1. Post #1
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    I looked into a hobby idea I thought of a while back to give em a break during down time between boat projects. I've been picking this up gradually as a hooby, but I have started renovating old (1940-1950s) bakelite tube radios. Mostly they arrive broken, and the inside has usually caught fire at one point so the electronics are worthless. I would never change the inner workings of them if they were to work. That would be too cool. So the electronics always get scrapped. So far I have 2 completely finished and one in progress that I am turning into a micro pc. I just need the funds for all the pc parts and some form of interior rack system to mount everything.

    The first one I started with was a 1952 Airline radio taht you could have normally picked up at Montgomery Wards.
    Total price on Ebay: $25.00


    That was the picture the seller took. A lot of the white was messed up when it arrived that the pictures didn't quite capture. So I cleaned it off with some 400 grit sandpaper (wearing a mask of course, you must note that formaldahyde is a primary ingredient to bakelite). A lot of the junk came off and the white was still dull and chalky looking so a repaint was necessary. I settled on Krylon Classic Red.

    I first removed the original cardboard fascia and stretched a piece of black fabric over the template, and placed the dial back in, removed the tube assembly, and used gold car trim to redress the front.



    IT seemed a little more hot-rod to me at that point.

    Test fit:


    I trimemd the excess gold off and then pulled the fascia back out. I then sprayed the body with grey primer, and finished with 3 coats of the classic red, then a nice buffing and waxing afterwards.





    Contained inside is a small computer subwoofer for use with pandora on my phone. (will make more sense with the next post)

    Edited:

    Next is my 1948 Arkay. These were sold at radio hobby shops as a kit. You assembled it yourself and then soldered everything together, bought tubes, and you were ready to go.

    Total cost on Ebay: $32.00



    This is how she arrived. The bakelite was unpainted, and sort of milky looking. I tried some polish to try and bring the color back, but It seemed as if it was more sun damaged than oxidized. I took the tube assembly, knobs, and dial face off to prep; sanded with 400 again and a dremel to get the complex curves and lines.



    Dust coated lightly for about 6 passes, and resprayed every 20 minutes till it had a nice thick white gloss coat.





    I then wet sanded to finish and polished it off. Finished with carnuba wax this time. Turned out awesome.







    NExt to stuff it. I took apart a set of the cheapest speakers I could find with a subwoofer, the woofer was packed into the Airline (from earlier) and the speakers I placed behind the speaker vents on thsi radio, ensuring they were blocked off so it would sound vintage. Still working on taht step but I ran blue leds to each face plate on the radios to give them a modern look. The volume and power controls I am integrating into the knobs already present to not change the look of the radio itself. I will update soon with the electronics progress.
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  2. Post #2
    Gold Member
    ewitwins's Avatar
    December 2009
    14,109 Posts
    Man, if you could find the electronics and the tubes to get these babies working again, you could probably sell them for quite the pretty penny!
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  3. Post #3
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Man, if you could find the electronics and the tubes to get these babies working again, you could probably sell them for quite the pretty penny!
    You'd think that, but no actually. A fully working airline MGW like the first one is only worth about $60 in nice fully functional condition. The ARkay is worth about $100 if it's still in its unassembled kit in the box, but maybe $60 if someone already put ti together. The real money comes from Tesla brand bakelite radios. They look like sexy hotrods and sound like them too. They're about $600 if you can find one.

    They would not be worth the turnaround to invest in $5.00 or more tubes (and they need about 6 each) plus paint, and the radio itself, just to turn a $5.00 profit maybe. I think its more efficient to re-purpose them really.
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  4. Post #4
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Got the board and amp in from the speaker set, and the two speakers sitting nicely behind the grill (stereo channels from a mono port) and leaving the back open. Sounds awesome, and still old feeling when you listen to it, especially when you're blasting the 1950's rock station on Pandora. The tape is not permanent, just so I can see that I like the fitment of everything. I used a pen body to extend the volume knob out to the actual volume knob and it functions awesomely.


  5. Post #5
    Gold Member
    Chryseus's Avatar
    February 2009
    2,387 Posts
    What have you done to them poor radios.
    They should be properly restored not used as fancy speaker boxes.

    Nice body work though, particularly the red one.

    Also keep the tubes, some people such as myself would be willing to pay for them.
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  6. Post #6
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    What have you done to them poor radios.
    They should be properly restored not used as fancy speaker boxes.

    Nice body work though, particularly the red one.

    Also keep the tubes, some people such as myself would be willing to pay for them.
    I can buy properly resttored ones for less than $50.00. No point. I have all the tubes still. Don't know what you'd do with them. None of them are original and some the seal has been broken and most have the flash silver all over the glass. I dont have a tester, but im pretty sure none of them are functional. But I'd sell em I guess.

