Tag Archives: Hallicrafters

Guest Post: The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Arthur Smith, who shares the following guest post:


The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

by Arthur Smith

As a junior high student way back in 1978, I had a natural interest in radios. My dad was a ham radio operator, electronics engineer, and designer. We always had cool, exotic radios and electronic gadgetry around the house. He was also in the Korean War, in the US Army Corps of Engineers, with access to a wide variety of equipment. He often told me the story of how he became interested in radio at an early age, and how he saved up for expensive radio gear, with a little help from my grandparents. Back in 1946, Hallicrafters was THE brand to own, and their postwar designs from Raymond Loewy, were catching the eye of many enthusiasts. The SX-42 was being hyped up in Hallicrafters ads as the ultimate radio to own, one that could tune the shortwave and ham bands, and beyond. I don’t know the complete story, but prior to acquiring his SX-42, my dad also purchased an S-38 and S-40. Never satisfied with “good and better”, my father wanted “the best”. All 15 tubes and 50-plus pounds of boatanchor.

Always ambitious and industrious, he mowed lawns, repaired motorcycles, and did odd jobs for neighbors in his suburban Boston neighborhood. He worked smart, and worked hard. And that fall, bought his SX-42.

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The radio, we think, was about $279, which would make it the equivalent of almost $3500 in today’s dollars. He heard the start of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. And the birth of Rock and Roll on FM! He graduated high school, went away to the Korean War, serving two Tours of Duty. He came back home, and became an electronics engineer. And a licensed ham radio operator.

Moving ahead to 1978, and yours truly had the radio bug, in the worst way. Not as ambitious or as savvy as my father, a classmate, who was also a ham radio operator, told me about a National HRO he had, with some coils, and maybe needing some work. My Dad came home from work, and I just had to tell him about this great opportunity, which of course, would require his financial backing. At this point, the SX-42 and his other two Hallicrafters were seeing “backup” duty, having long since gone solid state in his post. “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” When a Dad says that, a son usually wants to run. Not in this case. “How about we give you my SX-42?!” Gee, twist my arm. I had loved watching those mesmerizing green back lit dials, S meter, and geared tuning knobs. Unfortunately for my classmate, he had to keep his National. Fortunate for me, I had my father’s SX-42!

That radio logged my first 100 countries, including QSL cards from countries and stations no longer in existence. It heard the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, it was at the heart of my school Science Project, which made Science Fair, featuring an experiment on longwire shortwave radio reception.

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halllicrafters-sx-42-tubes Years later, the focus became family, a child, and a house. The SX-42 and siblings came with me, but this time, in boxes. After having seen a WW2 vintage Hallicrafters S-20R at a consignment shop a couple of summers ago, I thought how cool it might be to have Dad’s radios electronically and cosmetically restored.

The S-38 and S40 were in a box in my damp basement. While intact, they had a considerable amount of rust. Luckily, I was able to find a gentleman with great electronic and mechanical skills. He brought the S38 back to life, working and looking beautiful. And is working still on the S-40. As for the SX-42, that was upstairs in a box in my son’s closet. Dry and somewhat preserved, but with some corrosion on the control panel. And sadly, that iconic lock knob that switches between main tuning and brandspread tuning, had been lost in the move. I had to find someone who could take this project on.

After an extensive search, I found my man. An engineer with his own business, who was moving into retirement, and shutting his business down. He had restored an SX-42 a few years back, with amazing results. I had to lure him out of retirement! Which I did after a few emails back and forth. And, he was within driving distance! First warning was “do not power the radio back up under any circumstance- you’ll fry the wafers on the bandswitch!” I resisted temptation, as I had read online that these were notorious for failure, usually to some original capacitors that leak over the decades.

After 13 months replacing every capacitor, virtually every resistor, and vacuum tube, the iconic radio was coming back to life, in a great way. The transmission and gears in the tuning was re-lubricated. During the restoration process, a date was found stamped on the chassis of October 25th, 1946. Could it be?

img_7367-02-12-16-06-57-1Hallicrafters had advertised in the Oct, 1946 issue of Radio News that “The first hundred are always the hardest to build.” This, coupled with the fact that none of the chassis circuit had been modified, lead my restorer to believe that my radio was one of the first 100 SX-42’s that Hallicrafters had built!

