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JamesR

Where to start getting an original tube radio to work.

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In the dozen plus years I've owned my '61 Monterey, the tube radio has almost never worked. It is getting power, but not any radio stations (it's an AM only radio, of course.) It came with an antenna that was loosely attached, but the antenna eventually fell off and was lost. I think the antenna may have been original, but it never seemed to work anyway, despite my attempts to ensure good connections...except, one time: Once I had the antenna fully extended and forgot to push it in as I was pulling out of the garage. I had the radio on at the time, and when the antenna made contact with the metal framework of the overhead garage door, it finally (for about 30 seconds) got great reception and picked up a station from way out of state. I lowered the antenna, then pulled out of the garage and the reception was lost. I pulled the car back in the garage and tried to recreate the good-reception incident, but it didn't work.

 

Because of this, I figure the problem is with the antenna, but I don't know anything about radios, so I'm not sure.  I found this antenna at Auto Krafter Inc. ( a vintage Ford parts place) and it's supposed to be a new exact replacement for the original. It's 90 bucks.  Has anyone tried this antenna? Does it seem like the antenna is the logical place to start? Pretty sure the AM radio is original to the car, and the car has 66,000 miles, so many components are still in decent functional shape. Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks - Jim

 

https://www.autokrafters.com/p-8807-antenna-1961-64-ford-galaxie-wagons-63-64-fairlane-62-62-monterey-61-66-f-100-f-250-f-350-pickup-more-c3az-18813c.aspx

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Rule number one of old tube type radios. If it hasn't been on in quite some time, DO NOT TURN IT ON! Now, since it has been on several times, and apparently did sort of work once, you may be okay.

Rule number two, if it won't work in the first few minutes after turning it on, TURN IT OFF! And leave it off until it can be checked out.

Old tube type radios had old style paper and foil in wax capacitors. They can go flat over time, and often will short out if turned on or left on for any length of time. Those shorted capacitors can begin a cascade failure of shorts and burned out components throughout the circuits.

My dad used to be a radio and television repairman way back when, and he collected antique radios for many years. He had over 200 radios when he passed away fifteen years ago.

 

I know there are a few radio people that make a side business of restoring automobile radios from the '30s through the '60s. I do not know any personally, so cannot advise you there. But ask around. Ask friends with cars of your car's vintage, see if anyone can offer suggestions for either the good or the bad.

 

Personally, I would encourage anyone with a '50s or '60s collector car to include the correct and/or original radio in that restoration. It is too easy to toss the thing aside because we don't understand it or how to fix it. It is too easy to stuff a phony guts behind a fake facade to play your MP3 on. A working correct radio is a special detail that can set any collector car above the rest! 

Besides, you can buy short range transmitters that work in the AM radio frequencies specifically made to broadcast your MP3 player onto your AM radio. They are cheap. I have one, and it works well. I used to use it in my modern car because I often drove to visit family through about a hundred miles of no good radio reception.

 

And, HEY OUT THERE!? I am asking. Where can he get his radio fixed right?

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Thanks for the cautionary information, Wayne. I have an old American Bosch that I would like to get working. Thanks to you, I will not try to turn it on before taking it in for service. When I get around to fixing it, I think I will consult the Commercial Advertisements section down below. I doubt I will have to scroll too far down before I find help. I really would like to patronize a service who is tuned in to all of us here on AACA forums.    -   Carl 

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Since the proper checkout of an old radio requires good instrumentation and knowledge of what to check there is no real way online (kinda hard to use a tube tester).

 

But first I'd reform the caps (if you need to ask, find someone who doesn't) and check out the filament supply. Also test all tubes for a weak one (the tube numbers also tell the filament and plate voltage).

 

I doubt that Ryder's will cover something that late but when you get the model number there is probably a SAM'S PHOTOFACT that cowers it. 

 

Fortunately all of my cars had FM available and I have a cassette adapter for my 8-track  and a cassette>cell phone thingie that permits a cell phone/handsfree connection.

 

Is this the radio ? If so it looks like you need a Sam's 529.6.

 

 

b14bm.jpg

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+2 on not powering it up and getting capacitors changed. Especially the electrolytic ones. 

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12 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Personally, I would encourage anyone with a '50s or '60s collector car to include the correct and/or original radio in that restoration. It is too easy to toss the thing aside because we don't understand it or how to fix it. It is too easy to stuff a phony guts behind a fake facade to play your MP3 on. A working correct radio is a special detail that can set any collector car above the rest! 

 

I couldn't agree more. However, these particular Ford radios are a problem child that might serve best as a plug for the hole in the dash. They were never hot performers, and typically weren't working much if at all when they were 10 years old.

