Air Castle

This 1949 Air Castle AM/FM radio (model 149654) was was my second restoration project after my maiden voyage with a Motorola All-American Five.

Air Castle AM/FM Radio

The radio was a gift from my dad, who got it from a customer at his pharmacy several years ago. Originally, the radio was sold by Spiegel department stores in Chicago.

Initially the radio didn’t play at all. Opening it up, I discovered the inside was in pretty rough shape. Both the chassis and transformer were quite rusty.

Rusty Chassis

The advice I found online stated that I shouldn’t attempt to remove the rust from the transformer because the rust forms a layer of insulation between the laminations and removing it can cause magnetic eddy currents. The rust on the chassis was just cosmetic so I decided to leave it alone too.

The biggest problem was the rust along the track of the dial indicator, which kept it from tuning smoothly. To address that, I sprayed it with WD-40 and rubbed it with a cloth until all the loose rust came off. Once I did this, it tuned a lot more smoothly.

The radio contained several electrolytics and quite a few wax paper capacitors that I needed to replace. I left all the ceramic caps alone.

Before

As I replaced the capacitors, I also replaced any resistors that shared a solder joint with the caps. However, I didn’t disturb the rats nest of caps and resistors on the left. Since all of the caps there were ceramic, they were still working fine and they were packed so tightly that working on them would have been a nightmare.

After

All the tubes were in good working order so I didn’t have to replace any of them. I just wiped them down with a wet cloth to remove the years of dust.

Tubes Lit

The radio had a 6" paper cone that was in remarkably good shape considering how rough the rest of the radio was.

Speaker

Once I got everything replaced the radio powered up and played beautifully — no alignment necessary. All told, this was the easiest restoration I’ve done so far despite the rough appearance. The entire process only took me about 8 hours.

With the electrical restoration complete, I turned my attention to the exterior of the radio. Initially, the Bakelite was pretty dull and had a milky appearance to it. I wiped the case down with isopropyl alcohol to remove the years of grime, and then polished it up with Maguire’s Auto Wax to restore the shine. I used a toothpick to remove the wax from the grooves on the knobs and along the edges of the speaker grille.

Final Results

In the end, I was really surprised by how great this radio sounds. It has a rich, beautiful tone, with solid midrange. It’s my favorite of the three radios I’ve restored so far and I listen to it almost every day. It goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover or a radio by its rust.