Groovy Old Radios

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1934 Montgomery Ward "Airline" LW/SW Radio (AM and shortwave)

This one is interesting, because it is calibrated in wavelength (meters) rather than frequency (Khz or Mhz). Further, the dial is set so that higher frequencies are on the left, much like some European radios. This make some sense being labeled in wavelength rather than frequency, since larger wavelengths are on the right.

1934 Montgomery Ward "Airline" Radio

It's a plain radio - just a box. But the knobs are made of real wood and the escutcheon is brass, with a lit dial. It's also nice that it receives both longwave and shortwave, longwave being called AM or standard broadcast these days. The LW band doesn't quite go to 1635Khz though, only to 1500Khz. But the shortwave band begins there, so none of the range is lost.

1934 Montgomery Ward "Airline" Radio, rear view

The tubes are large, like light bulbs. No internal antenna is included at all, but I've installed a barrier strip so that one can be easily connected. A small loop antenna is plenty for AM reception, but a long wire is better for shortwave.

Before restoration

Here it is as I found it. Not in bad shape really, but of course it didn't work. The knobs were missing but the wood was in good shape. That's the most important part for me, 'cause I'm better with electronics that woodworking. Pretty much strip, sand and apply Minwax is about all you can expect from me. But if the box is in good shape, that's all that's generally required.

Rear view, before restoration

Looking at the inside of the unit, you can see that everything is there for the most part. Even a wasp's nest, complete with little wasp corpses. It's interesting for me that those wasps probably lived and died before most people on this planet today were even born.

1939 Stewart Warner Radio Model 13-5U

This one is my favorite, because it's the first one I restored. I got it in 1989, and it really needed a lot of work. At some time in the past, it had been repaired by rewiring the output stage so that it could use an alternate tube. So when the original tube set was installed, the filaments did not complete a circuit. Naturally, I rewired the entire chassis, and even found that the field coil was open and had to be rewound. Honestly, I'm surprised that I bothered to repair it. Most don't need this much work. But I didn't know this at the time, and expected that I'd need to work hard to get such an old radio to work.

1939 Stewart Warner Radio Model 13-5U

This is what Stewart Warner was building back before World War II. I'm used to seeing them making tachometers and stuff, so this radio was always really cool to me.

The label says "Riley's 8-14-45 8 4508"

I'm not sure if the label was attached by a repair shop when fixing the radio, but it would appear to be the case. I enhanced the image above so that you could read the label on your screen, but it is easily seen and clearly legible to the naked eye.

Operating chassis. Notice the filaments glowing!

The five tubes are 35Z5GT rectifier, 12SA7 detector/oscillator, 12SK7 IF amp, 12SQ7 2nd detector and 50L6GT audio amp. The locations for each of these tubes is shown on a label on the bottom of the radio, so I went to Radio Shack and purchased the tubes. Remember when each store had a tube checker and they offered every tube with gold leads and a lifetime guarantee?

Even with new tubes, the radio still didn't work, so I had to dig in deeper. I could not find a schematic for this chassis, but I found schematics for a couple of other chassis that used the same tube set. Interestingly, neither had the same speaker or antenna configuration, but it was easy enough to modify circuit layout to suit the components used in the radio. Once I had come up with a suitable schematic, I made a couple of copies, and I keep one stored inside the radio cabinet.

Point-to-point wiring, of course

I had originally intended to keep all the original components, but found some coupling capacitors completely open. So it just wasn't possible because too many components were defective. And as I said earlier, the radio had been rewired and the filaments did not even make a complete circuit. Undoubtedly, a repair shop was missing one of the tubes that needed to be replaced, so the repairman made a substitution and rewired for its alternate pinouts.

So I decided to remove all wires and components, and start from scratch. That made it easy to clean the chassis completely. The components are good quality 1/2 watt and 1 watt resistors and polypropylene caps, and the wires are all the same ones that came out. Oddly, I had about two feet of wire remaining, in various lengths. Spare parts?!! Ahh, but it works well, and doesn't hum at all.

Field-coil speakers, legacy of the past

This was the part of the restoration that was a real drag. The field coil was poofed. I rewound that silly thing, because it just didn't seem right to substitute the speaker with a newer fixed magnet type. So I wound that thing for a week. The B+ supply passes through this field coil, but only about 70mA is required, so this 34 guage wire should be sufficient. I don't know if that's how the original radio ran the field coil, but that's how mine is done. It also has a humbucking coil, but there's 100uF across the B+ supply both before and after the field coil, so there is very little ripple and the humbucking coil really isn't needed.

Like I said, I'm amazed that I bothered to finish the thing. I'm surprised I ever decided to do another. But then again, knowing that someone listened to modern history unfold on this very radio makes it intriguing to own. It's my own little "time warp," and it's fun to listen to the Coast to Coast show on this radio!

1940 RCA Victor Radio Model 36X

This one is my latest "aquisition," and it has an attractive walnut cabinet. The RCA Victors of the 1940's are all very similar, with little variation in circuits, chassis and tube sets. Even the cabinets and layouts are nearly the same through the decade. This wouldn't seem unusual to me if it weren't that most other manufacturers of the era seemed to change circuitry and appearance every couple of months. I suppose since they were entirely hand-made, consistency was not really all that important. Individuality was probably seen as somewhat of a virtue. As they say, those were the days!

