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Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by WA6MHZ, May 31, 2008.

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  1. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have this Thirst for WW2 radios, and the most common is the ARC-5 command transmitters and receivers. I have several of the varieties in various stages of disrepair and condition, but always am looking for more. My goal is to get a good RX & TX pair for 80M and 40M, and actually have them work. There are several conversion books out there, the best being the CQ Command set from 1957. But what brings me to tears is the prices these radios went for back in the 50s and 60s. $5-$7 would buy you a New in the Box completely virgin transmitter or receiver. There must have been Thousands and Thousands of these and Hams bought them up like mad. Of course, Conventional Ham RX & TXs would vastly outperfrom these, so they were just something to toy with though some used them as their primary station or Novice rigs until they got something better.So just WHERE have all these radios gone? When one shows up on Ebay, as there are a couple on now, they wind up going for $70 - over $100 each!!!! I bet there are still alot out there, stashed in Hams attics they bought just on a whim and never opened or used. Usually they turn up in SIlent Key sales, as almost Every ham from the 50s and 60s had several of these, just to play with. Does anyone have some of these they'd like to part with? I am also looking for the Modulator to the transmitter so I can put one on AM. I restored an ARC-5 Transmitter on Memorial day, but it was for the wrong frequency range to actually use. It worked on the 5-7 mc range. Lets hear your ARC-5 stories. I know some of the very Low frequency ones were used as Q-5ers or as a 2nd IF for better selectivity for older ham receivers. The transmitters generally were good TVI generators, mostly due to the matching of the 5 ohm output they were designed for into standard 50 ohm antennas. They had alot of Key Clicks too that were curable with mods and a good power supply. One of the local hams has an ARC-5 TX & RX actually operational and on the air for AM nets he demos at Antique Radio shows. I want one too.
    Last edited: May 31, 2008
  2. N4CD

    N4CD Ham Member QRZ Page

    You see them at hamfests, but most folks stopped bringing them to hamfests since few actually want to buy one of them!

    The modulators are around. Not many people have a HV power supply sitting around either these days. So most just sit. Watch the sales of SK...some have ARC-5s with power supplies and some accessories.

    Well, if you look at what people earned in 1955 (maybe an engineer earned $6000 a year) vs today ($80,000 or more), the price isn't all that out of line, and you see them at hamfests for $15 to $50 depending upon condition. Most of them just sit and sit since most hams have solid state gear.

    Very little boat anchor tube gear other than Johnson, Heathkit, Collines, etc, shows up at hamfests. Very little WW2 stuff since no one is going to buy it, and why lug hundreds of pounds of stuff both ways?
  3. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Back in high school I used the VFO section from a BC-459 transmitter (7.0 MHz to 9.1 MHz) as the VFO for my Heath DX-20 that I modified for 6 meters.

    Also in high school K9LHC and I used a full BC-459 with the BC-456 screen modulator mobile along with a Gonset "Tri-band" converter for 40 meters.

    Still in high school I used a BC-458 transmitter for CW on the various 5 MHz Army MARS frequencies.

    I still have a BC-458 transmitter (that I definitely do not use) plus a BC-454 receiver (3.0 MHz to 6.0 MHz) that actually works fairly well. The bandwidth is a "little" broad but the sensitivity is simply great.

    Glen, K9STH
  4. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I went through a box of junk someone gave me and found a nearly mint condx BC-455B that covers 6-9.1 Mc (Those are Megacycles, not Megahertz!) But what is special about it is that it has the 14V dynamotor on it. I tore it apart and oiled the bearings, and it fired right up. The radio is so virgin it doesn't even have the usual mod where you put in a volume control, Headphone jack and BFO switch. Because this radio is so perfect, I don't want to hack it up, but still want to use it. It will be the RX portion of my 40M station. I find that putting a little WD-40 on the black crinkle paint makes it look like new. Don't know what the long term effects are. There is a little plugbox in the front of the rig that is where the mods go. So I am thinking how to make the mod without disturbing any of the original circuit. The rule is that the radio must be 100% like it was when it came out of the B-17 after WW2. Itis a Western Electric one with a serial number of 34467. Looking inside, I am already too late as someone has rewired the filaments for 12V. Evidently, the original one had a 28V dynamotor on it, and ithis has the 14V, so a previous owner changed it. I have a 28V dynamotor upstairs but hink I will keep the 14V one on it and run the radio off of 12V. Putting it on the power supply, it drew 2.4A.So I still need the matching transmmitter for this, and that will take some searching or serious money. But I am now half way there. I also found some highly modified other units, including the 455KC Q-5er and the 160M version, plus a too modifed 80M unit that will take some doing to restore to original. Thanks and 73!
  5. K3WRV

    K3WRV Guest

    Over the years, ARC-5's became vfo's (courtesy of CMDR Paul Lee, W3???), amps (you coiuld get a lot of power into them and decent power out too!) Antenna tuners, and some "bath tub" caps (UGH!) which we saved for futute projects. Many many dealers sold them really cheap ($0.50) with the tubes, but those things were mana from Heaven. If you were lucky enough to own a Collins 75S-1, you really wanted to have a BC-453 to pick off the IF and get rid of the tunner uppers on W1AW code practive. (I wasn't that lucky - I used a homebrew RX)... But it really perked up my Elmer's rig!

