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My Starting Lineup Circa 2004

The Current Roster:
GIL-478A * 835 * GIL-490A * 2680 * 55002 * 55012 * 55016 * GIL-479C * GIL-490C * GIS 7505 A97 * 55134 #1 * 55135 #1 * 55134 #2 * 55135 #2 * 55133 * 55191 * 55323B * 55367 * 55369 * 55371 * 63528 Tractor Attachment
Here is the lineup of front line machines as of February 1, 2004. I'd face any storm with any one of these machines. You'll find a picture of each below along with a little background. For this picture all of the chutes are pointing towards Plymouth, Wisconsin. They are lined up according to age with the oldest machine on the left. They range from 1966 to 1984. The working collection now spans the 1966-87 Gilson era. After the photo was shot they were all started and run simultaneously, what a sound! Also below is my Gilson (what else!) tractor with snowthrower attachment.

It's a model GIL-478A Garden Mark machine built for the 1966/67 winter season. It is very similar to the 55002 shown below. One of the biggest differences is the straight line bucket in the front, the auger leads actually reach out ahead of everything else making this machine a tiger when a snow bank is in front of it since the two "dead" side plates of the bucket do not have to slice into the snow first. The machine cuts a 26 inch path and is powered by a 6 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine. Other unique features include a transmission used only in the earliest models and butt jointed auger lead struts. Detail pictues can be found below. It was in pieces for several years while we built a new home but finally it's in service. After repairing an oil leak in the worm drive assembly the augers, gearcase and impeller are sporting a fresh coat of paint in this photo.

Model # 835 is from the 69/70 snow season. It's a 7 horsepower 26 inch gear drive. It features the straight sidded bucket so like my GIL-478A it just loves to tear into snowbanks. The reversing transmission is the Foote unit used in the later models and like the GIL-478A and the 55002 below it features the 2 speed ranges. The tires are fully pneumatic and if you look closely at the photo you'll see that they have a turf tire type tread which works surprisingly well with the intense weight of this machine bearing down.

Model GIL-490A is from the 1970 /71 season. It is a Montgomery Wards branded machine. I believe it's the first release of the Gilson 3 speed UniTrol (friction drive). A design that was continued for about a decade. It's an interesting machine because in working on it I was able to notice a lot of small design changes that were latter made to improve everything from function to ease of repair. This machine came to me in exceptional condition and was up to snuff after a weekend of attention. The engine is a 7 horsepower Briggs & Strattion and the 2 stage machine clears a 26 inch swath. It's my first UniTrol with the original low profile bucket. This same bucket was used for many more years on the 5 horsepower machines but only lasted 2 years on the higher horsepower models.

Model # 2680 is from the 71/72 snow season. It's a LawnBoy branded 8 HP 26 inch 3 speed UniTrol. While some private brands such as Montgomery Ward had semi-pneumatuc tires and 7 HP engines this LawnBoy model has the full pneumatic tires and 8 HP engine. This put them eye to eye with the Gilson branded models. This unit came to me with a blown engine but I was able to provide a period correct engine to get it back in service. Overall it came to me in surprisingly nice shape and it went from acquisition to working collection in less than 3 weeks in February of 2011.

Model # 55002 is from the 71/72 snow season. This is my favorite model, I fell in love with it one morning at 4:00 AM when I was testing a customers machine and it was reaching the telephone wires with a plume of white powder. 8 horsepower, a 26 inch wide cut and a 12 inch diameter impeller make this sing. Another outstanding feature is the traction transmission arrangement. It uses a cog system to select HI and LO speeds. The forward and reverse lever controls a constant mesh transmission that lets you control direction. All but the worst storms can be handled in HI range. What this provides is a machine that moves at a good clip in both directions whereas most machines always crawl in reverse. It's nice for areas that need to be done repeatedly in the same direction. This was the last model year for this configuration though many of it's robust features went on in the 28 inch 3 speed gear drive model that followed. This is a Gilson label machine.

Model 55012 was introduced for the 72/73 snow season. It's an 8 horsepower, 28 inch machine with a 3 speed Peerless transmission driving the traction. This machine picked up where model 55002 left of and I consider it to be "The Ultimate Gilson". With a bite 2 inches wider and 3 inches higher than model 55002 and the flexibility of 3 forward speeds plus reverse it is a versatile performer. This model still retained the many cast iron components that made Gilson Gear Drives industry heavyweights since 1966. This model was by far the most popular in the line-up for the dealership I worked at. This unit came into my working collection in January of 2009 and is not seen in the group photo above. Keep an eye on PROJECT 55012 for more about this special model.