  7. Post #7
    Atheist's Avatar
    August 2011
    57 Posts
    On the third picture did you use Epiphone guitar dials on that thing?

  8. Post #8
    Played it for the plot
    Dennab
    October 2008
    14,789 Posts
    On the third picture did you use Epiphone guitar dials on that thing?
    they're called speed knobs

  9. Post #9
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    On the third picture did you use Epiphone guitar dials on that thing?

    they're called speed knobs
    Yes and yes. I was missing the knobs and had to replace them so I took some parts out of my guitar junk part bin and painted them red. I was contemplating leaving them clear/black but it didnt look right at all.

  10. Post #10
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Now I got a 1953-ish TV tuner. Im guessing 1953 because they were used between 53 and 55. Could be anywhere inbetween really. The FCC put the use of UHF converters in use because TV sets at the time were getting rid of UHF for the most part. Advertisers only sought advertisement on VHF because it could broadcast to a larger area -thus UHF was falling rapidly. These were one of the first "converter boxes" to be sold for TV. Just like digital cable boxes became the norm now, these were the norm then, also due to government issuance. The other problem with UHF was that a majority of its frequencies were used by the military, so there was not a whole lot left for tv channels. In 1971, UHF went from 500ish channels all over the US, to about 80. The converter was made to help boost UHF back up, but ultimately was unsuccesful.

    So I decided to find one and hotrod it. Luckily, there are tons on ebay. This one was in the best shape (kinda) since it still had all the knobs, the dials worked, and the logo was still attached. The glass was also not broken and the lettering on the glass was mostly complete.



    IT had seen better days and someone tried to "polish" the bakelite, with like a rock or something. They had no idea what they were doing.

    So here's what wwe have when taken apart, a one piece display, just like the radios, where everything literally slides out of the case.



    The tuner indicator is worn, the glass is dirty and the dark red rusty colored background junk behind it looks like dark red rusty colored junk...IMO.

    In luck, because the 60 year old glass just needed some water and a rag to clean it off. Try not to use cleaning solutions on stuff like this, cause the paint may come off of the lettering.



    The case needed a lot of sanding to get rid of all the scratches.



    Too bad, because the bakelite was almost salvageable, but I'm not looking to restore, just modify. Started with 200, then moved to 400, and finished with 2000 gritt to smooth it all out for paint.

    Shot it with dust coats (always good for bakelite) took about 4 coats this time. Then clear, then polish and wax.



    I then decided that the rust red junk still looked bad, so I laid a piece of carbon fiber (imitation) vinyl I had left over from a seperate computer project - over the stuff. It looked great, and then I painted the indicator bright red since it would not clean up any further - still looked pink. Then I reassembled the interior piece.



    Reassembled the case, and screwed it back together, reset the emblem on the front the correct way up (unlike it was when I got it upside down) and gazed at the prettiness.




    Now I'm just waiting on the knobs to dry. They were originally red, and had faded to pink, so I repainted them the same red as the indicator needle.... once they're dry, they get cleared and waxed as well. I think the fake carbon fiber was a perfect fit for this: it seems almost natural.
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  11. Post #11
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Now the knobs are dry, cleared and waxed. They look plastic-y just as they should.







    And even found a place for it to sit for now, atop my subwoofer, amongst my HT equipment.



    Eventually the real build starts on all that equipment in a while, building my own speakers and media center. Art Deco style... when I have a break from work.
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  12. Post #12
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Ok, new projects. The first one isn't bakelite, but it's a 1947 Firestone (Exactly the same one that now makes tires) Air Chief.

    The electronics were fried, so they went bye-bye. This is going to be purely functional furniture in my movie room. The Speaker grill was gutted and tossed out. I built a set of mahogany shelves to go in its place, and restained the radio to clean it up, and dressed the clear coat accordingly. The shelves hold about 36-40 Blu-Rays. Next is a Knob clean up and replacement and a receiver put in the top section. with remote control storage.



    Now onto the bakelite. This is a 1946 Arkay, pretty much exactly the same as the one I finished off earlier. It's white, and somewhere near the beginning of the thread. This is rock surface finished so the radio looks old and off, with a more apocalyptic? look. I don't know. I like it, and with bright white accents it will look pretty tits. Taken about 3 days to coat it like this.



    And a 1954 Zenith Clock-Radio "zenith Deluxe" radio. Unfortunately the clock doesn't function, and the movements in it are so archaic and messed up there's not much I can do with it. The jewel tube section I was able to refurbish easily and it picks up AM stations. l went with black for this one. Red on the grill with some intentional damage, and marblized the top with red to accent the whole thing out.

