Those Old Rigs
Copyright 2011

Lee Buller

In recent years, I have been fascinated by older radios. Well, actually ever sense I started looking at Ebay and seeing all those rigs for sale.

Of course many of you are already into "boatanchors" as they are called because they are large and heavy and could be used as anchor for a boat. But, if you are not into older radios you might want to look at Ebay.

Now, I grew up in Newton, Kansas….moved away for 20 years…and now have returned to take care of the folks. But in the mid-60s, the only ham radio magazine I had was 1) the Heathkit Catalog, 2) the B/A Catalog, and 3) the Allied Catalog. I knew nothing of other radios at the time like Collins, Drake, Henry, etc. I was just a Kansas hann-yock!

My Elmer, K0JDB, had a Heath DX-100 and a Hallicrafters SX-25 Super Defiant. Most of the hams around Newton had mostly homebrew stuff or things I just did not recognize. Looking back, I remember seeing National, Johnson, Barker & Williams, Hammarlund, and Hallicrafters.

I started out with a Knight T-60 and a Knight Ocean Hopper which did not work well above 80 meters. The T-60 was hard to tune right and I got two pink tickets for harmonics. Now, my rigs that I have owned have been driven by cost vs. performance. I had no money as a teenager, but as I started making some dollars you start investing into better and better radios. Or you make do with what you have.

See my rig history here

I am fascinated with the older rigs because they were elegant in the way they were constructed and how they operated. I loved the Johnson Ranger because it just worked. I loved the way it smelled too…like burning Bakelite. I got so enamored with some of these old rigs I even dipped into the old money sock and purchased a Drake 2B receiver and an old Knight T-50 with the VFO! Why the Drake when I could have a National or a Hammarlund or a Hallicrafters? The Drake 2B is a fine receiver for its time and can do a very credible job at CW, AM and SSB. Besides, I have always wanted a Drake radio but could never afford one. Now, I am a Drake owner!

So why buy the Knight T-50? The T-50 is a classic tube transmitter design with a 6AG7 (which was ubiquitous in those days) and an 807. It was like the Johnson Adventurer which I would love to own as well, but they go for high dollars. The VFO (V-44) is a great little VFO too that is stable and has its own power supply so it can operate with many of those old radios.

I am in the processes of restoring the VFO right now. It looked like it was put together by a kid with a 150 watt Weller soldering gun. Come to think about it, it probably was put together by a teenager with a soldering gun. So, I have "de-kitted" the unit and now in the process of putting it back together. It is a real interesting exercise some 50 years later.

Why not a Phone/CW rig? Well, I am a CW aficionado. I could get a Ranger I or a Ranger II or something like that in the future to go with the Drake 2B.

But, I love the names of these old rigs: Seneca, Marauder, Thunderbolt, Challenger, Pacemaker, Valiant, Courier, Warrior, Mohican, Twoer, Sixer, Shawnee, Super Defiant, and the list could go on. Later on, names such as HQ, SX, DX, HW, and SB caught on. There was the Knight T-150, WRL Globe Scout (want a great name), Eico 723, RME-84, Gonset, Swan, Lafayette, Harvey-Wells and others. Ten Tec kept up the convention of naming their radios and have produced the Argonaut, Argosy, Century, Delta, Triton, Corsair, and that list goes on too.

If you haven't been a ham long enough to remember some of those rigs (and I have not even talked about the military radios from WW-II) take a look at Ebay and then look at the web sites that describe these old radios. You will find no microprocessor, no SMT devices, no small footprint on the table, but you find big tubes, large coils, big resistors, solid copper chassis, with meters and knobs galore. If you plug them in and turn them on, your lights may dim! For the technology of the times, these were cutting edge radios and I, for one, appreciate them.