The National HRO-5TA1: Parting is such sweet sorrow…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m in the process of selling and giving away radio gear that I no longer use or that’s been sitting on the workbench way too long.

This is an easier process when it involves modern gear, as I have comparatively little attachment to radios I could go out and purchase once again, should I feel so moved. The only modern portables I keep, regardless, are those I must have on hand for comparison testing and reviews. And, yes, I do have a number of favorites I never intend to sell.

But when it comes to vintage gear?  Letting go is hard to do.

A few years ago, I acquired a bunch of vintage gear and accessories from a friend whose father was a radio operator in WWII. Since then, I’ve been selling this equipment and giving the proceeds to our non-profit (ETOW). I’ve also donated a lot of equipment to the Hickory Aviation Museum in North Carolina––I’m a member, and have been piecing together an AN/ARC-8 system for permanent display (only now lacking a good BC-348).

The only receiver I kept for myself was a National HRO-5TA1. It’s totally original and has likely not been operated since the late 1940s.

In a sense, this is the radio equivalent of a “barn find.”

I love the HRO dial and the overall aesthetics of this vintage set.  It absolutely shouts “1940s” radio––! These sets were initially manufactured during WWII under some large orders. Indeed, the “H.R.O.” acronym is said to be the National internal designation of the series…meaning, “Hellva Rush Order.” There were many variations of the National HRO; mine was the 1946 “5TA1.”

The HRO-5TA1 uses coils to change bands. My HRO has the full set of coils and even the coil box. To change coils, you simply pull out (unplug) the coil from the front of the receiver and plug in a new one.

The power supply is self-contained and connects to the HRP-5TA1 via a four conductor plug.

The back panel of the receiver couldn’t be more simple.

Inside, it’s impressively clean for its age; check this out:

If you can’t tell, letting this one go is going to be one of the toughest I’ve experienced. Parting will, indeed, be sweet sorrow. I must give someone else an opportunity to put this girl on the air, else it will sit here for many more years before I have an opportunity to do the necessary upgrades to make her airworthy again (needs at least recapping).

This weekend, my buddy, Vlado (N3CZ) and I will reserve a couple of tables at the Greenwood, SC hamfest. Unless I sell the HRO-5TA1 beforehand, you’ll find it on my table there!

On that note, readers, please comment if you have a suggestion what I should charge for this set. You can also comment if you think I’m crazy for selling it. It’s not going to be easy!

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14 thoughts on “The National HRO-5TA1: Parting is such sweet sorrow…

  1. Walter Hoppe

    I have a National HRO-5TA1 that I have owned since my Novice ham radio days in the early 1960s. I am downsizing and I would like to sell or donate this radio. In addition to the receiver itself, there is the power supply, speaker and a wooden box holding the three coils which are not in the radio at any given time. I would appreciate any information as to who might be interested in this receiver.


    Walt Hoppe, KC8J (formerly WA8KBU)

    1. Doug Edwards

      Hi gang! I just purchased a bone stock HRO5-TA1 receiver with the HF Coils and one broadcast “D” and the 100-200kc coil. If anyone out there know of any other coils for this metal tube HRO ( or HRO, HRO-M) I would love to get one( or Two) Even if I can find another LF coil that I could rewind and make a “F” coil out of it. Also, I am looking for a #697 power supply booklet or schematic of any original manuals , ect. Thanks and 73’s

  2. Doug

    If you sold this I am curious what you got for it? I was just given one in good condition with a 8 coil set (actually 9 one in radio) in a box and the power supply. I am going to clean it up and restore it. Eventually it will be sold or go to a museum. For now I will enjoy it.

  3. henry KD0GDW

    I know I’m late but I know what you mean. I acquired the same radio from a estate sell and thought well here is another repair. I was totally blown away as it works perfectly wi the wooden coil box, 5 coils , power supply and national speaker. Mine is gray and I think it could have been a ww2 navy model as the finish is gray. I was guessing the price as I colluding find one on ebay and also can’t find a manual.

  4. Robb Urie

    My advice is to keep it as finding another one in such condition will be difficult. I have one that came from a dear friend who often claimed that it was his favorite. Mine is missing the original power supply and now uses a homebrew version. All of the coils have matching serial numbers and the wooden coil box. I tried to sell it once at a swap meet and numerous old timers told me to keep it due to it’s condition. Mine now occupies the top position in a rack along with a R-388 and R-390A. Yes it’s not the easiest radio to use compared to it’s stable mates, but it serves as another reminder of the technical achievements of the National company.

  5. Ian Baines

    If you follow the history of this rx you will know that in 1935 it was the ne plus ultra of ham or commercial sets. And in WW2 it was widely used for interception of enemy transmissions. Yours looks absolulely pristine. My suggestion is that you not sell it. You will find it hard to replace.

    However, if you do choose to sell they have been found on eBay from time to time, usually in the $500 range. However, the wiring is usually in poor shape, the caps need replacing and the PW drive is dry and needs to be taken apart to lubricate.

    A gorgeous set and yours should be preserved. There is an Hro restoration blog on Yahoo Groups. If you posted to it, you would find great interest.

    I have one and am restoring it as well – 1940 vintage. Good luck

  6. DanH

    Yes, the wrinkle finish paint jobs on many US WWII era radios are very difficult to replicate. The electronics of the day are fairly uniform due to high standards set by the Signal Corps. Virtually anything built under military contract was first rate for the time. Times changed rapidly, though.

      1. DanH

        Yeah. I have few pieces of gear of this time including a LM series frequency meter w/power supply. The paint is not to be believed. Neither is the calibration book.

  7. Dave AA7EE

    That is an absolutely beautiful HRO Thomas. I too would find parting with it very difficult. If I weren’t so pressed for space here, I’d make you an offer. Wow – what a lovely receiver! Someone will be very happy to have it.

    My gosh, I’m just going to have to gaze at those pictures again for a little while!

    1. Thomas Post author

      I know, right!?! Such a gorgeous example.

      Funny, because I almost mentioned you in the article knowing your obvious love of the HRO look!



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