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  13. Post #13
    Gold Member
    ddrl46's Avatar
    October 2007
    3,674 Posts
    Ok, new projects. The first one isn't bakelite, but it's a 1947 Firestone (Exactly the same one that now makes tires) Air Chief.

    The electronics were fried, so they went bye-bye. This is going to be purely functional furniture in my movie room. The Speaker grill was gutted and tossed out. I built a set of mahogany shelves to go in its place, and restained the radio to clean it up, and dressed the clear coat accordingly. The shelves hold about 36-40 Blu-Rays. Next is a Knob clean up and replacement and a receiver put in the top section. with remote control storage.

    I hope you didn't toss the chassis of that console set out yet, you should put it up on ebay or something else for parts that other people can use since someone else that has the same set might need them to repair their set.
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  14. Post #14
    Gold Member
    Chryseus's Avatar
    February 2009
    2,387 Posts
    Please please stop desecrating these vintage radios, your turning good historic stuff that could easily be restored by a professional into worthless junk, it's like painting over antique paintings with 'modern' art.
    Before they actually had some historic value, now they are completely ruined.
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  15. Post #15
    Gold Member
    peabrain101's Avatar
    December 2005
    2,192 Posts
    Chill out, he is turning what was garbage into functional home decor and furniture. If he didn't they would remain garbage, forgotten and useless. Better to have re purposed old garbage than just old garbage.
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  16. Post #16
    Gold Member
    Chryseus's Avatar
    February 2009
    2,387 Posts
    You might call it garbage but most old radios can be fixed and restored to close to the original condition with not a huge amount of effort, instead of restoring them he's ruining them with horrible paint jobs and replacing the original parts with cheap Chinese radios destroying any value (monetary or historical) the radio once had.

    I repair radios and other electronic equipment myself and get a lot of enjoyment doing it, I can't see at all what he's getting out of destroying old and potentially valuable radios, there are plenty of other people willing to put in the effort.
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  17. Post #17
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    You might call it garbage but most old radios can be fixed and restored to close to the original condition with not a huge amount of effort, instead of restoring them he's ruining them with horrible paint jobs and replacing the original parts with cheap Chinese radios destroying any value (monetary or historical) the radio once had.

    I repair radios and other electronic equipment myself and get a lot of enjoyment doing it, I can't see at all what he's getting out of destroying old and potentially valuable radios, there are plenty of other people willing to put in the effort.
    I get money and fun out of it. The first two sold to a music shop as window displays for $100 each. The TV tuner was sold at a garage sale for $80 (and works). Also I have since evolved to putting the old radios back together. They sell better. They all get re-capped and tubes replaced. The most recent needed a new cord, and it was fine. So relax. They get restored, and the fact of the matter is colors sell better than brown.

    Completely Unrestored, just painted blue:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/130733349600...84.m1438.l2649

    Original restored:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Restored-194...item2320c37ac0

    Painted red with unrestored electronics:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-1950...item20c924f0cb

    You act like these are rare antiques, everyone had one, and they are literally a dime a dozen. Mine get electronically restored, and modernized. I would never alter a piece of history that was rare or truly valuable.

    Now, as for horrible paint jobs, they all get wet sanded and glossed over, and are at an automotive sheen.
    This is crappy paint:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/251119445886...84.m1438.l2649
    The tape obviosly didn't keep the white paint from leaking on the red on the left. Still sold for $150.

    The colors are chosen randomly and I do this as a hobby. I find enjoyment in it, and it's been a successful side money maker. Also at any one time about 10 are sitting around my house. They were all brown to begin with, so if you enjoy brown bakelite radios, buy one for $20 off ebay and restore it to brown. They look beautiful, but it's not my cup of tea.

  18. Post #18
    Gold Member
    FloaterTWO's Avatar
    November 2008
    6,979 Posts
    I really like that marbled effect, especially with the red/black colors. Is it just a paintjob, or did you do anything special to it to make it like that?

    Also, if how many radios do you have? You seem to buy them pretty regularly, do you keep them as a collection or sell them on once you've done your thing with them?
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  19. Post #19
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    I really like that marbled effect, especially with the red/black colors. Is it just a paintjob, or did you do anything special to it to make it like that?