The front panel was stripped and treated, professionally painted and silkscreened. The cabinet and apron bead blasted, repainted, and clear coated. It came back home with me last month. A month after it turned 70.

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As you can see here, the radio looks stunning. And, with all the Hallicrafters Service Bulletin mods implemented, sounds and performs better than I remember. Maybe more importantly, we were able to locate a replacement brake lock knob for the tuning shaft, even with the “Lock” decal and arrow showing to rotate it counterclockwise. It just would not have felt complete without that little knob- and, it works!

halllicrafters-sx-42-frontEngaging a set of what essentially are brake pads, you rotate it once to disengage the main tuning and engage the bandspread tuning. Again, and you’re back to main tuning.

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This radio will always remain a truly cherished family heirloom, and will be my son’s someday. Complete with the original owner’s manual, and Darth Vader-like R42 Reproducer (speaker).

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Hopefully to live on for another 70-plus years, and hear more history along the way.

-Arthur Smith Worcester, MA


Wow–!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Arthur. No doubt, your SX-42 will certainly outlive all of us and will hopefully continue to be passed down through your family. What a wonderful story.

Hamvention Find: Rare Hallicrafters SX-11

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Yesterday, at the Dayton Hamvention Flea Market, a Hallicrafters SX-11 caught my eye. I don’t often see the SX-11 in such excellent shape. The seller wanted $500–quite steep for a flea market find.

Then I noticed a plaque on the side of the cabinet.

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This Hallicrafters SX-11 has been in the seller’s family since Bill Halligan himself gave it as a gift in the mid 1930s.

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This is what I love about the flea market–you never know what you’ll find.

Hallicrafters booth at the 1970 Consumer Electronics Show

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Bob, who writes:

A great photo for your blog, for no particular reason…

[The image above is a] part of a long blog post by Lenovo about CES history, but I did not see any attribution to Hallicrafters.

Here is the post:

http://blog.lenovo.com/en/blog/ces-history-technology-consumer-electronics-show/

Very, very cool! What I wouldn’t give to travel back to the CES shows of the 1970s and 80s.

According to the Levono blog, the 1970 CES was when the VCR made its debut. Amazing.

Thanks again, Bob.

I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers have attended the CES in past decades.  I really wanted to attend CES in the 1990s, but since I was a university student half of that decade, I never had the funds (or justification) to do so!

Mike IDs a Hallicrafters Skyrider in Avengers scene

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In response to my post about finding a glowing Hallicrafters radio in a scene from the Avengers: Age of Ultron, SWLing Post reader, Mike (AC4NS) writes:

“I put the pic in Lightroom and pulled it out of the shadows.

It is definitely a Skyrider and not an SX-28.”

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Wow–I’m amazed there was enough information in that photo to pull it out of the shadows! You can see the silk screening and the SEND-REC. switch in the lower right corner.

Again, here’s my Hallicrafters SX-24 Skyrider Defiant for comparison:

My Hallicrafters SX-24

I know why they used a Skyrider in the film; the warm glow of the dials and signal meter were simply irresistible! (At least, they are for me!)

Thanks for helping ID this, Mike!

Avengers ‘Age of Ultron’ scene: is that a Hallicrafters receiver?

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-Radios-1 With the recent posts about shortwave radio in films (Star Wars and Star Trek), I remembered a scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron where I thought I spotted a vintage Hallicrafters receiver.

In the scene, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is using an “old school spy method” to find the whereabouts of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). I remembered Haweye sitting in front of a 1940s era radio.

This weekend, I found the clip from the movie (first time I had seen it since the theatre) and sure enough, I’m positive this is a Hallicrafters. Click on the images above or below to enlarge.

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-RadiosI can’t quite determine the Halli model, though–can anyone ID it?

The images aren’t the best: the scene is dark and the radio at quite an angle. Still, there’s no mistaking that Hallicrafters glow.

My Hallicrafters SX-24

My Hallicrafters SX-24

I think there’s a good chance it’s the same model I have in my radio shack: the Hallicrafters SX-24 ‘Sky Defiant‘–but I can’t quite confirm. Perhaps it’s an SX-28?

Can anyone provide a positive ID? Please comment!