Restoring a Trans-Oceanic 8G005Y -- Web Version


Trans-Oceanics have become a hot collectible item since the publication of the Bryant and Cones book "The Zenith Trans-Oceanic: the Royalty of Radios." Bennett Cane's article documents a Trans-Oceanic restoration project from beginning to end. We wish more collectors would document and share such step-by-step processes with our readers. (Editor)

Shown in Figure 1 in its prerestoration state is the Trans-Oceanic 8G005Y that I found in an extremely shabby condition at a flea market. The Black Stag material was torn, gouged, worn to its thread base, and mildewed. However, when I opened the set, to my delight I found that, although filthy, everything was there, including both Wavemagnets, the antenna lines, the suction cups, the log book, and all the tubes. The seller was adamant -- $20, take it or leave it.

Figure 1. The Trans-Oceanic in its prerestoration state.

At home I tested the tubes, and they were all good! That easily covered the $20. I disassembled the case, stripped off the Black Stag, and used a yard of MB-Tex to recover it. My son cleaned and recapped the chassis.


I have restored a couple of Trans-Oceanics without having to re-cover them. However, in this case, the Black Stag material was so worn it was impossible to make the set look like anything other than a parts radio without re-covering it.

Stripping off the old material was no easy task because the glue that was used by the Zenith craftsmen was heavy duty stuff. Some sections of the material just wouldn't budge. It was as if the material had become part of the wood, particularly on the back cover.

For these spots, I used a glazing and spot putty to fill in the areas between the old material and the bare wood surfaces so as to obtain an overall even base for the new material. On the areas that did strip completely, I sanded the surfaces with 8-grit sandpaper just to get them even. That old glue had left sections that had to be dealt with!

The new vinyls are thicker than the Black Stag, which I have not been able to duplicate. MB-Tex is the excellent vinyl upholstery material that is used in Mercedes Benz cars. It has a nice grain and is very strong. I bought a couple of yards of it at my auto upholstery shop for $15. It is 45 inches wide, which is sufficient for a Trans-Oceanic. At the suggestion of the upholsterer, I used a 3-M upholstery spray adhesive that sets up slowly -- about 15 minutes -- so that corners and curved surfaces could be dealt with without rushing.

The Model 8G005Y requires 11 separate pieces of material to finish it totally. I measured each section twice and added a little extra for curves, corners, and overlaps. I then laid out the final measurements on the back of the new material and carefully cut out all the sections.

I worked with one piece at a time on a large clean surface. It is necessary to keep the material straight, follow the directions on the adhesive container, and be patient. I used the corner cuts on the old upholstery as a guide for new cuts using small scissors. It is all right to use a staple gun to hold areas around corners while the glue dries. However, the staples must be removed when the sections are dry.

The cleaning on the brass, plastic, and steel parts should be done with only very light abrasives, polish and elbow grease. No power!

For about 15 hours of "fun" and $40 for the radio and restoration materials, I have a "brand new" 50-year-old Trans-Oceanic that sounds as good as it looks. The finished product is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The restored Trans-Oceanic with its new covering and polished trim.

(Bennett Cane, 4851 Texhoma Ave., Encino, CA 91316)

Bennett Cane, a banker, and his son David, an attorney, make a great radio repair team. Bennett looks for radios of interesting design from the 1940s or later and does the cosmetic restoration, while David takes care of the electronic repairs. Together, they work to keep the appearance of the sets as authentic as possible. Perhaps a nice restoration shop is in their future.

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Last revised: December 19, 1996. Pages designed by Wayward Fluffy Publications