Restoring a Philco Radiobar

©1998, Bill Harris

The Philco Radiobar was found at a local flea market. It was a pretty sad site but I could not resist taking a look. There was no glassware, the veneer was in poor condition, most of the speaker cone and grill cloth were missing; the chrome-plated shelves were pitted and badly rusted. However, the mirror in the lid was intact and the chassis, although dirty and somewhat rusty, looked to be complete. This would be a quite restoration challenge.
I inquired about the asking price and counter offered with half, which was accepted. As I was loading the set into the van, the seller brought over a box explaining, "this goes with it, it is the glassware, it is all here except for one glass"....needless to say, I was elated. Since the glassware had not been displayed with the radio, I assumed it was missing as it so often is with these sets. I suspect that when these sets no longer worked and were retired, the glassware often was removed and used along with the other everyday glassware, eventually becoming broken or lost. Luckily, someone had seen fit to store the glassware with this set.

The Vintage Radio & Phonograph Society Convention '96 was coming up in a couple of months and I thought the set would be a good candidate for the "Best Restoration" category in the judging contest. Below is the account of the restoration process, but first, a bit of history about the Radiobar Company.

Radiobar Co. of America

Los Angeles, U.S.A

Radiobar first appeared sometime around 1933 in Los Angeles. The company was also associated with a New York company of the same name. An advertisement in the March 1935 issue of Radio Craft magazine list the addresses as, 7100 McKinley Ave., Los Angeles, and 13 East 47th St., New York. The company was owned by a one Earnest J. Krause.

The sets used either an RCA or Philco chassis until the late 1930's when the company merged with Philco and then only Philco chassis were used.

The advertisement in Radio Craft called Radiobar, "America's New Radio Sensation!." and, according to the ad, the models could be purchased with short-wave only (19 to 50 meters) as well as AM/SW, or the just the cabinet with the bar could be purchased without the radio.

The Radiobar was aimed at the more affluent of the Depression years; built to look like a fine piece of furniture, it presented a novel way to conceal the cocktail bar.

Restoring The Cabinet

It was obvious from the first that this was going to be major project. A lot of veneer was coming unglued as well as the cabinet joints. Some veneer along the back edge was missing, and the top would have to have a new piece. There was a lot of rust and pitting of the chrome on the metal pieces and these where going to have to be re-chromed. The mirror, however, was in good condition with no cracks.
The glassware was hand washed, then carefully wrapped in paper and packed away to await the completion of the restoration.
Photos 1 and 2 give a look at the condition of the cabinet. After new veneer on the lid, regluing the loose veneer, and the cabinet joints, it was ready for stripping and refinishing.
In photo 3 the cabinet has been stripped, filled, sanded, stained, toning lacquer applied and waiting for the application of the final coats of clear lacquer.
There center metal shelf plus the two metal pieces on the fold out shelves were removed and sent to the plating shop for new chrome while work was being done on the cabinet. The chrome piece on the back wall of the bar that holds the shot glasses was not re-chromed as the two shelves that hold the shot glasses were spot-welded to the vertical piece. They would have to be separated in order to have these pieces chromed, which would entail drilling out the spot welds and then reassembling with screws. As these pieces were still in quite good shape, I decided to just buff them out. Photo 4 shows the condition of the center shelf before being re-chromed.

The Chassis Restoration

With the cabinet restoration complete and while waiting for the metal pieces to be re-chromed, it was time to tackle the chassis. There is no model number on the set, however the chassis used is a Philco model 60, which is also used in a number of other Philco radios. The model 60 is a five-tube superhetrodyne that tunes the standard broadcast band plus one short-wave band.
The tube line-up is:
Type 80 rectifier
Type 6A7 1st det/oscillator
Type 78 IF amplifier
Type 75 2nd det/1st audio
Type 42 audio output
Photo 5 documents the cosmetic restoration of the chassis.
After the cosmetic restoration was complete, the electrical restoration was begun. I wanted to keep the chassis as original looking as possible so this required replacing the insides of the filter and Bakelite block capacitors with new caps. Photo 6 documents the restoration of the capacitors and Photo 7 shows the speaker frame, voice-coil and new cone ready for assembly.
A couple of the old style resistors had increased quite a bit in value, so a ½ watt resistor of the proper value to bring the resistance back in specs was paralleled with the original. The leads of the ½ watt resistor were connected to the leads of the original resistor at the body and then the assembled resistors were turned so the smaller resistor was hidden underneith the larger orginial.
Photos 8 and 9 show the chassis after both cosmetic and electrical restoration were complete.

The Final Product

By the time the cabinet and chassis were restored, the metal pieces were ready at the plating shop. New reproduction grill cloth was installed on the speaker baffle board.
The now brightly chromed metal pieces were installed along with the speaker and chassis. The escutcheon and knobs were cleaned and polished and installed along with a new Philco decal. A new old style cloth covered line cord was installed on the lamp using the original plug. The glassware and accessories were unwrapped and placed in the bar unit. The radio and lamp were plugged in and turned on.
I tuned the dial to KAAM/620, our local Big Band/OTR format radio station, and out came some great Glenn Miller music. It was quite a sight, I had never imagined that I would own such a piece of radio history. I was quite pleased with the results to say the least.
The final results can be seen in the following photos.

The Contest

The VRPS Convention 1996 was coming up in just a couple of weeks. The Radiobar was entered in the judging contest in the "Best Restoration" category. Documentation showing the various steps of the restoration was displayed along with the set. I set up a low-power AM transmitter and had Big Band and old-time radio shows playing all day of the contest. The set drew a lot of attention and comments, and won 1st prize in the category and Best of Show.