First of all thank everyone on the list who helped me make a decision. Not 100% made, but almost. Have learned a lot and researched a lot on other parts of the net.
Here's some things I found out. PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG.
1) Hobart did not buy Miller or visa versa. They are both owned by a parent company and share some parts, but they are still different companies, although some of the various units are made in the same building.
2) 110 v units are good for light work, but are not nearly as versatile as 220 v units.
3) The 170 amp units from the 3 mfgs are quite similar: The Millermatic 172, The Hobart Handler 175 and the Lincoln 170T. They all have a 30% duty cycle at 130 amps which means that they can run continuously for 3 minutes out of 10 minutes at 130 amps. As you get into the industrial class the duty cycle generally jumps to 60% or better at slightly higher to much higher amps. Example the Millermatic 185 has a duty cycle of 60% at 150 amps.
4) The 170's class, all 220 volts, are "portables", "small shop", "hobbist", "farm" or "home" type machines. They will generally handle 1/4" mild steel, but the short duty cycle prevents them from being classified as "industrial" grade. I guess the one pass 1/4" limits them too.
5) There are Q&A sites on the net regarding welders just like there are about Jeeps. In fact I found one that had some recognizable names from the 4x4 community. It was part of the Hobart site. Address if you are interested:
Haven't done as much research here but have gotten a ball park feel for it. The retail prices of the 170's units are about the same - $600/$700 range. The Miller, however, does not include the gas regulators and gauges. Street prices are lower, but still equipped the same way. Hobart and Miller ship for free. Not sure about Lincoln.
Here's what I found and the unit that is now on the top of my list:
Hobart 175 Handler put on by doorstep for $529. It includes the regulator and gauges, a roll of wire and everything else to plug in and start welding immediately. It does not include any gas cylinder or safety equipment - helmets, gloves etc.
The Q&A sites I visited had a good deal of talk about the 130's class of machines as well as the 170's class. The 130's are generally 110 v machines. A lot of interest in sheet metal - car body pannels etc. - as well as frame type Q&A - trailer frame work, bumpers, tubing and such - all part of our world. Lots of satisfaction with the 130's units as well as the 170's. All this is MIG, BTW.
I saw this question asked, and not answered, several times. The duty cycle is listed as how many minutes out of 10 minutes the machine can operate at FULL power, 30% in the 170's class, but those machines had a FULL OUTPUT OF 170, 172, AND 175 yet each was listed at 130 amps at 30%. So the questions were asked in different ways whether the 175 was really a 130. Question wasn't answered that I could find, unless you consider a political type answer to be an answer. This was true all across the board too it seemed. The Millermatic 185 has a duty cycle of 150 amps at 60% and a maximum output of 185 amps.
So, unless y'all can point me in another direction in the next couple of days, it looks like a Hobart 175. Would appreciate any other comments.
Oh, almost forgot. When you get into the 180 to 200 range the price jumps to retail in the $1,200 range with a street price of $1,000. Let me know if you know of better prices on any of this stuff.
Doug '97 TJ
Creator of the CBrack