Model 55016 was first introduced for the 72/73 snow season. It's an 8 horsepower 26 inch machine with a friction drive traction transmission. A friction drive is the style that uses a rubber wheel running on a platter to generate the different speeds. Gilson branded these as Unitrol (one control). They devised a clever linkage system that both moved the friction wheel and controlled it's engagement with one lever. Many competitors were using separate controls for these functions. These machines are not as sturdy as the gear drive models however as long as they did not get terribly abused they seem to hold up just fine. The impellers are 10-1/2 inches in diameter so they do not throw snow quite as well, nonetheless they fo a fine job. This is a Gilson labeled machine. I have a Lawnboy version (painted Lawnboy green) that I plan to restore at some point as well as a number of others just like this one.

GIL-479C is the Montgomery ward version of model 55016 above. As was often the case the pneumatic tires of the Gilson Brand machine were replaced with semi pneumatic rubber. It was common for a premium feature or two to be held back on the private brand model. This often took the form of keeping the newest features reserved for the Gilson machines for a year or two. This was my original machine built for the 72/73 snow season I got it around 1978 and restored it about 10 years latter. It's seen a lot of intown salty slush but now just deals with my gravel driveway.

Model GIL-490C is from the 1972 /73 season. This is my 8th machine to reach front line condition and it's an interesting machine relative to other models. It is 3 seasons latter than the GIL-490A shown above and while it is still a 7 HP 26 inch UniTrol some features have evolved and devolved.

Model GIS 7508 A97 is a 1978 UniTrol. Built for the Western Auto store chain it is a Wizard branded unit. The machine came to me nicely kept but fairly damaged with a wrecked impeller, damaged augers and a blown chute ring. In January of 2010 it's day came as the test bed for a number of replacement parts we were selling and needed to field test. In addition to a new impeller it has our axle and auger bearing assemblies. The chute ring had failed so we corrected that with the heavy duty gear drive series ring. While I had it all apart I switched it to a round profile chute just because it's my preference. As part of the weekend blitz the front end got refinished. A donor machine supplied a set of augers that are in prime condition. This machine is living the mission of the Wizard as it illustrates the many part obsolescence issues that have been overcome.

This is a model #55134 from 1978. It's an evolved version of the 55016 shown above. Externally the larger diameter tires and squared chute profile can be seen along with the change from beige to black for the second color. The large tires enhance the machine in two ways. First, they give the machine a somewhat faster ground speed which makes this machine a favorite for scooting around after smaller storms. Second, the bigger tires give the back end of the machine much better ground clearance. Another hidden change is the belt tensioning idlers with sealed bearings. Earlier models used steel rollers with oil impregnated bushings that required regreasing every few years.

This is a model #55135 from 1978. It's the 10 HP version of model 55134 shown above. In the day we called this one "The Animal". Between the large tires and the 10 HP engine it's a real powerhouse. That combined with the smooth operating UniTrol tranmission makes this a lot of fun. This is actually the first of a pair to go live in the working collection. In 2012 I started with 3 of these and ended up with 2 prime machines. The sister machine is held up for now with a fussy carburetor. This unit first saw use late in 2012 but really earned it's stripes in the 2013 blizzard "Nemo". It sports our Omni Skids and a reproduction drift cutter.

This is another model #55134 from 1978. While I do own multiples of a few models this is the first one to have twins in the front line of running machines. Like most machines of this model that I have seen it has the electric starter. The starter was a big promotional item that year and they were added to most of these machines.

This is another model #55135 from 1978, it's 74 days newer than the one above. This is the 2nd half of the pair refurbished in 2012. It's first working storm was in February 2013 after I got to the bottom of a fussy carburetor problem. This unit sports a protoype impeller with rubber blade extensions to limit the impeller clearance. Its first assignment was a very wet dense 9 inch storm and it handled it with ease, I was very happy with the performance.

This is my 1979, model 55133. It is the 5 HP version of of the 8 HP model 55134 and 10 HP 55135 units seen above. The 3 models are essentially the same expect for engines and the smaller semi-pneumatic tires on this model. This rounds out the UniTrol trio as seen in the brochures. 1979 was the last year of the Unitrols that were launched 11 years prior in 1969. The 3 Unitrol models were being phased out to make room for the 5 speed friction drives that followed and shared the 1979 build year. Where this unit has half the horsepower of it's more powerful sister model 55135 it is often considered underpowered. To give it an edge a set of power vanes has been fitted to the classic impeller and it's impressive for a 5 HP machine.

