Roberts R600. Vintage transistor radio manufactured from the late sixties to the early seventies. This specimen was obviously well loved and looked after but wouldn’t make a sound. These radios do turn up regularly but rarely in such good condition. They’re generally minus the silver tops to the caps and with a missing, or at best bent, aerial. Fault-finding was a frustratingly long and tricky process but Wayne got there in the end. Finally fixed, sounds great and ready to be boxed up for its return.
The BUSH TR82 is the iconic transistor radio designed by David Ogle. As testimony to its appeal, since the late 1950s to the present day, there have been at least 16 different models and variations of this very same radio charting the development of portable radios and broadcasting from the earliest beginnings at the end of the fifties to the emergence of DAB today. Enthusiasts have devoted their life’s work to seeking out each and every version and just when they think they have a complete set, another one surfaces. It must be like playing Top Trumps for transistors.
I could tell you how to spot each and every variation but it would read like a complete nerdfest. Along with the technology they vary in model number, case colour and trim but here are the edited highlights.
The 1957 the MB60 valve radio for long wave and medium wave started it all along with an export version, the EBM60. It was pale grey with red rexine sides and brass lettering and trim. Two years later, the 1959 transistor version TR82 come on the market.
Bush used product placement with great success in the first remake of the classic film The 39 Steps starring Kenneth More as Richard Hannay. Tension mounted in the railway carriage compartment as the announcer could be heard breaking the news of the search for Richard Hannay. The camera panned to a close up of the lady in the carriage holding the brand new 1959 Bush TR82B and a shed load of radios were sold.
In 1997 the TR82/97 hit the shelves. An updated reproduction of the VTR103 manufactured in China. Enthusiasts and collectors are very sniffy about this version which is known as the “wonky-u”. It was thought that the Chinese stripped down an existing TR82 and went from there. On the original case the BUSH name was made by individual chrome-plated letters with two fixing pins attached to corresponding holes on the front of the main case. Looking to make savings, the letters were made as part of the moulding of the case and electroplated in chrome or gold. As part of this process, the letter “U” became more horseshoe shape – hence the wonky-u. This ones ours and, although I accept the manufacture could be considered to be slightly inferior to the earlier British made radios, I still love it because I love the solidness, shape and colour of the original design.
In 2007 the TR82DAB brought the insides of the radio bang up to date but the exterior remains fundamentally the same. Which just goes to show you really can’t top a good design. Why change it when it still looks this good nearly sixty years on.
The clever bit of these iconic designs is the production process which enabled both glazed and matt finishes to be produced on the same pot. Each of these Hornsea Pottery pieces has had the pattern screen printed onto the surface with specially developed ink designed to withstand high temperatures. After the pattern was printed the pots were dipped into tubs of glaze. The ink used to create the patterns contained oils and waxes which the glaze ran off. Simple. This technique combined with the limited palette of contrasting colours, created the Hornsea signature relief pattern and look.
Hornsea pottery is a great thing to collect. It was mass produced, so readily available after being stored in the back of grandma’s cupboard and it’s cheap and hard wearing enough to be used every day.
As the classic Bush TR230 was first produced in 1971, it could be the perfect radio to add to your Seventies set. If it’s John Clappison’s pottery that brings a smile to your face, the simple shape and styling of this little transistor would fit in perfectly and, what’s more, set against Saffron or Heirloom pottery, this radio is just the right shade of orange. Are you ready for the Seventies revival?
Our latest Roberts Radio restoration. 1970’s Solid State Portable RIC 2 Radio. The sun came out and our attention moved to the great outdoors and what could be nicer than this mustard yellow radio to brighten our day. And what does RIC stand for? It’s an integrated circuit of course, containing no less than eleven transistors. This radio could be connected to the car aerial or headphones. It had all mod cons and originally cost the princely sum of £16.85, when a Mars Bar cost 2p and Rod Stewart began belting out “Maggie May”. Back in the day, Bell bottoms, platform shoes and hot pants became fashion staples and every day was a bad hair day.
I love a radio with a back-story. We recently acquired this beautiful tiny EKCO transistor radio and it came complete with this little tale from its previous owner.
“I‘d love to tell you a story about it. The back panel was held on with bailing twine and the thing was black when I got it. It came to me from a farmer who told me that it had lived in his tractor since the ’60s. The only reason he was selling was because he’d just got a brand new tractor with a CD player in it. Ha”.
I had to check out what this tractor might look like and imagine my new radio taking pride of place in the cab.
I couldn’t help wondering about the 2013 version complete with four wheel drive, air conditioning, radio, CD, aerial and speakers. How times change.
What about the 2013 radio.
“Easy to use, compact radio with great audio and chic design Featuring a kitchen timer, alarm and auto-dimming OLED display, input for your iPod and takes an optional ChargePAK rechargeable battery pack for portable listening. Intellitext for on-demand access to stored scrolling text from participating broad-casters, textSCAN to pause and control scrolling text, Light sensor adjusts the display brightness to suit the light-levels in your room, dedicated kitchen timer button tone or radio alarm and 30 presets (digital or FM)”
There are more bells and whistles on the portable radio than on the tractor – but you can still give me a vintage radio any day.
The 1958 PYE Continental. An enormous Table Model Valve Radio with wooden and blue painted cabinet. A VHF2D to you if you’re technically minded, but to me a dark mahogany veneered plywood case with a rather wondrous contrasting pale blue and cream trim and just a pop of red.
The PYE Continental, hmm it got me to thinking … Lincoln Continental …
I imagine the inspiration for the design might have been heavily influenced by the nation’s fascination with all things American. Rock and Roll, Diners, blingy jukeboxes and live-in fridges. Pure escapism to move away from the misery and monochrome that was World War II and its aftermath.
The moniker Continental also conjures up wonderful pictures of a European life glimpsed in films like the adorable Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday. The world had suddenly become smaller and more colourful.
Vintage valve radios of the late 1950s should be treasured for making a last stand. They are big and bold design statements. Appreciate them as a complete contrast to our current obsession with miniaturization sparked by the arrival of the transistor and the microchip.
Call me old fashioned, but I do prefer my chips served with salt and vinegar, whilst watching the waves roll in.
I quite surprised myself with how wonderful this little beauty looks following its makeover. One of the first generation transistor radios, this time in purple, the radio has been fully restored and adapted to play mp3 or iPhone. It’s very tempting to keep it in our kitchen … but it’s already promised to another.
It must be time to look round for another favourite. Hmmm ..