    But if the rig has been "fungus proofed" - avoid it like the plague! If you try to solder anything in the rig, your YL/XYL wil;l leave you forv=ever and never even think of coming back!

    Most of mine are missing "sheet metal" (who needs no stinking shielding?) and hve been "hacked" a bit (like the old 40 Mweter conversion of the 457 (or was it the 458?)

    I don't collect these things - I just play with them. But boy, were they ever fun! Even used one on the air to make some portable contacts - Pwr supply was from a Junque TV. A friend of mine tried to convert one to Solid State, and gave up when he saw it in a B-17 bomber cockpit mockup in the Smithsonhian Museum.

    So what happened to them? We kept "improving them until they were perfect, and then we fixed 'em a bit more. And the4n we went to college and got degrees in something important, and they got trasahed.

    Long answer to a short question.

    de Bob
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2008
  6. AG3Y

    AG3Y Ham Member QRZ Page

    I remember playing around with the ARC-5 called the "Q-5er". The input frequency covered the typical IF of 455Khc ( cycles, not Hertz! ) and the IF was real low ( forget the actual value ) so the response curve was much less than 5Khc wide, with, at least in my experience, very steep skirts!

    I can remember tuning across the AM broadcast band at night time, and actually hearing dead spots between the "channels" occupied by the commercial stations ! That was quite a revelation to me !

    Of course, other radios have come and gone, most of them with equal or superior performance to that old "Q-5er", but it was very exciting to be able to use a radio to pick out individual broadcast stations at night in that sea of QRM !

    73, Jim
  7. W5HTW

    W5HTW Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my opinion, and the opinions of others of that era, the ARC5 transmitter was not a bad rig at all. I used them on 80 and 40. If you remember, back then the ultimate compliment was to receive an "X" after your RST report, and I got them frequently with those rigs. They were, if powered right, very stable (for that era) and with a clean tone.

    The price was right. I got them at the Army-Navy Surplus Store for $3.95 each. That was in 1957, and they were unmarred and unmodified. Of course, $3.95 was two weeks' part time work for me, after school.

    I used the receiver as well, though they did not have noise limiting and were very hard on the ears. They were stable, though.

    The key to making the transmitter clean was running regulated power supplies at less than max voltages. My ARC5's ran about 40 watts INPUT on CW to the pair of 1625s.

    I had the modulator, which I think was the MD3, but i'm not sure. That was a different animal. No matter what I did to it, I never got rid of the hum, and the mic was meant for a carbon input. Tried a couple of times to operate on AM but the signal was really bad, quality wise. I suppose one could fix that, but I wasn't enough interested to try.

    The most creative use, and the most professional appearing use, of the ARC 5 was done by a company called Lakeshore. They build the Phasemaster VFO for the CE 20A from the 5 mhz ARC 5. Pretty looking, and highly stable, with built in power supply. The final compartment was where the power supply was, as the finals were completely gone. I ran the CE20A, the Lakeshore Phasemaster VFO and the Johnson Courier amplifier for over a year before I sold it all.

    A friend of mine had the 80 and 40 meter TXs in a homemade rack, that was sort of similar to the one used in the military aircraft, that allowed him to have both rigs with filament voltage applied, and merely rotate a switch to change the operating voltages from one unit to the other. Bandswitching! Well, OK, rig switching. I built a very similar unit, not as pretty as his, that had the AC power supply on the back. It was pretty heavy, though. The military version also had a place for the modulator, and two such racks could include the MF and VLF radios as well as the HF ones. But we never found those racks in the surplus stores, and I guess it's because they were installed in the aircraft and scrapped along with the planes.

    For the most part I used commercial amateur receivers with my ARC5s, but did try the 80 meter aircraft receiver. Just too noisy to mess with.
  8. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had a couple of the ARC rigs as a novice. I got a receiver with an AC power supply (6-9 MHZ) from a friend who had hacked it trying to put a product detector in it. I got it working and used it mostly to listen since the CW bandwidth was pretty wide even in 1965.
  9. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page


    It was NEVER Khc! There is no "h" in kilocycles per second. The abbreviation for kilocycles per second was KCs or kcs often abbreviated even farther as KC or kc.

    Glen, K9STH
  10. AG3Y

    AG3Y Ham Member QRZ Page

    Oh, Gee, I really goofed ! I KNEW something didn't look right about that! Named for Heinrich Hertz, early experimenter in the radio science!

    "Senior Moment", Glen! Sorry !
  11. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Say five CQ's and three Over’s. Now go my son and misspell no more.:D
  12. AG3Y

    AG3Y Ham Member QRZ Page

    "CQ" "CQ" "CQ" "CQ" "CQ" "Over" "Over" "Over" ! ! !