    Also, if how many radios do you have? You seem to buy them pretty regularly, do you keep them as a collection or sell them on once you've done your thing with them?
    I keep about 10 at a time. Some get completely restored, others I just leave the electronics alone and sell the painted case. Those sell for less, but the turnaround is quicker. I have 3 sitting right now. There are 2 that are coming in off Ebay that are fully functional, but need new capacitors, and one needs a new power cord. I haven't found one I really want to keep like for myself, but it will happen. So far they sell for $80-$400 depending. I have a couple that I gave out to a 30 year airbrush veteran, and he's got full artistic range allowance for them, so I have no idea what he's making really. The tube chassis for both have already been repaired.

    Now, as for the marbling, that particular effect is acheived with 2 water based paints, and a plastic bag. You use a air gun to lay down one color, then a brighter color on top. This case, Red and black. I used an airbrush to spray light red over a completely dry black coat, then put a piece of plastic wrap over the top, and adjust all your smudging, then pull the plastic off. Sand the whole thing smooth when it's dry, and then I laid 2 crystal coats over the top, then brushed on a heavy layer of polyurethane when it was all dry to fill any gapping in the paint and make it smooth to the touch. IF you look at the picture, that is just after the paint is layed down. You can see how uneven the marbling leaves the paint on the right side. After the clear, wet sanding and polyurethane, it turns glossy smooth.
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  20. Post #20
    Gold Member
    Chryseus's Avatar
    February 2009
    2,387 Posts
    I suppose you're right, some of the paint jobs do look quite good.
    I still don't quite agree with replacing the insides with a modern radio, it just somehow doesn't seem right but I suppose that's my tube fetish talking.

  21. Post #21
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    I suppose you're right, some of the paint jobs do look quite good.
    I still don't quite agree with replacing the insides with a modern radio, it just somehow doesn't seem right but I suppose that's my tube fetish talking.
    I actually agree. I only replaced the tubes with other stuff on the first two. It didn't make me as happy as I expected, so on all the new ones, I replace the capacitors and tubes and usually they run perfect after that. Some I get and they already work perfect. So don't worry, I'm on the same page, I was just experimenting.
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  22. Post #22
    woolio1's Avatar
    November 2009
    8,981 Posts
    So... You're still doing this. Wow. Nice work.
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  23. Post #23
    Gold Member
    ewitwins's Avatar
    December 2009
    14,109 Posts
    I don't think anything's being "ruined" as some people are saying here, it's not the bodies that are rare, simply the innards such as the tubes and the bigger transistors. He's simply taking something that's been beaten up and discarded and breathing some new life into it with a few quirks of his own.
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  24. Post #24
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    I hope you didn't toss the chassis of that console set out yet, you should put it up on ebay or something else for parts that other people can use since someone else that has the same set might need them to repair their set.
    I kept it. I'm not sure if it's worth much. All the parts are there and someone put a couple newer capacitors in it, but it's not functioning. May e a simple fix for someone. It's a way complicated piece.

    Also a lot of these radios come to me with huge cracks in them or giant chunks missing. Once I use filler on it, there's really no other option than to paint it, unless you want a giant white spot in the shape of a missing piece on it.That might look funny.

    Anyway, here's one of my longer going project. no idea who made it but it had a lot of RCA tubes in it. Doesn't mean its RCA but can't find it anywhere on the net. Doesn't necessarily mean it's rare, it could just be super un-interesting. I finished the chassis and it functions with some humming. Here's the photos from the ebay seller, missing a large chunk on one side.





    The bakelite was also completely trashed. This particular radio was obviously tossed in an attic at one point and spent some time outside most likely.

    Now... it looks like this:



    Power Orange by me, with some black and gold pinstriping painted by my sign painter friend he does all striping free-hand.
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  25. Post #25
    Gold Member
    Chryseus's Avatar
    February 2009
    2,387 Posts
    Damn that looks really good
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  26. Post #26
    woolio1's Avatar
    November 2009
    8,981 Posts
    Damn that looks really good
    Haha, amazing what a little Bakelite can do.

  27. Post #27
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Haha, amazing what a little Bakelite can do.
    I've decided to put the last two I have done up on ebay to see if they have any interest. I got a couple bites at a garage sale, but the people had their own antique shops and wanted to resell them so they were coming down too much in price. So there's an interest, it's just time to find the perfect market for "flips"

  28. Post #28
    woolio1's Avatar
    November 2009
    8,981 Posts
    I've decided to put the last two I have done up on ebay to see if they have any interest. I got a couple bites at a garage sale, but the people had their own antique shops and wanted to resell them so they were coming down too much in price. So there's an interest, it's just time to find the perfect market for "flips"
    Can I get a link to the listing? I'd like to throw in a bid or two.

  29. Post #29
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Can I get a link to the listing? I'd like to throw in a bid or two.
    I sure do hope you plan on paying if you win. haha. No problem - will be live in a short while. Decided to do one at a time.

