My 1972 Gilson

I managed to talk my brother in law out of this. His brother had bought a house which came with this somewhere on the premises, probably outdoors from the look of it, and he dumped it off at my brother in law's house one Christmas somewhere around 2007. My brother in law already had 2 or 3 other snowblowers so he let this sit in his yard for a couple of years. I'd hardly heard of Gilson, but I've got almost the same engine shoehorned into a little Wheel Horse tractor so I was interested. By the next Christmas this was still sitting where it had been dumped so I asked about it.

arrival I brought it home 5/21/2010 in a little trailer behind my Yard Machines tractor. It was only about 1 mile away and I don't have a truck so it was an interesting little excursion. I thought I could get it nosed up into the trailer and then push down the trailer pole and hook it to the back of the tractor, but it evidently weighs more than I do because I couldn't push the trailer pole back down. The center of gravity was well behind the trailer wheels so it was lifting up on the back of the tractor all the way home. There's a hill with about an 18% grade not far from here and even with me sitting up on the back of the tractor seat the tractor was still spinning its wheels with the chains on the blacktop.
This is the nameplate, stamped aluminum so it's still readable. The whole model number by this is 5500243309, serial 1850407. The model number on this is commonly shortened to 55002. You can get a photocopy of the manual for one of these by calling Lawn Boy at 1-800-526-6937. They'll want the model and serial numbers, but then they'll mail you a big brown envelope for free. I've got a djvu file version here which you can download and use immediately, I'm also uploading a copy to the files area of the Yahoo Group gilsonsnowblowers. Joining the group is a good idea if you've got one of these. My djvu file was made by scanning the reprint Lawn Boy sent me so the quality isn't wonderful. nameplate
rusty A little closer view. The engine's not original, from what I've been able to figure out. It's an 8 HP Briggs like the original, but a little different. The most annoying difference so far is that the tapped holes on the pulley end of the crankcase have a different layout. That makes the original belt keeper/guide wire not fit, and this one's original is long gone, also the belt guard which could be useful for keeping snow off the belts and pulleys. The wire that's on here for a belt keeper sits right up tight against the belt, so that's just going to chew up belts. The engine's missing the screen on the inlet fan and there's a hose clamp in there doing something, so who knows what else has been messed up.
The handlebars were so rusty I didn't even realize there is a shift pattern stamped into the area between the clutch and shift levers until I used a rotary wire brush to get ready for a coat of primer. I don't know what was in the white area with the round thing in it. I haven't been able to get this thing out of neutral yet, but I finally figured out the reason (see below). shift
belts Closer yet. I don't know if these are the right belts, or if the original belts will still fit with the replacement engine. You can see the wear here on the back of the back belt from having rubbed on the wire. This is a Magnetron ignition engine but it's not the better one with cast iron cylinder liners: this is the cheap version.
The bolts holding the top and bottom of the carb together are one give-away that this isn't the original engine. These are hex head bolts with phillips slots which Briggs wasn't using in 1972. I like these updraft carbs but they have a float that's apt to stick if the engine's been tilted much beyond normal like to load it on a truck. This has no remote throttle on the handlebars, just the slide below the carb but I think that's normal. carb
underneath

Underneath. I think everything's there, but I don't know what kind of shape it's in. From what I remember in my motorcycle riding days these sprockets look a little worn. None of them show very well here. This brings back days when I used to borrow my father's Ariens and it always seemed to throw a chain about 200 feet from the house when the temperature was below zero, the wind was howling and it was getting dark.

This is the reason it's been stuck in neutral for a few years. The rod that's the shift lever is frozen into the bushing that it's supposed to pivot inside of. It won't let the lever move from side to side, so it doesn't come out of the notch that's the neutral position. I've tried soaking with WD-40, Liquid Wrench, lining this up over vise jaws and beating on it, even a few one-handed whacks with a sledgehammer. The end is starting to get peened over from pounding on it. I can probably get one from http://www.gilsonsnowblowers.com but I hate to spend more money on this thing before I've even had it running. I might try slitting the bushing with a hacksaw, getting a cold chisel in there, then gluing it back together with JB Weld after. [I got it by heating it with a propane torch, letting it cool back down and driving it out.]

http://www.gilsonsnowblowers.com is a small business run by the moderator of the Yahoo group. He's got used parts and even makes some new replacement parts.

stuck
belts2 belts_manual

This is the belt keeper that's on here, and the only picture I could find in the manual showing the way the original fits. I think I could make a little plate that bolts into the holes I've got and provides new holes at the right places for the belt keeper wire. Then to bend up a belt guard out of aluminum or something to cover both belts. I imagine with snow coming out of the chute a few inches away, it the chute's turned the right direction, there could be alot of snow landing in here. It would probably melt fast, but it still doesn't seem like a good idea. I don't know if an original guard would fit the holes I've got on this engine.

9/19/2011: All the parts that are primed here have been stripped with a rotary wire brush in a cordless drill and given 2 coats of Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer. I did it in 3 areas and let each coat dry overnight, so this is 6 days of cleaning and painting. I'm not sure what the final color is going to be; it'll probably just be primer for this winter. I had an unopened quart of this so I dug out a brush and went at it. If I'm going to spend money on paint closer to the original colors it's going to have to prove it can earn its keep. I have this crazy urge to paint it olive drab but I probably won't. I have plenty of Ferguson gray though. stuck
underneath

Am I crazy to spend all this time painting something I haven't even had running? Maybe. I wanted to paint while the weather's still warm enough to get the paint dry. I also wanted to paint before I started spraying and drizzling oil around. Here I'm trying to get the wheels off so I can replace the tires and you can see WD-40 dripped down onto the auger housing. Normally you twist the wheels on the axle to work them loose, but my tires are so far gone they just spin in the rims. I may have to pull the axle and try to drive it out of the wheels.

4/1/2014: I never did get them off, but I haven't damaged them either. I bought a new Simplicity for $2600, been pretty happy with it.

On painting, I've painted lots of things over the years but the only time I did it as part of a job, I was building small eletronic instruments in aluminum boxes. I'd plan things out, do the machining on the box, then clean with solvents and paint, usually Rustoleum gloss black. At first the paint scratched easily, then I discovered that if I baked the box in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours the paint got hardened up and didn't scratch. The test was whether I could dig my thumbnail into it. If I could it wasn't hard enough yet.