 

Generally Ford radios of this period were Bendix things that used 2 tubes and the rest was transistorized. The tubes were special multisection ones that weren't even used in anything else. One of these 2 tubes was out of production, and all the stock used up by 1969-70. Shops were sending mail into "PF Reporter" magazine wondering where they could get the tubes.

 

Now at this point I should mention that burned out tubes are not common, even though most people think so. If it does need the unavailable tube, one could probably be had from a parts radio. If I was on a mission to get this radio working, I wouldn't let it slow me down.

 

Regarding the antenna, there is nothing special. The "Motorola connector" is the same as a modern one, and any quality reproduction antenna that even functions will be fine. The antenna is set to a specific length (if it pulls out), you pick a station at a certain spot on the dial, and then there is a little trimmer that you adjust with a PLASTIC screwdriver for maximum signal. It needs to be done in the car with everything put together. The service info Padgett mentioned will have the details.

 

I agree there are probably capacitors inside that need to be replaced. If it seems to need more than the antenna, I would suggest you send it to a pro, and preferably not one who specializes in ripping out and replacing the guts.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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Yep, the hybrid series of auto radios. No high voltage. Audio output is transitorized.  Yes, +12 volts on the plates of the tubes, called "Space Charged".👍

 

Usually the elctrolytics and paper capacitors and it is good to go, good being relative. The fully solid state ones of 64 or so were better performers, but Bendix was a good company, did mostly defense communications work on the electronics side. The old plant in Baltimore is now the National Electronics Museum.

 

SInce you already had it playing once, do you or your friends have an auto antenna laying around? You can just plug it into the antenna jack of the radio to see if it plays. No need to mount for a quick test.

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Several times I have had the original AM radio in the dash and a BT head unit either in the glove box or under the passenger seat. Clarions come with a remote control.

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5 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

but Bendix was a good company, did mostly defense communications work on the electronics side.

 

That may be true, but car radios are another matter. Bendix also made the 69-70 Ford radios, without a doubt the worst car radios ever made. They made the solid state Chrysler Corp. radios of the mid 60s (Plymouth Transaudio, etc.), most of which are ok, but not that sensitive. The made the "Sapphire" radios for USA market Volkswagens too.

 

The defense division never saw these things. You don't really realize how cheap, nasty, and badly designed they are until you try to repair one. Bendix even made one particular model for Chrysler that apparently can't be repaired today due to design issues.

 

Nevertheless, the 2-tube radio this thread is about is probably quite repairable, although from 1980 onward I never saw one still working without a little help. When they work, they perform about like a solid state "Plymouth Transaudio" or a Sapphire, in other words fine in the city, but if you want to hear anything distant you had better park on a high hill and pull the antenna all the way up.

 

I had some 60-61 Fords and I may have one of these 2-tube radios. I think I saw one in my garage not long ago. JamesR: If I can find it, you can have it for postage if you want it for parts.

 

Edit: I guess it's not the two-tube one! (thanks Laughing Coyote for posting the service info) I hope I can find that radio I saw. I wonder whats inside?

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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err 4 tube/2 transistor ? Schematic would be nice.

 

GM had some special ICs they used in the early 70s AM-FM-Stereo that are unobtanium today. Mono radios had a single DS-501 audio output transistor and the stereo had a plug in module that was usually over the glove box with the second DS-501. Then the mid-70s had a head unit and the amp was a second module also over the glove box. Dunno how many venders I saw trying to sell the head unit without the amp (used to pick up the amps for $1 since few knew what it was, may still have a couple.

 

Really need to have a dig, think I still have at least on Am-FM-8 track CB unit (channel selector was in the mike) somewhere....

Edited by padgett (see edit history)

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My neighbor rebuilt mine. He works for Raytheon as some kind of electronics guy.  He kept very detailed notes of what he did.  I have the radio spec manual I can upload. The date on the manual is 5 -61.

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Thank you. those are late minature tubes with a 12v plate voltage so no inverter needed. Transistors are pre-amp and audio output. There are electrolytic caps so should be reformed before use. Is essentially an inline circuit similar to an AA5. I'd prefer to troubleshoot with a 'scope but no big.

 

Tube filament voltage is essential to life/performance and should not be below 10v or exceed 15v.

 

ps I have a bunch of Zenith TransOceanics from 1942 to 1982 that work. Prior to 1958 all were tube type. Also have several tube testers.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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Wow, thanks for that great information everyone. I'm definitely NOT going to try to redo this myself. I literally haven't messed with the radio in 10 years or more, but I did turn it on several times when I first bought the car...back when it worked for 30 seconds in the garage. Once the antenna was lost way back when, though, I figured there was no reason to turn it on, so I didn't. But I may have messed it up when I turned it on back then, I don't know. Thanks a million for the manual info, Martin. Looks like I have the same radio, as far as I can tell.  My goal is to find someone who can do an evaluation and - if possible - repair. Here's mine.