    Edit:

    First auction live, starting at what I paid for materials. It's mostly complete but couldn't make it work. Looks pretty though.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/251129139242...84.m1555.l2649

    Edit: I promise I'll put up more interesting ones (including the orange RCA) within this week if this one doesn't strike interest.

  30. Post #30
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    One bid already, so technically it's sold, the question is just now, for what price?

  31. Post #31
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts

  32. Post #32
    woolio1's Avatar
    November 2009
    8,981 Posts
    My only complaint about the orange RCA was that the dials should have been a different color, perhaps chrome. Something about those colors together looks off to me.
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  33. Post #33
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    My only complaint about the orange RCA was that the dials should have been a different color, perhaps chrome. Something about those colors together looks off to me.
    I've changed the color of the dials three times for the same reason. Originally I left them brown, then orange, then silver. I think I may just make them black. Tell ya what, if you bid on it ad win, I will place whatever kind of dials on it you want.

    Also, if you've got an idea, and you can find your own radio online that's between 1930-1958, you can ship it to me and give me some instructions about your vision and a realistic amount you could pay for it, and I'll make it a reality. Please, no awful-awful body damage though. Little pieces missing is one thing, but an entire side or shattered logos is another.

    So far, I have the RCA, and Zenith for sale. I have an Arvin sitting on my desk that I just fixed electronics-wise. It does not even really hum. Sounds brand new. I also cleaned out the inside. The dial face is cracked, the lower left corner is missing a chunk, and the right side has an 8" crack with no material missing. I'm thinking an older style off-white with simple red accents, kind of like an old car's interior or something. 1948 on this one. Fully functional. I also have a GE at my friend's studio. The style for that one will be all airbrushed. IT will feature steel plating with rivets and rust, and a nose art painted on the top indicative of WWII bomber planes; and it was made right at the downside of WWII when automotive and electrical companies went back to making the same stuff they made before the war. That's why stuff from the 30's and late 40's is similar. After WWII they went back to making their 1930's stuff, cause that's what they had.

    Oh, and I have the TV converter. It's been on Ebay twice but no interest, probably because it's not a radio. Oh well.

  34. Post #34
    woolio1's Avatar
    November 2009
    8,981 Posts
    Hm... Think I could just find a shell, have you refurb it, and install the mechanics myself? I'd like to do a really high-quality tube setup, as a little weekend project. Wonder what sort of sci-fi-styled radios I can find?

  35. Post #35
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Hm... Think I could just find a shell, have you refurb it, and install the mechanics myself? I'd like to do a really high-quality tube setup, as a little weekend project. Wonder what sort of sci-fi-styled radios I can find?
    Sure. The shell would be a lot cheaper to ship back and forth anyway. The most sci-fi style ones are definitly Crosley or Tesla. Like if you were to think of something from bioshock, that'd be it. They are pricey, but if they are damaged in any way the price drops significantly... that's where I come in.

    This kinda stuff:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Czech-Tesla-...item3cc8680f44

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-RCA-...item416951e8ab

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1938-Zenith-...item19d4420c10

    Just don't send me anything like this, there's no way I can fix it ever - Below:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-OLD-...item58912705bd
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  36. Post #36
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    First radio on ebay at $45 with an hour left... lame...

    and then the winner deleted his account or something because somehow it ended with 0 bids... awesome. Don't know if I'm doing ebay for these again...
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  37. Post #37
    Gold Member
    HiddenMyst's Avatar
    June 2006
    6,614 Posts
    Do you have any sort of swap-meet or flea markets or something along those lines in your area? Because I'm sure people would buy these if you had a little stall set up for it.

  38. Post #38
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Do you have any sort of swap-meet or flea markets or something along those lines in your area? Because I'm sure people would buy these if you had a little stall set up for it.
    IT's really hit or miss on that. I've been able to offload a few in the downtown area for store-fronts. They seem to love having them. there's a parking lot sale soon (rent a parking space to sell stuff) and that may be worth it. They tend to sell better in person.

  39. Post #39
    Serj22's Avatar
    April 2009
    1,222 Posts
    Just started up an Arvin with some fresh Automotive style paint, and a GE 226, which is still in the shop with the Sign painter being airbrushed.

    The Arvin, however - is about 90% done, still trying to figure out a way to make a nicer station select panel.




  40. Post #40
    Ruzza's Avatar
    December 2011
    1,137 Posts
    These look good, I'm sure if you restored them like you have and made them function like they used to, you could sell them for quite a bit. Good luck on the next radios
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