This is a Model 55191 from 1979. It's a model I did not really understand until I met it in the original owners driveway. The machine is an 8 HP 26 inch late model friction drive. This model was being sold concurrent to the last of the UniTrols such as model 55134. The blower half is pure UniTrol with no surprises. The traction drive is the late model friction drive. The shifter is unlike what was used for most of the design's run and it works really slick. The big surprise came when I looked for the wheel pins and found none. When I looked closer I found an automatic wheel clutch system that I never knew existed. When not in operation the tires are independently free wheeling. In operation a gentle push of the handle lets the outboard tire roll ahead of the axle and the machine turns on a dime! This is the only Gilson model to have this feature. Future late model friction drive models had the wheels pinned to a solid axle. This was Gilson's first full sized machine to feature inherent mechanical interlocks for traction and the blower. The only switch is the security / kill key switch. The black & white logo panel is also distinctive.

This is a model #55323B and it's a 1984. Not only is it the newest machine in the line-up it's also the only one from the final generation of Gilson Snowblowers and my first intermdiate model. It's has a 5 Hp Briggs & Stratton engine and clears a 24 inch path. It features 5 forward speeds and 2 reverse. The chute and bucket design are straight from the early 1970's single speed unitrol design but the traction and control functions were all redesigned for the 1980's This machine performs all operator safety interlocks mechanically and does not utilize electrical switches except for an ignition security key.

This model 55367 joined the working collection in 2021. It's a 1986 8 HP, 26 inch, 5 speed Gear Drive model. This is an example of the late model gear drive machines. The transmission is a sealed 5 speed Peerless gear box and the final direct drive to the axle is a single chain. The 5 ground speeds range from a snow bank chewing 1st to a good clip in 5th. I can't overstate the simple elegance of this drive configuration. The auger, worm drive and bucket are from the classic UniTrol design dating back to 1969 including the 10-1/2 inch impeller and round discharge chute. The safety clutching is provided by left and right grip levers that cam down to nearly zero effort. The machine wiring is simply to a key switch for engine kill and security. Sister machines were produced in 8/24 and 10/32 configurations.

You could say the model 55369 is the smallest of the last of the best. It's a 1987 8 HP, 24 inch, 5 speed Gear Drive model. This is an example of the late model gear drive machines. The transmission is a sealed 5 speed Peerless transmission and the final direct drive to the axle is a single chain. I can't overstate the simple elegance of this drive configuration. The auger, worm drive and bucket are from the compact machine series but it is married to the 10-1/2 inch impeller and 6 inch discharge chute of a classic UniTrol. Note that in these final machines the design reverted to the classic round chute. The safety clutching is provided by left and right grip levers that cam down to nearly zero effort. The machine wiring is simply to a key switch for engine kill and security. Sister machines were produced in 8/26 and 10/32 configurations. As part of recommissioning it received one of our replacement impellers.

This model 55371 is from the final year of full Gilson production. It's a 1987, 10 HP Briggs & Stratton engine, 32 inch, 5 speed, late model Gear Drive. The transmission is a sealed 5 speed Peerless transmission and the final direct drive to the axle is a single chain. It is a simple and elegant drive configuration. The auger, worm drive impeller and collector are from the classic 3 speed models dating back to the mid-1970s. Note that on these final machines the design reverted to the classic round chute. The safety clutching is provided by left and right grip levers that cam down to nearly zero effort. The machine wiring is simply to a key switch for engine kill & security, and a low oil cutout on the engine. There are no micro switch interlocks to maintain. Sister machines were produced in 8/24 and 8/26 configurations. The refurbishing process included; replacement skids, new auger bearings, scraper bar bolts, dual drift cutters, impeller tips, impeller bearing, and fuel line kit.

This machine went back into service in February of 2023, and it was fun to clear the property with a 32-inch swath. The 14-inch impeller with the overflow diverter box really moves snow nicely. I hadn't operated a 32-inch Gilson in 43 years! The flexibility of 5 forward speeds, with a creeping first and brisk fifth kept the machine in its happy place.

This is a model 63528 snowblower attachment mounted on my 53044 tractor. The tractor is a 1978 "S" Series garden tractor with hydrostatic drive. The Engine is a B&S twin cyclinder 16 HP I/C model. This is a 36 inch blower and is very much like the Gilson single stage walk behind machines from the 1960s. There is also a higher bucket 42 inch version that is patterned about the UniTrol bucket. All of Gilson's attachments were single stage. This unit just missed the last group photo.

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Page created 11/15/2000 **** February 24, 2023