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
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 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 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
Photo 5 documents the cosmetic restoration
of the chassis.
- 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
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
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"
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.