RCA Victor 1-X-55
1952 Blue Plastic AM Radio
BY WILLIAM DEMETRIOU
The thrill of a find and a bargain, as well as the pleasure of restoring an old radio to working condition, is evident in the following article. The moral of the story: always go back for a second look. (Editor)
What a find! It's a blue RCA Victor 1-X-55, shown in Figure 1 in its restored condition. When found, it was dirty, but clean, if you know what I mean. All the knobs and the back cover were still intact. The back cover was in good condition, as Figure 2 (see print version) shows. I found it at a local flea market in Matamoras, Pennsylvania, one summer day in July. The woman had a price tag of $25 -- just a little steep, so I went about my business to see what other deals were out there.
I spent a few hours searching for antique electronic items, such as tubes, wire, books, manuals, or old parts that I could use. I decided to leave, but before going, I went back to the table with the RCA 1-X-55. It was still there. I offered the woman $15.
"Sold!" she said.
Was I ever surprised! I took my new (but old) radio to its new home in Bloomingburg, New York. Couldn't wait to plug it in!
After getting home, I took the radio down to my workshop. I pulled the back cover off and plugged it into my Variac and brought the voltage up slowly. It worked fairly well. Although it was very weak, it pulled in a few stations out of New York. After I had moved some of the tubes in their sockets, the stations came in nice and clear.
Figure 1. The restored radio has a "right out of the box" look.
Other problems as well were evident. The antenna was falling off the back cover, the volume control was scratchy, and the radio case was in filthy condition. So, now that I knew that the radio was not a basket case, I went to work on it. Having pulled off the radio knobs, I removed the chassis from its case. All the screws and nuts went into a safe place -- my magnetic dish where all parts go when I'm working on a radio. I pulled out all the tubes from the chassis very carefully.
My next step was to clean up the chassis by dusting it off with a soft brush and an air compressor (use canned air if you prefer). It's important to clean the tuning capacitor and in between the plates. In addition, I washed the chassis with some cleaning solution, using a mild cleanser in a spray bottle. A view of the chassis and the loop antenna is provided in Figure 3 (see print version). The tube layout is shown in Figure 4 (see print version).
While cleaning the chassis, I noticed one problem. The 50C5 tube socket, which is one of those Bakelite, chassis-mounted sockets was bad. It was totally burned up. I very carefully removed the bad tube socket, making a diagram of the part location and pin numbers of the tube. I replaced the tube socket, as well as a wax paper capacitor. After looking the chassis over, I soldered any loose connections or connections that looked questionable. Then, I cleaned the volume control with some contact cleaner.
At this point, I checked all the tubes with my Mercury 1100A tube tester. The radio has 5 tubes: 12BA6 RF amp pentode, 12BE6 converter, 12AV6 detector amplifier, 50C5 power output, and a 35W4 half-wave rectifier. There was only one tube that was bad -- the 50C5. Making sure that I had a good set of tubes, I plugged the set into my Variac and cranked the voltage up. It played like the day it came out of the box in 1952!
A little IF adjustment, and it was perfect. I glued the antenna onto the back cover of the set. The chassis was ready to go. I applied some rubber cement to the cone of the speaker on some hairline cracks or dry rot. The last step was washing the case of the radio. Sometimes, all you need is a towel and some cleaning solution. I like to submerge the case in a sink full of soap and water and really give it a good cleaning.
However, in this instance, the tube location chart and model number tags were glued to the bottom of the case. I still used the sink, but I was very careful not to get any water on the tags. The radio cleaned up really nicely. I rubbed a little car wax on it to make it shine. At this point, I put the radio back together and put all the nuts, washers, and screws back to make it look as original as possible. It looked great! I've added this wonderful piece of history to my collection.
With just a handful of tubes, capacitors, resistors, some basic tools, a tube tester, and an ohmmeter, you too can make these terrific radios come back to life. This can be an inexpensive hobby to get into, but it can also become expensive once you get hooked. You have to know your limits.
(William Demetriou, 80 Hubbard Rd., Bloomingburg, NY 12721)
William Demetriou (N2QGX) has been interested in electronics for 30 years, but began collecting radios only five years ago. A new member of the Hudson Valley Antique Radio and Phono Society, he enjoys scavenging for radios and parts on eBay, at flea markets, and at swap meets. His particular interest is in plastic radios of the 1940s and 1950s, but he says he "never turns down a radio or a deal."