    But I can't promise I will never make a mistake again ! :p :D
  13. WA9SVD

    WA9SVD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Guess that really Hertz.:D
  14. W4HAY

    W4HAY Ham Member QRZ Page

    The receivers were passable. I HBed a 6C8 'ginny before becoming a Novice, and Dad had given me an S38-B for Christmas (suggestion from uncle who had been in WWII Signal Corps and thus "knew everything about radio"). The 'ginny was better than the S38, so I bought an ARC-5 receiver, converted it -- then went back to the 'ginny! The ARC-5 was more stable, but the 'ginny more selective. The S38 was good for SWLing, though.

    My ARC-5s are still fun to play with.

    How to get a T9 signal from an ARC-5: Keep B+ on the VFO full-time, even during receive, and key only the 1625s. Use the internal relay and a small capacitor to pad the VFO down about 25KHz during receive.
  15. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    My novice days with crystal controlled hombrew transmitters were over when I passed the General and got my first VFO on the air with an ARC-5 on 80 M. I recall it had an awful chirp and a lot of experimenting with regulator tubes in homebrew HV supplies finally cleared up the chirp. It was regulating the screen voltage on the 1625 tubes that did the trick.
    I also tried using the BC454 or 455 recerivers, the nice thing was the caliberated dial that was much better than my S38-D Hallicrafters that I was using as my main station receiver (I added a Heathkit Q-Multiplier to it to get some selectivity)...
    Unfortunately the military receiver had very wide bandpass.
    We had a joke that you never missed anyone anywhere in the novice band if you tuned that receiver to the middle of the band.
    I Sure learned a lot tinkering with that surplus stuff and I did have a well worn copy of the CQ conversion manual.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  16. K3WRV

    K3WRV Guest


    There was a "mod" fer the receivers that put a gimik cpacitor in the IF circuit, and produced some pretty amazing results. Published in QST by Doug DeMaw or Lew McCoy. Don't try that on a Pro-III or any modern rig - you'll void your waranty!

    But ARC-5's were plentiful and really cheap, and even a kid with a paper route could afford them, evfen after shipping and handling charges. An awful lot of us who were novices back in the early '60's learned an awful lot about rig design from playing with those critters. And the wiring was very pretty too, tho not up to Collins "Pretty" standards. I think mostly we novoices back then just learned about those things, and kept on trying to improve them.

    How many new guys will try that with an FT-857 "store bought rig? probably not too many, I guess. But that was then, this is now.
  17. K4KYV

    K4KYV Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you were lucky enough to find a broadcast band version of the ARC-5, it made a good 2nd i.f. strip for the BC-348. Designed by Collins, the BC-224-A, -B, -C, and -D and the BC-348-B, and -C, tuned 1.5-18 MHz in six bands. They had excellent stability and image rejection, and the mechanical tuning dial mechanism was far superior to most of the commercial receivers on the market at the time. But the selectivity with the 915 kHz i.f. sucked on the crowded post-WW2 amateur bands. It had a phasing-type crystal filter that made it usable for CW, but on phone it was broad to say the least. So you picked off the 915 kHz i.f. following the mixer or 1st i.f. stage, and tuned it in on the BC band ARC-5, to gain additional selectivity. Also, you could tune the ARC-5 a few kHz either way and use it like passband tuning. Together, the two units made a decent double conversion receiver for 160-20m.
  18. WB6MMJ

    WB6MMJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    All this ARC 5 talk got my interest.
    I had to go down to the basement and look for the ARC 5 receiver I have seen down there from time to time.
    I found it! It is a CBY 46145. It is a Navigation Receiver. It covers 0.52 through 1.5 meg. It`s dated June 20, 1940. It is missing the middle top cover and the bottom cover. The switch panel adapter is there, plugged in.
    It has the Dynamotor on it too.
    I believe I have used this one because I see that I marked the plug on the rear as to where the power goes and what pin the speaker is.
    I just might have to fire this thing up.
    I also have a CAY 46076-A Receiver That a old-time Ham gave me. I used my Heathkit HP 23 power supply to get it going. It worked fine. I have that one tucked away here in my closet to keep it in good shape.
    I love the old equipment. You had to work it to "Work" a station.
  19. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    How CRAZY are the bidders on Ebay? A ARC-5 transmitter just sold to the incredibly wealthy, money-is-no-object TORABON72 for $265. Yes, the decimal point is in the right place!!!! And that wasn't even a nuclear snipe either! He bid 3 hours earlier and DARED anyone to try and outbid him! So his bid must have been towards $300!!!! Or more! Some people have just WAY too much money. He would have even outbid BILL GATES on this one!
    Remember, the EXACT SAME ARC-5 would have gone for $6 in 1960!
  20. WA4BRL

    WA4BRL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey, I LIKE that term -- NOVOICES (pronounced NO-voices, I guess). Is that a typo, or was it a common term in the day?

    Excepting VHF phone, I guess we could also have been called NOVICWS (novi-see-double-yous) ! :D
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