As a boy, every day was filled with adventures around the farm. A daily trip through the woods was seemingly required as well, either on foot, by bicycle, on a little Suzuki dirt bike, or eventually, on an ATV. No weather was too formidable, and no chance to explore was missed.
Today the trips to the woods are still by ATV or UTV, although they’ve come a long way since the vehicles of youth. One thing that has not changed, however, is farm duties, and feeding cattle, checking fences, and spring and fall field work are still much the same as they have been for hundreds of years. In fact, the duties have changed little since humans gave up charging, with sharp stick in hand, after justifiably crabby Mastodon, and instead took to scattering seeds on the savannah as a less hazardous means to survival. Today farming and ranching definitely make use of the latest technology with engineered seeds and GPS monitoring of fertilizer and ground conditions, but it still all comes down to the weather. Mother Nature will never be tamed, and often that means heading out in less than favorable conditions. Thanks to easy living, the all weather adventures of youth now require a little more protection.
Curtis Industries, LLC was founded in 1968 by Fred Curtis, Sr., no doubt after too many blustery days of his own trying to fend off the harsh, New England winters. Cab enclosures for tractors quickly gained an eager following, and today Curtis Industries offers great looking, excellent all weather protection for vehicles from golf carts, to UTVs, and compact tractors. That was just what we needed for our John Deere Gator!
Not since the days of old John Deere’s first steel plow has one product been so well received on the farm, and the JD Gator is as common on a farm today as border collies, kids, and 4WD pickups. The Gator filled a niche left open between tractor and pickup, and until the Polaris Ranger came along, it pretty much owned the utility vehicle segment. The introduction of new models with advanced suspension, superior handling, and higher performance definitely cut a hole in the Gator’s fence around the farm, but today it still remains a popular choice. Farmers know what they like, and with many sheds already full of green and yellow tools, the Gator easily fits into the barn. The trouble is, farm operations operate 24-7 regardless of the weather, and the driver and passenger in a Gator have no protection from the elements.
Recently, we picked up a Gator 620 XUVi from Baders Equipment in St. Louis, Michigan, with the idea of installing a Curtis Cab to make it a better year round performer. The Curtis Cab arrived in an enormous crate by truck, and we were anxious to get started.
All Weather Gator
Curtis offers three levels of enclosures, and we opted for the mid level PathPro SS system for our Gator. As we pried open the crate, the first thing we noticed was the cab was extremely well protected, not from the elements, but from shipping damage! Curtis evidently goes through enormous effort to make sure everything arrives in perfect condition, and all parts were wrapped in packing blankets, and tucked neatly in the crate. There was no way individual pieces could bounce against each other. They were off to a great start!
As we laid out the oversized parts and began to take inventory, for a few brief moments we began to think we had possibly taken on more than a Saturday afternoon project. Hesitantly, we picked up the directions; all the while eyeing unfamiliar parts as we flipped open the instructions. Wisely enough, the first and perhaps best tip they offer is to scan the back pages of the manual for a complete parts list and parts description. Evidently somebody had come this way before, and it turned out to be an excellent tip that cut our project down to size.
Whenever we begin to install new parts, whether a new pipe, new wheels, or a major accessory such as the Curtis Cab, we inspect the quality of individual parts first. Our impression of the Curtis Cab parts is that they are extremely well made. Each part is precision cut, and from the clean edge of cuts, we assume it’s by laser. Bolt holes are properly sized and elongated for adjustment during assembly. All bends are clean with the proper bend radius for material thickness to prevent cracking, and there are no visible tool marks. Each part also is well protected with a durable powder coat finish. We also inspect the fasteners that hold the kit together, and we were extremely happy to see Curtis wisely uses Nylock nuts for everything. This means the nuts will not back off from vibration. They also use washers both on the bolt head and against the nut, even going so far as to use a plastic washer against exterior painted surfaces to prevent scratching. All fasteners are plated to prevent corrosion and match the powdercoat as well. Perhaps the best thing about the Curtis kit, however, is that they use a minimum number of common tools (standard size) by using the same bolt sizes wherever possible. It makes assembly so much easier when you don’t need every tool in the roller chest.
The hardest part for us to install on the Curtis kit was the first one. After twisting and turning it a couple times before we finally understood how it attached to the existing roll over protection structure, we quickly bolted it on. After that the kit was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, and it became very intuitive where the next part went, each time becoming easier as the number of remaining parts were reduced. It was fun to bolt it together!
The Curtis engineering crew did a great job of utilizing existing bolt holes already in our Gator, and we were really happy to have prebuilt doors and latches. Rather than having to assemble the doors ourselves, all that was required was to drop the door into the hinge brackets we just installed, and they closed PERFECTLY! The seal is tight, the latch mates with the striker post, and there is no vibration. They couldn't fit better! We also really like the high quality windshield, which is shaped to avoid glare and deflect rain to the sides rather than down across the hood. It installed very securely against the top mount plate and can be opened fully for hood access, or only part way for air flow. Just as with the pre-built doors, it couldn't fit any better!
Overall, it was very easy to install almost all parts in the kit. Although the kit utilizes existing bolt holes wherever possible, when installing two rear cab enclosure plates behind the back of each seat, it does require you drill 3 holes. For some reason that completely mystifies us, John Deere left the bottom rear of each seat exposed to debris thrown by the rear wheel. What definitely looks like an oversight by Deere is solved by the Curtis kit, however. To fix the problem, loosely install the top bolts as directed by the instructions, and grab the drill to make the bottom holes. Our tip is to clamp the two pieces together with a Vise Grip before drilling. This will make it MUCH easier to locate and drill the holes. When finished drilling, install the washers, bolts, and nylock nut, then tighten all bolts top and bottom.
Installing the rear section of the enclosure is accomplished by a combination of snaps attached to the cab top, and Velcro strips. Although the Velcro can be a little bit of a pain at times, it does work, and the good part is the rear section can easily be removed for warm weather operation, as can the doors. As with just about every aftermarket part we have ever installed, we opted for a few "modifications" to the directions, and instead of using the plastic washer on each bolt head, along with the two steel washers, we simply used the steel washers on each bolt head and nut. This left us quite a few spares when we finished up, but there is always room for extra washers in our bolt bins. Out total assembly time was about 2 ½ hours, and we consider the Curtis Cab a project most riders can do with a few tools and a helping hand or two.
Overall the Curtis Cab is EXCELLENT! Each part is very high quality and fits perfectly against the OEM part. Bolts and brackets installed with no prying, cutting, or cursing, and it went together as well as any aftermarket kit we have ever installed. When finished, the doors close tightly against the mating surface, and the latches work perfectly. The Curtis people did an excellent job of providing a well designed, well thought out kit that installs and works exactly as described.
The Curtis Cab kit we installed is actually the mid level kit, (the PathPro SS) and there is a premium level hard surface kit, the PathPro RCS, and a recreational level PathPro kit as well. Our Curtis Cab kit works excellent and definitely increases the working capabilities of our John Deere Gator. We expect any other Curtis Cab kit would be every bit as high quality and functional as well. Our Gator is ready for farm duty once again!