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I have read so many posts over the years from members on this forum, and even on MyTractorsForum, that the old machines were just built better than today's. I admit that I don't have much experience with any of the older blowers, but I can't imagine they were so much better than today that all of the manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves and just not show their faces in public.

I say this only because in the fields that I do know a bit more about (houses and automobiles) the same thing is said. However, if a person is truly looking at it objectively, today's houses and cars are far superior than anything built 40+ years ago. In fact, it's really not even close.

So, what made those old (classic) snowblowers so much better? The engine, transmission, auger....? Was it simply the consumer got more for his/her money? I'd like to know.
 

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This should be entertaining... :popcorn::popcorn::popcorn::popcorn:

I say this only because in the fields that I do know a bit more about (houses and automobiles) the same thing is said. However, if a person is truly looking at it objectively, today's houses and cars are far superior than anything built 40+ years ago. In fact, it's really not even close.
A blanket statement like that is just flat wrong, but since this forum is about snowblowers, I won't go into it here.
Many items built 30-40+ years ago were built to a standard and priced accordingly, today's items are built to a price point and the lack of quality shows.
 

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"Better" can mean different things to different people.

Some may like auto-turn, heated handgrips, quiet, epa-compliant, light, efficient machines of today while others (like myself) prefer the simple, sturdy designs of yesterday....heavy-duty machines that can be maintained with basic tools and parts from the local hardware store.

In addition, the steel used on older blowers is heavier gauge and better quality. A heavily-neglected classic machine will develop some surface rust. I doubt that the vast majority of modern machines can tolerate the same amount of mistreatment.
 

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i have two Ariens machines......one is a 1966 snothro, and the other is a modern snotek, i will go out on a limb and say the 1966 machine will still be blowing snow long after the snowtek is being recycled. imho, cars and houses today are not superior to stuff from back in the day when things were built to last........i wont be around to know for sure, but how many honda civics will be around in 50 years to be sold as antiques ?
 

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El cheapo models not included, the machines from Honda, Ariens, Toro and Simplicity are as good as anything from the 60's/70's.

Plus they're better designed, better performing and more fun to operate.

Someone post a link of a common 60's/70's machine in original form (no impeller kit) throwing snow 40-50 feet like a Honda and I'll eat my hat!

The problem I think is that most users today are either mechanically deficient or don't take maintenance very seriously (or both)

The lack of knowledge and effort is giving the modern machine a bad rap.
 

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I had a 1968 Wheel Horse that I would gladly take back over any new comparable tractor made today. Very simple, straightforward design. No special tools required. Steered like it had power steerimg and absolutely no play in the steering. Best piece of OPE I ever owned. But, I also owned a 1986 deere john 332 diesel that was also a fine tractor. Of course it cost 9 times the price of the wheel horse too. The older stuff may not have been quite so user friendly but it sure was built to last.
 

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I'll agree that today's automobiles are generally much, much better than their predecessors of yesteryear. However, I cannot agree that this is true with houses. Prewar houses were generally built with long term ownership of generations of families in mind and, in some cases, with materials you literally cannot get today (example: Old growth lumber from virgin forests). Postwar, the housing market adopted an assembly line mentality (starting with Levittown) and quality generally declined right up to the mcmansions we see today. Then there's character, which is subjective, but I will take 75+ year old masonry and clapboard wood over vinyl any day of the week.

Regarding blowers - it's clear to me that the 60s and 70s machines were of superior quality to today's machines designed to compete with imports.
 

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An interesting thread. There definitely seems to have been more pride in workmanship back in the day in all machinery. Today in many industries it's all about pleasing the stockholder by keeping costs down and maximizing profit margins. Those at the top cutting costs are highly compensated for this while the rank and file factory worker has likely seen his/her salary and benefits diminish significantly relative to decades ago. These cost cutting measures often using cheaper materials along with lower employee moral and less pride of workmanship has contributed to diminishing product quality. However advancements in technology including robotics & computer aided design has improved the overall performance/safety of many products including snowblowers while lowering the cost to the end user.

Regarding snowblowers especially those at the $1,000. or less price point offered at the competitive big box retailers, being "built to a price point" is more evident. The parts/service industry is also a major factor in keeping a business profitable after the sale. Engineers are told not too "over engineer" many parts in order to ensure demand for replacement parts throughout the life of the machine.
 

