The Zenith Royal 1000 Trans-Oceanic
BY PHIL MACARTHUR
Having explored the development of the Zenith Royal 500 series in the July 2008 issue of A.R.C., Phil MacArthur takes us to the next level of transistorized portables, the Trans-Oceanics. (Editor)
It's mid-1955 and several manufacturers are shipping the early transistor radios to showrooms across the country. The ground breaking Regency TR-1 and the initial entries from Raytheon, RCA, Philco and others are headed for the dealers' display cases. At Zenith the prototypes for the Royal 500 are being evaluated and assembly lines are in the planning stage at the Chicago plant, looking for a November debut.
Engineering discussions have been held for several months on the next update for Zenith's flagship portable, the Trans-Oceanic. The latest model, the 5-tube L-600 is only a year old and is selling briskly, but the transistor won't wait. Designing the next edition for this all-wave portable presents unique challenges.
First, the design team is charged with transforming a very popular product. The Trans-Oceanic is the top-of-the-market choice for a diverse public. The earlier H-500 has sold about one quarter million units at $125 each in its three-year run, and the recent redesign is maintaining that sales pace, even at $140 each. (These prices are just shy of $1000 in 2008 dollars.) Second, the eminently recognizable suitcase appearance will be downsized, modernized, and built more like an expensive camera than any radio currently on the market. All this has to be accomplished using revolutionary transistor technology and at a price of $250, almost double that of its predecessor.
As an indication of reluctance over terminating an established design, Zenith continued to produce the tube-type Model 600 in parallel with the new solid-state model from 1957 through 1962. It was possible to see three different models of the Trans-Oceanic in some showrooms during 1962 the B-600, the Royal 1000, and the Royal 3000.
The Royal 1000 Trans-Oceanic Variations
Introduced in December 1957, the nine-transistor Royal 1000, shown in Figure 1, had eight bands: the standard broadcast band, 2-4 Mc, 4-9 Mc, and the 31, 25, 19, 16, and 13 meter bands (identical to the L-600).
Figure 1. The Zenith Royal 1000 Trans-Oceanic with its lid closed.
In July 1958, the $275 1000-D, which added the longwave band, appeared.
Both models used nine D cells in the battery pack. In 1964, the $199.95 1000-1 model added an AC power adapter. (The price was reduced in 1962 due to the introduction of the $275 Royal 3000, which had FM.) The Royal 1000 stayed in the Zenith product lineup through 1968, an 11-year run.
Today, collectors are documenting the variations in the early production runs of the Royal 1000. First, Zenith made no formal designation of the model name until after production had started. Hence, there is no "Royal 1000" identification found on the earliest receivers. Second, the wavemagnet cable originally exited from the right-hand side (viewed from the back) and was clamped to the battery box. This was soon changed to the left side and coiled beneath the speaker magnet for a neater appearance. This rare wavemagnet appears only for the first couple of months.
Third, the earliest 1000s had a full set of black RCA transistors. Later, the transistors would be made for Zenith in Holland. Fourth, the original telescoping antenna had a "press to release" mechanism. Fifth, for at least a year, the 1000 had real leather covering and the words "genuine leather" appeared on the fold down cover. All of these early indicators appeared with the original chassis number 9AT40.
The earliest date codes are 731 (Aug. 1957) on the tuning cap and 738 (Sept. 1957) on the speaker. The hard plastic, bolt-on battery box appeared for about two years before being replaced by the newer box; hence, both are quite common.
Figure 2. A view of the chassis showing such early features as the clear plastic battery box, the wavemagnet cable dressed down the far right rear and bolted to the battery box, the RCA transistors, the 9AT40 chassis number, and the upside-down serial number, as well as the 738, 731, and 732 date codes.
Figure 2 shows several early features: the clear plastic battery box, the red wavemagnet cable dressed down the far right rear and bolted to the battery box; the 9AT40 chassis number; the black RCA transistors; the 343738 (738 is the 38th week of 1957) date code on the speaker; the 731 date code on the tuning cap; the 732 date code on the little output transformer; and the (upside down) serial number 6250523.
The production totals for the first 15 years of the solid-state Trans-Oceanic were only about half of the totals for the last 15 years of the tube-type Trans-Oceanics. This might be attributed to changes in the market and increasing competition, first domestic, then from Japan and Germany. Perhaps this also shows that Trans-Oceanic buyers were more conservative and wouldn't trade their tube radios for transistors.
Solid production totals for each of the transistorized Trans-Oceanics don't exist, so the big question remains, how many of each model were sold? We can estimate the totals by analyzing the frequency that they appear in A.R.C. ads and on eBay. For every 10 of the tube 600s there are about three 1000s, six 3000s, five 7000s, and only one R7000. Based on the known total of about 270,000 for the 600, the totals for the solid-state versions would be as follows: 90,000 Royal 1000s, 150,000 Royal 3000s, 130,000 Royal 7000s and only 30,000 of the R7000s. These numbers are just rough estimates, but for the moment, they're all we have.
We are fortunate to have so many of these fine all-wave receivers available 50 years after they were built, ready to serve new generations of listeners. Many of us have them at our chair sides or on the night stand. They can be found daily on eBay for $35 to $250 depending on condition. They have turned out to be easy to repair, usually requiring the replacement of about a dozen capacitors and perhaps a plug-in transistor or two.
Rewards of Ownership
It's rewarding work to give another 50 years of life to a good receiver. Generic PNP germanium transistors are plentiful and inexpensive, around a buck each. I keep a stock of Hitachi 2SA70 or RCA SK-3007 transistors handy since they look just like the original 4-pin shielded RF and IF transistors from Zenith. Replacing the D cell pack with a rechargeable 12-volt sealed, lead-acid battery (about $20) eliminates battery box problems and adds months between chargings.
Figure 3. The Zenith Royal 1000 Trans-Oceanic with its lid open.
Please e-mail the author with date code, chassis and serial number for and of the Royal 1000 or 3000 radios you have.
We've carried a Royal 1000 in our camper and on our boat for years, and it never fails to draw attention and start conversations. Get one for yourself, and listen in on the world through a radio with real class.
Antique Radio Classified, 2005-2008.
Bryant, John H. & Harold N. Cones. Zenith Trans-Oceanic, The Royalty of Radios. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1995.
eBay auctions, May through August 2008.
Smith, Norman. Zenith Transistor Radios, Evolution of a Classic. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1998.
After 25 years of teaching in Key West, Florida, Phil MacArthur and his wife June happily retired and returned to the "four-seasons Northeast." ("And while we were gone, you guys invented the snow blower.") He collects Zenith Royal 500s and Trans-Oceanics as well as the (probably famous) Realistic Flavoradios.