In recent months, I have enjoyed working on some vintage ham radio gear. Three Hammarlund receivers, a Heathkit shortwave, Eico VFO, and my homebrew novice transmitter. I have used them all on the air (except Heath rcvr). I guess my efforts would be classified as minor refurbishment, rather than restorations.
I have joined the Novice Rig Roundup Group, and though I haven’t taken part in any activities as of yet, I plan to, as well as some Straight Key events. Though I enjoy operating my homebrew rig and Hammarlund receivers, in 1971, my ideal novice station would have been a Drake 2C receiver and a Drake 2-NT transmitter. I saw them at Rochester Radio when I was buying parts for my transmitter and various antenna and shack accessories. I did not ask my Dad if he would buy the Drake pair, as I knew that would be stretching my luck. For novice rigs, they were not cheap. So my used Hammarlund and homebrew rig would have to do.
For some reason, 52 years later, I had a hankering to own the Drake novice station. I began looking around online. Ideally, finding one at a hamfest in good shape might be the cheapest route, but I might go to 5 hamfests and not see a single one, let alone pick and choose. Hamfests in western NY are small these days, Dayton next spring would be the most likely opportunity. Online, prices are typically higher. But I looked around, and found a couple on eBay. One was an auction, and though described as “restored”, you never know. It also looked like it would be a bidding war.
Another one had a “buy it now” price. It appeared to be sold by a professional reseller, someone who buys used stuff cheap and resells it online. Described only as “it powers on”, meaning the pilot lights lit, and knobs appear to function (they turn), it appeared cosmetically decent, yet somewhat dirty. The description said “it needed a good cleaning”. Pictures were the only thing to go by. Drake uses copper plated chassis, which tended to corrode. The price seemed a bit high, even for an online sale, but shipping was included. The front face was somewhat dirty, but no scratches or dings. Knobs looked good. From the back, the rear of the chassis looked clean, but dirty on top of the chassis. No pictures of the underneath chassis. Top of cabinet had a mark, not sure if dirt or what. Hard to tell from photos. Overall, maybe a 7 out of 10. Here is a pic as it appeared on eBay:
I watched it for a week or so. We had relatives staying with us for several days, and maybe 13 others were watching it according to eBay. I had no time to think about it, so I kind of figured it would sell and I wouldn’t need to decide. But when things settled down, it was still available, kind of validating that it was not the greatest deal. But they don’t make them anymore, and haven’t for 50 years.
So I took a chance on it, and it arrived today. Overall, about what I expected. The top of the chassis did have more than dirt, as it has a lot of pitting, which is common on Drake chassis. The top cover mark I saw is a slight deformity of the top cabinet cover. Only slight, but something heavy was on it or similar. The front panel cleaned up pretty good. Underneath, the chassis look excellent. The bottom cover kept it protected over the years. I do smell traces of cigarette smoke.
I have started to clean it up. The chassis pitting I probably will have to live with, as anything serious would strip the copper plating and/or discolor the chassis. I don’t see any obvious electrical issues, other than the handful of original electrolytic capacitors, which I will replace first. One thing with Drake equipment, they are smaller than usual for that era, which means things are tight. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a hassle to work on it.
One interesting note, checking the serial number (3026) it appears to have been manufactured between August and November 1971, right when I was studying for or taking my novice test.
The capacitors may take a couple of weeks to arrive. In the meantime, I will continue cleanup, check resistors and inspect it a bit more closely. With any luck, it will work after the capacitors are replaced, but I would not be surprised if a few other things need to be addressed. It is a hybrid radio, 5 vacuum tubes and a dozen or so solid state devices.
Now I need to find the 2-NT transmitter! And maybe a matching speaker and Q-Multiplier.