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Like with anything compared to yester-year, cost of production plays a huge roll in the quality that you get.

Just like a car. How much did a new car cost back in 1970? 5 grand lets say? With that you get big cast iron blocks, thick metal body and frame, metal bumpers etc.

The same car built today would cost a fortune in metal alone. Same would be the case in a snowblower. The tin can sheet metal used today on 1500$ blowers will rust out long before the engine dies. Whereas the old ones can be repowered and will keep on going.
 

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Here is an Ariens dealer brochure from 1973:



someone, probably the dealer, wrote in some prices..
there is no price written for the "bottom of the line" 4HP machine, but based on the other prices, its safe to assume about $300 for that 4hp model.
So we have a range of:

$300 for the 4hp 20" "bottom of the line" snowblower.
to:
$460 for the 8hp 32" "top of the line" snowblower.

those are the actual purchase prices in 1973..

Translated to today's dollars, that's roughly:

$1,500 for the 4hp 20" "bottom of the line" snowblower.
to:
$2,500 for the 8hp 32" "top of the line" snowblower! :icon-shocked:

The value translation isnt an exact science, but even if the numbers arent exact, its still pretty clear that the *least expensive* tiny little 4hp 20-inch bucket model in 1973 cost the equivalent of well over $1,000 today! And the high quality reflected that high purchase price..

So what is missing in 1973 that we have today?
In 1973, the REALLY low end machines that we have today simply didnt exist..
In 1973, there was no snowblower you could buy for $100 in 1973 dollars (the equivalent of todays sub-$500 snowblower)..
that price point, and corresponding low quality level, didnt exist..
you couldn't buy something that junky and cheap even if you wanted to..
the least expensive snowblower was still *really expensive*! ;)
but also had the quality to match..

What has changed in the past 30 to 40 years?
People started shopping only on price..not on quality.
Today, many people want a sub-$500/$600 snowblower..so there are companys that will oblige and make one..

(im referring mostly to the really low-end "100% made in China" models, like these:

not the models by our well-known makers.)

So, today we have machines at a MUCH lower price-point than anything that even existed in the 60's and 70's..
and to hit that low price point, we have corresponding very low quality..

Scot
 

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A few other 1969-1970 prices...

My Dads salary at an aerospace company in Los Angeles in 1969 = $7,800 a year.
Price paid for brand new 2000 sq.ft ranch house in Thousand Oaks, California in 1969 = $28,900
Price paid for new Toyota 4 door sedan in 1970 = $2,500
Cigarettes in 1970 = 30 cents a pack

... so a $460.00 snowblower 1973 was not cheap.
 

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From what I've gathered so far, the sheet metal in today's snow blowers is thinner, however, I can't believe that's it. There has to be something else that has made so many members of this forum such huge fans of yesterday?

I also loved to see a brochure from 1973. Taking into account the metal is thinner, the price for an Ariens 32" bucket hasn't changed in 42 years! Plus, I get a more powerful engine (I have no idea if it is more powerful though), electric start, hand warmers, quick turn, larger tires, and probably some additional safety features.

So far, yesterday isn't looking so good. Yes, 40+ years ago Joe Consumer couldn't go out to his local hardware store to buy something relatively inexpensive like today. And those machines are definitely not up to the quality of anything purchased way back when. However, like has been shown, that same old Joe CAN go down to his local dealer/Big Box Store/online to spend the same amount of money on that same snowblower and get a safer, more powerful (maybe?), machine with several other reliable features like I mentioned.

Specifically, what am I missing?
 

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I have a new Toro 724 QXE ... Im an old school type of guy..... and I love this machine. Sorry to say it guys but this machine can maneuver way better then and old heavy snowblower. It will also throw snow an amazing distance. Oh and it starts in one pull and is whisper quiet. I hated a Chinese engine.. before I owned one,. This thing is quieter and smoother then my Honda HS621.

Sorry but i just don't buy this 'older is better stuff' . There are exceptions but this rule is not across the board correct statement.

