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The Revival of the Ultimate Gilson

Introduced in the fall of 1972 model 55012 is what I consider to be the Ultimate Gilson. The Gilson Gear Drive snowblowers were already held in high regard for being solid machines featuring copious amounts of cast iron. This model raised the bar still higher with a bigger bite and a 3 speed Peerless transmission. This model alone accounted for about 2/3 of our sales volume as they were a great match for our Maine winters.

As time went by I made my way back to my roots in the form of this hobby. For many years I sought to acquire one of these machines but they were nowhere to be found. Did they have a fatal flaw that brought them to an early demise or were they still out there working? Starting in about 2006 I got my answer as well worn machines became available. I began to accumulate them and after a while I had 5 of them in varying states of condition and completeness.

Looking at the 5 machines none stood out as ready to run and after evaluating what I had I decided I could take the 5 machines and create 3 solid units. The plan was set to tear them down, repair and refinish and finally assemble 3 machines. One would be kept in pristine condition and never used. A second one would become a front line stock work horse and the third would receive some modifications and also be a working unit.

Since then a 6th machine in weathered but mechanically good condition came to be mine. It has been kept in it's factory paint and has been brought up to front-line standards and is giving me hours of pleasure. It can be seen in my gallery.

This page will be something of a blog that chronicles the progress of the project. Check back often.

As Acquired
This is an example of what the 5 machines looked like as they came to me. In fact, this is probably the nicest. Some had been repainted, others profusely rusted. One had a ready to use engine and another had none. And so it went.

The Gilson Chop Shop - December 2007
The project began in earnest over several weekends. The first steps were to tear the 5 machines down, clean, inspect and stow the parts away. We got it done but then the project stalled as winter kicked in. We ended the season with 33 working storms. That was essentially snow every 2-3 days from mid December to Easter. I had a lot of fun blowing snow but the projects were in a holding pattern. Here is what part of the shop looked like when the dust settled and it was time to start cleaning up. Of course there is much more out of camera range.

Sandblast & Prime - December of 2008
Christmas of 2008 was followed by an extended weekend. Work began with a day of welding to repair torn bucket corners and other such details. I took the opportunity to tent off a section of the garage to form a sand blasting space and proceeded to bring 3 machines worth of parts to a clean state. Gray primer followed.

Finish Coats - January 2009
The start of 2009 brought an equally long weekend and that was our chance to complete the finish coats of the major components. They are now curing.

Rods, Wheels and Other Goodies - March 15, 2009
The project went on hiatus for a few months while we tended to frequent storms and worked to bring several other machines into the working collection. Meanwhile all of the wheels, which got sandblasted in December, are now spray painted beige. We have been busy cleaning and refinishing many of the linkage items shown here. 2 of the impellers that had suffered some damage have been straightened. Soon I hope to experiment with some fortification techniques to make them good for another 37 years. My goal is to have the 3 bucket assemblies fully assembled before summer interests take over. Early painting and ample curing time will be the key to a durable finish. Work has also begun on procuring reproduction graphics which will also be available for sale in the coming months.

Worm Drives and Impellers - March 22, 2009
The worm drives have been drained and are awaiting fresh lubricant. Impellers have been straightened as needed and fortified. Shafts have been dressed and masked. Everything got sanded and prepped for prime and finish coats of our favorite color.

Augers - December 27, 2009
I have been putting this task off for a while but the time came to get it done. I have given up on sand blasting large parts until I can have a dedicated space for the mess. Despite tenting and exhaust fans the first phase of this project has left me with a mess that will probably last for the rest of my life. Using a combination of wire wheels and sanders I was able to clean these us real nice. None had significant rust and all were in really true form. Clean-up, prime and paint all happened in a 24 hour span. These clear the way for assembly of the bucket halves once they cure a bit.

Buckets - November 2011
It's clear to see that this project is going to take a while. With transmissions and engines yet to be prepped the Gilson components are the least of my concerns. However we did manage to get the buckets assembled today and they are tucked away once more. To be honest, I was needing space and all of those components take less space when they are integrated. The chutes were also put together with all new hardware and cleaned up die cast lever knobs.

More to come!

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Page created 2/6/09 - Updated 1/1/2014