IMG_0444revised.jpg

IMG_0445.JPG

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Yep, same as mine. When I turn mine on it takes a few minutes for the tubes to warm up then it works fine.  

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Well, there seem to be guys online who restore these units. This particular company was featured on an online automotive blurb. They say that they restore radios to original specs, but also say that they

 
-Replace the rectifier with a solid state rectifier
-Replace the vibrator with a solid state unit
 
I don't know how much this will alter the character of the original unit, if any at all. They don't mention anything about tubes. The price they list for restoring my '61 Merc unit is $250.
 
But I don't know if my radio actually needs restoration. I misspoke earlier saying that my car has 66k miles on it. I'm reminded by the dash pic that it has under 55k on it (there's 66k on my '54) so that isn't much mileage, but I honestly don't know if that has much to do with anything radio related. Guess I'll call and see if they can evaluate the radio (and hopefully be honest in their assessment.)
 
 
 
Edited by JamesR (see edit history)

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7 minutes ago, JamesR said:
 
-Replace the rectifier with a solid state rectifier
-Replace the vibrator with a solid state unit

 

Small things, neither of which apply to your radio, but it does suggest that they don't hold real close to original. There must be someone out there who does.

 

Also, assuming you have what's in Laughing Coyote's scans, yours does not use the unobtanium tube.

 

On the way, you are going to run into a bunch of guys trying to steer you into modernizing it. Car radio repair is a huge pain in the ass, and no doubt those "conversions" are MUCH more profitable.

 

I had my 61 Ford radio working. It wasn't that much trouble.

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)

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Yep, with those "Space Charged" tubes, there is no need for a vibrator (makes car DC into a chopped type AC to run the transformer to make high voltage for "normal" electron tubes)  or rectifier (needed to make the high voltage AC into high voltage DC).

 

Miles make no difference to a radio. Father time putting moisture into paper capacitors, chemical changes in electrolytic capacitors, carbon resistors going up in value are what age a radio. Unless it is from the rubber wiring age (around WWII), then father time also makes the insulation fall off!😲

 

I don't know if Alan Kriss is still doing repair:

 

 

 

Then there is Fred Bybee:

 

http://www.fredsclassicradios.com/

 

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James, I can ask my neighbor and see if he would be interested in taking it on and go thru it.  He charged me $50 for re doing mine. Parts and labor.

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43 minutes ago, Laughing Coyote said:

James, I can ask my neighbor and see if he would be interested in taking it on and go thru it.  He charged me $50 for re doing mine. Parts and labor.

 

 

That would be beyond awesome! I certainly wouldn't expect to get that low of a price. The fact that he was successful with your unit is a huge plus, and worth paying for. If he decides he doesn't want to do it, I understand, too.

 

Thanks a bunch - Jim

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1 hour ago, Bloo said:

 

On the way, you are going to run into a bunch of guys trying to steer you into modernizing it. Car radio repair is a huge pain in the ass, and no doubt those "conversions" are MUCH more profitable.

 

 

 

Don't want to go that route. I own old cars to escape the modern world, not connect to it. 😃

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Just a thought but it appears the same radio chassis was also used in many Fords and since you have the Mercury faceplate in excellent condition, a swap would be easy.

 

As to replacement with more modern parts, that would be like using modern rubber in a fuel system except no on is going to check the date code on a capacitor. I really would not even consider trying to find a selenium rectifier, just leave the original in place and hide a Si somewhere.

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i remember when the radio quit on my 1954 chevy. i was a teenager then, and couldn't drive it with no music. made a quick trip to pep boys and bought a thing called a vibrator, plugged it in and presto, was rockin out again. hoping the name of that part dosen't inspire a lot of bad jokes.

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We have used RestoRadio Restorations in PA several times with good success.

 

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3 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

We have used RestoRadio Restorations in PA several times with good success.

 

 

 

Thanks a bunch for the input. They looked pretty reputable and knowledgeable, so it's good to know that people have had a positive experience with the company. I want to make sure my old radio will still have the vacuum tube character to it after it's refurbished. According to the video blurb about them I found yesterday, they said that finding vacuum tubes for old car radios isn't really a problem, but some folks on this thread have said some tubes are very difficult to find, though it doesn't sound like my radio has those tubes.

 

So things are looking a bit more promising than at the beginning of the thread. Keeping the 1961 character of the radio should be doable. Now I just need to find radio stations that only play Bobby Darin, Frankie Valli, Roy Orbison and Ernest Tubb.

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