I also own 3 classic restored musclecars and though these cars are way more fun to drive then almost anything out there today.. Todays cars are more reliable, will last longer and are more comfortable then what was made 50 years ago. No question. I remember a time when if you owed a car that lasted 100k miles it was something to celebrate. Today that is barely broken in.
 

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Well, let me throw out a few random data points, these all relate to Ariens machines...

First: the finish. The sheet metal parts on the early machines were incredibly rust-resistant. I'm not sure if it's because the paint was baked on, they used a different/better primer, or maybe the metal was even galvanzed. But if you look at photos of machines for sale on places like Craigslist, you'll see a lot of 1980s, 1990s, and even 2000s models with tons of rust on them. Now compare to the older models... I can't remember ever seeing a 1970s or earlier model with what I'd call a lot of rust... say more than 10% of its surface.

Second: corrosion protection of fasteners. All the new stuff is "yellow zinc plated"... basically a zinc coating a few molecules thick that will prevent it from corroding for a few years. Again I'm not sure what they did on the older machines - maybe thicker electroplating - but the old fasteners resisted corrosion for decades, not years. Yellow zinc plating has become the standard on cars too... I've looked underneath cars less than 10 years old and the fasteners are corroded dramatically more than the ones on my 26-year-old Audi.

And lastly, component quality. "Back in the day", Ariens machines were 100% (or very close to 100%) made in the USA. Last winter one of my machines that was built around 1987 needed an impeller shaft bearing, so I ordered a genuine Ariens replacement. The replacement had "made in China" stamped on it. The old bearing lasted around 30 years... I'd bet the cost of a replacement machine the new one won't last half that long. And yes that's a replacement part but it seems awfully likely the new machines are using parts from the same sources. And just to be clear, the bearing I ordered was an Ariens part from an authorized dealer, and came in Ariens packaging... it wasn't an "ebay special" or anything like that.
 

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One thing that has not been mentioned is the price of a 60's/70's Ariens/Gilson/Toro/Deere/Chalmers/Simplicity/etc...
If you're patient, you can find a seldom used, always garaged, very reliable machine for $200.00 or less.
I've seen countless examples all summer on our local Craigslist.
I picked up a seldom used Snapper 1030 for $140.00 and an old Simplicity for $20.00 (cleaned carb and runs like new).
You can't go out and get much more than a shovel for that kind of money.

I don't think you're missing anything really, some people like old equipment for various reasons and some don't... that's it.
I've used the same cell phone since 2002, replaced the battery a couple times and it makes calls and receives calls, never drops calls, sound clarity is fantastic and it only needs charging every 2-3 weeks.
Best of all my cell plan costs 3 dollars a month.



I think my old cell phone is like an old blower, it gets the job done, is reliable and inexpensive.
It does everything I need it to do and nothing more and when it breaks I'll get another one on eBay for 5 bucks.
 

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That's great! Maybe we can start a SBF "phone dinosaur" group... I've got a phone that's maybe 1 generation newer than that. I'm jealous of your service plan though... I'm paying $100 a year.

People rib me about not having a smartphone and I tell them that as far as I know, the word "telephone" comes (roughly) from the Latin "tele" for distant and "phone" for speaking, and as long as it lets me speak with people who are distant, it does all I need. :wink:
 

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From what I've gathered so far, the sheet metal in today's snow blowers is thinner, however, I can't believe that's it. There has to be something else that has made so many members of this forum such huge fans of yesterday?
oh yeah..there is a LOT more "something else"

I also loved to see a brochure from 1973. Taking into account the metal is thinner, the price for an Ariens 32" bucket hasn't changed in 42 years! Plus, I get a more powerful engine (I have no idea if it is more powerful though), electric start, hand warmers, quick turn, larger tires, and probably some additional safety features.
yeah, but safety features doesn't necessarily correspond to better build quality..
you can have those safety features on a piece of junk..

So far, yesterday isn't looking so good. Yes, 40+ years ago Joe Consumer couldn't go out to his local hardware store to buy something relatively inexpensive like today. And those machines are definitely not up to the quality of anything purchased way back when. However, like has been shown, that same old Joe CAN go down to his local dealer/Big Box Store/online to spend the same amount of money on that same snowblower and get a safer, more powerful (maybe?), machine with several other reliable features like I mentioned.