1940 RCA Victor, before restoration

It didn't need a lot of work, but it needed to be rewired because the insulation was brittle and breaking away from many of the wires. The output transformer was bad and the filaments didn't glow, because two of its tubes had open heaters and all but one was bad. No matter, I routinely replace every tube anyway, and I like to have at least one new tube in stock for each one that's "in service." The cabinet is in pretty good shape, but needed to be stripped and re-sealed. And there was no back cover and the loop antenna's fiberboard panel is in pieces, so I made a new one for it.

1940 RCA Victor Model 36X

This radio has excellent reception, and is easily able to pick up stations several states away just with its internal loop antenna. When adding a tunable loop nearby, this one can literally pick up stations from Canada, all the way down in Oklahoma.

1946 RCA Victor Radio Model 65X1

The Model 65X1 is very similar to the 36X shown above, in circuit and in layout. The 36's cabinet is made from real walnut and the 65's cabinet is plastic or "bakelite," as they called it then. The 36 has a tone control in the center, which is absent on the 65. But other than that, you can swap chassis between the two and they'll bolt right in.

1946 RCA Victor Radio Model 65X1

This radio was the "least trouble" of all of the tube radios I have. I bought it, plugged it in and turned it on. Worked first time, and I could have left it that way perfectly well. But I like to replace brittle power cords and any wires that have insulators that are cracking. So I did this, replaced all the capacitors and tubes and turned it on again. Didn't work any better, but it didn't work any worse either. And with all new polypropylene caps and tubes, its long life is ensured.

1949 Zenith TransOceanic Radio Model G500

The Zenith TransOceanic radio was made in several models, all of which were high-quality multi-band radios. Mine is excellent, and has all its original "accessories," including the owners manual and wire and suction cups for mounting the loop antenna externally.

1949 Zenith TransOceanic Radio Model G500

Two thumb screws attach the loop antenna to the radio front panel, which serves double-duty as protection for the radio when stowed and a handy mount for the antenna when in use. But the loop can be detached and mounted on a window, using the supplied suction cups to hold it in place and 300 ohm twin-lead for connection.

1949 Zenith TransOceanic Radio Model G500, rear view

This one was in great shape when I got it, and I didn't have to do much to get it working again. Two tubes and the power supply filter capacitor was all it needed; Naturally, I bought two of everything anyway, so I can maintain the radio as years go by. I've found that the reception of this radio is better than any other radio I have, including modern shortwave rigs.

1955 Zenith TransOceanic 600 Series Radio Model 6A40

This Zenith TransOceanic radio was purchased along with about four other tube radios at the same time on eBay. I wanted to get a good radio for my grandparents for Christmas, and time was short so I bid on several at the same time. My hope was to get at least one that was in good shape and could be refirbished within a short time to give as a gift. This radio was won, along with several others.

1955 Zenith TransOceanic 600 Series Radio Model A640

At first, I thought about making this radio a parts mule. It was in pretty bad shape, didn't work, was missing the dial indicator and cord, and some animal had eaten much of the interior wood. This one seemed to be a lost cause, at least on a quick inspection. I let it sit for nearly a year. But then one day in boredom, I suppose, I began to work on it and next thing I knew, I had repaired everything but the case and dial indicator. So I restrung the indicator cord and cleaned up the case to realize that the radio wasn't really in too bad shape after all. It probably has the best reception of all my radios.

International Radio Corporation "Kadette" Model 66 Radio

International Radio "Kadette" Model 66 Radio

This is a great little radio, having both standard broadcast AM and shortwave bands up through 4400 kilocycles.

International Radio "Kadette" Model 66 Radio, rear view

It has the neat looking "light bulb" shaped tubes, numbers 43, 76, 24Z5, 165R4 and a pair of 6D6's.

Montgomery Ward "Airline" Clock Radio

Montgomery Ward "Airline" Clock Radio

Like many of the Montgomery Ward radios, this one is difficult to identify and to find documentation for. The model number is "25BR 1548B," but that doesn't usually help much. They are great little radios, and they are usually made using chassis from another manufacturer, like RCA or Zenith. But there were so many varieties, styles and types of radio products sold by Montgomery Ward under the "Airline" trade name that it is virtually impossible to find specific information about a particular model. Model numbers are practically the same thing as serial numbers for this brand.

This little radio has a "bakelite" case and it has a functional clock and alarm. The tubes are of the "mini-micro" variety that was made in the late 40's and early 50's. As usual, I rewired the radio and replaced the capacitors and tubes with new stock. But this clock radio worked fine even before I had refurbished it.

Crosley Radio

Crosley Radio

This is an interesting radio. The chassis appears to have been swapped, perhaps with an earlier or later Crosley chassis. The cabinet is beautiful, and has the classic styling that I always identify with tube radios of the 1930's era.

Crosley Radio, rear view

The Crosley radio uses those groovy "ST" bulb-shaped shoulder tubes. There is an aditional input line to connect tape or ceramic phono cartridge on the right. It was originally a direct-connection, but I've made provisions for connection using spade lugs on a barrier strip.

Zenith G730 AM/FM Radio

Zenith G730 AM/FM Radio

This is my only AM/FM tube radio. There weren't many tube radios that picked up the FM band, because it hadn't really become a popular format until transistor radios appeared. This model has exceptionaly good reception, much like Zenith's TransOceanics.

I have some interesting Russian radios too, and perhaps someday I'll post them here. Right now, I only have transistor radios from the 70's and 80's, and no tube sets. They are interesting to us in the West, because they are (obviously) labeled in Russian. But what I really want to do, is to get some WWII-era radio sets from the former Soviet Union. When I do, I'll be sure to put photos online.

π Speakers