A 1940s Car Radio Receives Some Love

The entertainment systems in modern vehicles is akin to a small in-dash computer, and handles all manner of digital content. It probably also incorporates a radio, but increasingly that’s treated as something of an afterthought. There was a time though when any radio in a car was a big deal, and if you own a car from that era it’s possible that you’ve had to coax an aged radio into life. [The Radio Mechanic] is working on a radio from a 1946 Packard, which provides a feast for anyone with a penchant for 1940s electronics.

The unit, manufactured by Philco, is an all-in-one, with a bulky speaker in the chassis alongside the tubes and other components. It would have sat behind the dash in the original car, so some external cosmetic damage is not critical. Less easy to pass off is the cone rubbing on the magnet, probably due to water damage over the last eight decades. Particularly interesting are the controls, as we’re rather enamored with the multicolored filter attached to the tone control. A laser cutter makes short work of recreating the original felt gasket here.

The video below is the first of a series on this radio, so we don’t see it working. Ahead will be a lot more cleaning up and testing of components, and we’d expect a lot of those paper capacitors to need replacement. We can almost smell that warm phenolic smell.

If tube radio work is your thing, we’ve been there before.

9 thoughts on “A 1940s Car Radio Receives Some Love

  1. When we commented recently about 8-track players, Bill Lear’s name came up.
    Lear also built the first commercial car radio, which he dubbed “Motorola”.

    1. As the Enterprise computer said to Harry Mudd: INCORRECT

      Bill Lear signed up for 1/3 interest in Paul Galvin’s new company “Galvin Manufacturing”.
      The year was 1928. He only contributed start up capital.

    2. That isn’t true at all. Paul Galvin … who created the company and owned the majority stake in it … came up with the name Motorola as a hybrid of the words Motor and Victrola.

  2. Without looking at the video or even the Sams laying there it’s using “locktal” tubes which are extinct. Philco’s way of changing everything nice about tubes. Most had the same characteristics as common tubes but that pin and socket was theirs. The center pin had a groove to hold it in the socket so it wouldn’t vibrate loose. That’s something that military gear long solved with regular tubes and their hardened versions.
    Springs. Hold-downs.

    Drill out the sockets and replace with octal or 7 and 9 type tubes?

    1. Nah. Way too much work. Tubes are obsolete anyway. Just gut the parts and put in a raspi or arduino. or maybe even a 555 as the sounds from that chip are very close to what’s on the radio actually.

      but seriously, Loctal were just a phase in the socket evolution, like rimlock, P or the big German ones, ending in nuvistor. keep it as it was and let people of the future wonder about those strange times.

      1. “Nah. Way too much work. Tubes are obsolete anyway. ”

        Hm. Everything is obsolete at one point, I suppose. 🤷🏻

        Looking forward to my next microwave oven based on transistor tech.

        “but seriously, Loctal were just a phase in the socket evolution, like rimlock, P or the big German ones, ending in nuvistor. keep it as it was and let people of the future wonder about those strange times.”

        The Nuvistor story was a tragedy. It wasn’t being out phased because it bad or outdated, whatsoever.
        The reason was another one, I think.

        a) It was too sophisticated, more than the cheaply made transistor
        b) Tube development and research stopped in the 1960s, also thanks to the cheap transistor

        Really, we have to think about it.
        Nuvistors continued to be used in key applications in things like professional microphones, spectrum analyzers and scopes and satellites.

        They had been in use in niche applications up to the late 80s.
        That’s 20 years after their development had stopped.
        Isn’t it remarkable that Nuvistors could still compete for so long? Even way into the transistor era?

        PS: Wasn’t there a solid-state craze in the English speaking world?
        I remember how articles in some old ham magazines had annoyingly made propaganda for transistor devices, whille their specs were behind good tube devices, still.

        Rumors back then said that tube devices had been smashed on ham fairs, even, for the giggles.
        It sounds degenerate, hope this wasn’t true.
        (And if so, I’m at least glad it wasn’t happening in Germany and other parts of Europe.)

        Personally, I think that tube technology has a future.
        Nano tube could replace conventional transistor technology at one point.
        Such tubes can reach much higher frequencies than transistors.

        Last but not least, I think it should be remembered that the FET, the field-effect transistor, is quite a tube simulator.
        Drain, Gate, Source are similar to Anode, Gate, Cathode for a reason.

          1. Funny how organic that old stuff looks now. Big bulky caps at every kind of angle look almost intestinal at a glance. Guess that’s what happens when you stack up enough decades – stuff goes from looking antiquated to outright alien.

        1. As cool as Nuvistors are, they have one enormous drawback: you can’t make an integrated circuit out of them.

          Imagine a modern computer with literally billions of transistors, then consider how large and power wasting a single computer would be if you built it out of Nuvistors.

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