Specifically, what am I missing?
Actually, yesterday is looking really good, because you are missing a LOT! ;)
What you are missing is build quality..modern safety features arent really part of the discussion IMO, when it comes to build quality..What I am talking about, when comparing the "bottom of the line" then, versus now, is today's bottom of the line gets you quality like this:

"This item arrived with major problems with the drive mechanism. All belts and the friction wheel disintegrated due to poor materials and the drive system failed from the first attempt to use it. I contacted Stanley and was given many instructions on how to find out and replace whatever was wrong myself. After replacing items at my own expense and considerable time, the repair did not fix the problem and failed immediately again. They would not take it back. It has been at a repair center since then and I have only snowplowed about 50 feet with it. As of this date I still have no resolution to the problem. My next call is to dispute the purchase to get it returned."
source: https://www.amazon.com/Stanley-Commercial-Blower-Electric-45-Inch/product-reviews/B00527DF08

"Falling apart! I've had it for 12 months and 3 weeks. The three weeks is important because in the past three weeks it has started to fall apart. Several metal bits have snapped. I do not mean the shear pins (those are *supposed* to snap. These are metal bits which are in places which should not be experiencing stress from heavy snow: The metal guide for the bar which turns the snow chute from the left side to the right. The spring which engages the auger (the blades!). The screws which hold the snow chute up. Can't get customer service on this, because I've passed the 1-year warranty mark. Did I get a bad unit? Maybe, but the lack of willingness to support the product is telling. I will never buy anything from this company again."

Eight reviews here:
https://www.amazon.com/Power-Smart-DB7659A-24-inch-Electric/product-reviews/B00A3DY9AQ/ref=cm_cr_dp_qt_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&showViewpoints=0

More here:
https://www.amazon.com/Power-Smart-Powered-Thrower-Electric/product-reviews/B0064O9FNO/ref=cm_cr_dp_qt_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&showViewpoints=0

And here:

And here:
https://www.amazon.com/Powerland-PDST32-Propelled-Electric-Compliant/product-reviews/B003BLPJEC/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt_rgt?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=critical&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=1

Thread in this forum:
http://www.snowblowerforum.com/forum/snowblower-repairs-maintenance-forum/7586-36-inch-stanley-already-broken.html

and the list goes on..


The buyers of that "bottom of the line" 4hp Ariens in 1973 didn't have these issues with their brand-new $1,500 (in todays dollars) machine..many 1960's and 70's Ariens snowblowers are still running fine today, 40 to 50 years later..

Meanwhile, today, many people buy new snowblowers that are broken and useless before the first use!
they are useless junk when brand new..

Thats the kind of quality disparity we are talking about..
its waaaaay more than just differences in sheet metal thickness..everything on the machine, every part, is of much lower quality on many of today's low-end machines..

(again, im not talking about modern Ariens, Toro, Honda, or many of the known and respected brands..im comparing the "low end" of 1973, to the low end of today..the lowend of 1973 is of much better quality than the lowend of today..)

Scot
 

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For more reading on this topic..there is a loooong thread here:

http://www.snowblowerforum.com/forum/general-snowblower-discussion/1364-made-usa-versus-made-china.html

IMO, that thread is most useful now for keeping track of the many "100% made in China" brand names, so people can be warned not to buy them. (new brand names pop up every year.)

And I have my little rant on my Ariens page: ;)

The Ariens 1960's and 1970's Sno-Thro info site.

That's a bit dated now, written in 2009..and since 2009 I have had to pretty much give up on the Harbor Freight Predator engine battle..it can't be won.
I dont even comment on the Predator re-power threads anymore..
but for myself, I will still hold out for US-only quality..
Which is why my two 1971 Ariens snowblowers and my 1964 Wheel Horse garden tractor will probably last me the rest of my life..
and if they dont, I will upgrade to a 1985 Ariens and a 1975 Wheel Horse! ;)

Scot
 

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seriously, who cares if a blower lasts 50 years? (I sure as heck aint gonna be blowing snow for 50 years anyway)Id much rather get a new one with better features every 15-20 years anyway. The old machines are a pain to start, loud and vibrate horribly. I know cause I had a late 70's toro 724 and it was a pain to start, clogged a lot with wet snow and was so darn heavy to move around. Not what I would call enjoyable.
 
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