The early 12 gauge 1100s into the 1970s range did not have the glass reinforcement in the fore end. Then they added that feature at receiver end of the fore end. The 11-87s began with the addition of a reinforcing pin in the muzzle end of the fore end. I have seen fore ends of both versions cracked on both ends. On the 13 I have owned, the only one that ever experienced a crack was my 1963 1100, when it got dropped on a hardwood floor. Most of the ones I fixed, the owners either said they dropped it, or they didn't know how or when it happened.
There are newer gas autos that will go longer between cleanings, but I have never had a failure, and I have gone probably 400 rounds tops. I clean them whether I shoot 1 round or hundreds. You can get a newer design, but you can't get one that shoots better, if you like 1100s/11-87s.
What could have happened... did.
I do not trust Remington's dating service accuracy. If they were Match.com, you could end up with Nancy Pelosi.