every eventuality.

| November 2014

As a boy, Curt Smith had dreams of grandeur. His natural inclination was set on designing, creating or modifying things. When he was 6, Curt requested a bag of mixed nails for Christmas, a most unusual gift for a youngster. But on Christmas morning he found a bag full of nails under the Christmas tree. Curt quickly went to work cutting wood and pounding pieces together using his assortment of nails. “I don’t recall making anything useful,” he says now, “but I sure had fun making stuff.”

Curt’s mind was constantly contemplating something he could create, especially things mechanical or motorized. In 1941, at age 13, he scratch-built a motor scooter. An old Briggs engine from the family’s washing machine was mounted on a 12-inch oak board (he had first rigged axles and wheels to the board’s underside). He then connected the engine to a pulley on a rear wheel with a V-belt. A simple steering mechanism with friction on the V-belt provided all the power a kid needed. “That ol’ scooter was a lot of fun,” he says.

By 1946, Curt had acquired shop tools to accommodate his growing aptitude. By then a high school student, he scratch-built a second motor scooter, this one a little more sophisticated than the first.

Curt’s first job, working at a local machine shop that specialized in farm tools, aligned neatly with his interests. During a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he worked as a mechanic and welder in a military motor pool. After completing training in television repair at Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio, he taught electronics at Mansfield (Ohio) High School for 24 years.

The first custom Cub Cadet

Today, Curt — who lives in Hayesville, Ohio — is the rare person able to envision a completed project. The idea of converting a Cub Cadet garden tractor into a wrecker was just such an instance. “I thought it would be unique to make a fully operational wrecker from a garden tractor,” he says. “I’ve always been a fan of the early Cub Cadet garden tractors built by International Harvester. They were heavy-duty with good mechanics. But I wanted something unusual, something that had not been built before. I also wanted to see how authentic I could make it.”

Curt located a garden tractor built in 1975. The tractor — a Cub Cadet Model 1200 — was in rough shape; its engine, shot beyond repair, had to be replaced. He completely disassembled the tractor and removed all rust and paint down to bare metal. Next, he stretched the frame 12 inches, accommodating a wrecker platform he fabricated and mounted on the rear. Larger 12-inch wheels and tires were installed on the rear to give the rig a realistic, brawny appearance. Front fenders salvaged from a boat trailer were decked out in chrome (the only work he didn’t do himself). All the bolts and the battery cover are polished stainless steel, giving them a chromed appearance as well.