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Monday, January 31, 2011

Retro..Monday? The Firestone Air Chief!

Once again OBE (overcome by events) due to private instruction on Saturday and Bowling Pin match yesterday.

This is a Firestone Air Chief radio, model 4-A-30. This is a very special radio to me because it was my Grandparents and lived here. I remember pushing the buttons and twisting the knobs when I was little. My parents presented it to me as a Christmas gift some years ago. It did not work then nor when I played with it so many years ago. Here is how it looks today:

Original finish and grill cloth. It's in pretty good shape cosmetically. Here is the dial face lit up:

 The back:

 And the back cover. Sadly, the original service information in this packet was gone:

Here is a little service information on the interior of the right side of the cabinet: 

Here is a schematic and the output secetion is unique to me, a push pull arrangement:

I recapped it and it looked like this before I started:

When I powered it up for the first time after repairs, I chose the pushbutton mode. Clear as a bell, manually tuned so long ago the station WSM in Nashville came through loud and clear. I could just imagine my family listening to the Grand Old Opry way back then. It brought a tear to my eye. I am proud to have this Family Heirloom with me.

I need to consult the Retrotechnologist though. After moving it it seems to not want to play well anymore. I have theory in these matters but little practical experience with these radios.

Oh, here is the view from my Grandparents house of the New River. I took it for granted as a child. Not so much anymore.

The cotton mill is gone now. A misguided attempt for redevelopment. There are people living there now that don't even know that mill was there, yet the town would not have existed except for its presence.

I hope everyone has a great week! Stay safe!



  1. Beautiful view. The radio is saying pfffft to its picture taken with a Linux book.

  2. @Supi- LOL! Thank you so much for that comment!

  3. Good post and I'm sure a load of good memories... Loved the generational pic, we did the same thing a few years ago!

  4. @NFO- Thanks! The family reunions are very special. I do sneak up there occasionally when I get a chance!

  5. The vacuum tubes are worth a bundle now. Some may be difficult ($) to replace. The chassis looks remarkably clean. Don't touch the inside of the dial face -- it may fall to dust if it's anything like some I've seen. The parallel 6K6s in each side of the push-pull output should give it a nice strong output. Roberta has the link to the antique radio parts store somewhere here in the greater Phoenix AZ area -- you've got a keeper!

  6. @ Ed- It fired up and ran wonderfully and once I moved, it stopped. I will you tube what it is doing. Minimum volume on the pot, yet popping and cracking loudly on the speaker. Yes I know about ARS in AZ. Just need some knowledge!

    Thanks for the complement on this radio!


  7. There's a schematic available (free) at -- As to the current problems, my first step would be to clean the switches and pots as the mechanical parts will have accumulated dirt and grease (and smoke residue?) over the years. Radio Shack may still have "pot cleaner", that's what you want. They used to sell two flavors, B&W and Color and priced accordingly, but either will do. BEFORE spraying, look to see where the over spray and drips will go because the dial face markings will be especially fragile.
    Failing a mechanical problem, it's likely a bad tube. Ask around to see who still has a tube tester -- years ago our neighborhood Walgreens had one but today, well, that's gonna be a challenge. A TV repair store that's been there "forever" and is manned by an "old geezer" might have one hidden away.
    A pronounced "hum", if there is one, will suggest that the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply have dried out. Getting a replacement that will fit is when you'll want the ARS.
    Failing all that, however, it's a great old radio that'll double as a room heater!

  8. Kelly, Sorry can't help with the radio! But the view from your Granparents house is absolutely Beautiful.

  9. I am late to this post but...I LOVE THAT THING. Do post a video of the sound regardless of whether it is working well or not. I know you can get it back in shape!

  10. @Ed- Thanks for the input, I am going to try to get it in shape soon I hope.

    @stopsign- Yes it is a great view. I look forward to getting back up there this summer I hope.

    @LauraB- Why thanks! I love it too. Give me some time, I hope to repair soon. I have already pulled out the "Elements of Radio Servicing" book from the 50's and will see what I can do, and there is always the Antique Radio Forum if I get in over my head! It is the least I can do for this family heirloom.

  11. Could be a loose tube, or one that has failed; best to test by subbing known-good ones in. (Not cheap but I'm not seeing any exotica -- those 4 P-P/parallel 6K6s are liable to be more affordable than a pair of 6L6s).

    The most likely failure is a solder joint that's come apart. Just go over the radio chassis connection by connection (with the power off!), just like you were reading a page of text. Poking at 'em with a desoldering spike or small "tweaker" will help show up loose ones. This is especially likely after recapping -- get in there and move things around, the weak points get stressed and sometimes they act up. It's pretty common.

    If you have an audio oscillator and promise to be CAREFUL, you can stick a hefty blocking condenser (.01/600V) in series with the output and work backwards through the audio stages, applying signal to the tube grids. Or plug it into the phono input for a quick first check -- plenty of gain there, so keep the osc. level very low. (A lot of RF-test oscillator have an auxiliary audio out with a level control, for just this).

    If the AF stages check out, you dial up the IF freq and work backwards though that stage, too. ...And then onto RF.

  12. i have the same raido and was wanting to sell it. in about the same condition. whats a fare price rang.