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The Philips 513 AN

Monday, July 25, 2016

This is an interesting one. I bought this radio mostly sight unseen on eBay because it looked terrible in the pics, and had a fair bit of cabinet damage that'd been poorly repaired. I was looking for something to try out a few ideas I had about Bakelite repair, and this seemed like a suitable candidate. After clicking the button at the right time, a short drive and $30 later it was mine.

Locally-made Philips sets aren't exactly thin on the ground here, and over the years more than a few European models have made their way here too, so I wasn't concerned that I couldn't identify the model of this set. But once I got up close and had a good look, I discovered why…

It's a common belief that Philips didn't produce any radios in the USA until after WWII - and even then, they were produced & marketed under other brand names (e.g. Norelco). There's a few reasons for that - Philips had existing agreements with GE & RCA; the US government were still applying sanctions against Philips for their part in the Phoebus Cartel of "lightbulb conspiracy" fame; and Philco had been successful in blocking the brand from the US market due to the similarity of names. But, here's an obviously 1930's-1940's Philips-badged set with "Made In U.S.A." on the nameplate and stamped all over it…

So, so much for the common belief. Dig a bit deeper, though, and you discover it's a lesser-known fact that Philips did produce some models in the USA, for export only, for a short period around 1940~41 (and possibly just after). The story behind that is quite interesting (and a fuller account can be read here, with some additional info here), but is basically this:

Prior to WWII, the Philips family saw the writing on the wall and shifted capital and expertise to subsidiaries in the UK, USA, and Netherlands Antilles. In May 1940, literally as the German army was invading The Netherlands, most of the Philips family - except for son Frits, who stayed behind to 'manage' their remaining interests in Europe (read: stymie the Nazis!) - escaped to England and beyond. With their main manufacturing facilities out of reach, Philips needed some way of producing sets for the remaining Dutch colonial markets (Netherlands Antilles, Surinam, Netherlands East Indies, etc.) and elsewhere - and it appears at least some of that production was done in the USA using local manufacturers for parts and assembly. It's highly likely, though, that production ceased in late 1941 / early 1942 after the USA finally entered WWII.

US LoC Copyright Office catalogue, 1943
As well as the physical evidence (e.g. sets with Philips badges and "Made In U.S.A." stamped all over them!), there's some documentary evidence too. Service documentation for several models lodged with the US Copyright Office by "Philips Export Corp" shows several models, and the 513 AN specifically was mentioned in a Naval Communications Equipment Maintenance Bulletin of the time (NAVSHIPS 900,020(A), Section 1, GEN:47-51) - admittedly, as a receiver that wasn't entirely suitable for shipboard use!

But apart from that very little is known of these pre-war US Philips sets. It's interesting that some models known to have been manufactured in the USA aren't officially documented anywhere - and, of those that are officially documented, some aren't known from physical examples.

(Hmmm - now there's an idea for a list. I might do it sometime…)

But back to my 513 AN…

Yes, I bought it because of this!
Despite the extensive damage to the cabinet, it's in much better condition than it looks in the pictures. While the side is badly cracked with two pieces broken loose (a triangular piece near the rear edge, and a long piece of the top corner from the back almost all the way to the front), the breaks are fairly clean, the pieces all there, and well protected by a coating of Araldite epoxy glue and some odd unidentified lacquer. The bigger problem is on the front - the bar running top to bottom between the speaker and the dial is broken almost in half, with a big piece missing from the dial side that's been replaced by bondo sprayed black.

Thankfully the dial glass is intact and all the lettering in almost perfect condition - although the front face was covered in black paint overspray, that cleaned off with a flat scalpel and a little Windex. The markings themselves suggest a lot about the intended market and manufacture date. While the big international broadcasters of the day are identified by city (typical on sets up until sometime after WWII), the broadcast and lower shortwave "tropical" band stations are all locations in and around south-east Asia, with a heavy bias towards (what is now) Indonesia. That suggests this model was made for the Netherlands East Indies market, and - since most of those broadcasters were shut down when the Japanese invaded, and most of the Indonesian sites didn't recommence broadcasts until the 1950's, after full independence - puts a cap on the latest likely build date of early early 1942.

For the lower end of the date range, look at the higher bands. The big clue there is Radio Oranje - the Dutch government-in-exile broadcast on the BBC Overseas Service (previously the Empire Service, later the World Service) - which commenced in late June 1940.

So all indications are that the radio - or at least the dial - was made  for the East Indies market sometime between June/July 1940 and December 1941/January 1942.

(There's an interesting side-story to all of that. In 1941 the German administration introduced compulsory receiver licences, and in 1943 banned & confiscated all receivers. Thanks to the combination of German bureaucracy and bloody-minded passive-agressive Dutch directness of thought and action, not only were many radios stored away - presumably for future redistribution - but also excellent records were kept of who originally owned them. Not only did this allow many radios to be returned to their original owners after the war, but in some cases these were the only surviving record of the names and addresses of people who had perished…)

What the dial also shows is that it's a 4 band (well, 3 band - the 2 centre bands are 'local / DX' versions of the broadcast band), with continuous coverage from ~530kHz to 22MHz. Inside, although no schematic is available, it's more or less an "All-American Six" - or at least it was originally, as mine has been modified to take a 6X5 rectifier, and I'm not sure the two 6SS7's in the RF amp and IF amp positions shouldn't be 12SK7's…

Underneath, it's pretty straightforward. While I haven't yet drawn out the circuit, it looks like the candohm resistor providing the valve bias voltages is open in one section and out-of-spec in another. On top of that, there's the usual dud electros (the can with the red X on top doesn't look original and has already been bypassed previously with a smaller unit underneath), likely dud wax paper caps, & carbon comp resistors, so they'll all have to be replaced &/or tested as a matter of course. The bandswitch wafers are also twisted and distorted, seemingly from tension from the original factory wiring. I'm loathe to do too much work on that part of the set, but for reliability's sake I might have to.

At least all the knobs are there and in good knick. But why go to all that trouble for a set with a broken cabinet and unknown modifications?

Well the answer is because I find the history of it interesting - and, as far as I can tell, while there might be dozens or hundreds tucked away in old Javanese toolsheds or sitting in some forgotten naval lost & confiscated property room, there seems to be only one or two examples known to collectors. What started off as a hack to practice Bakelite repair on turned out to be a piece of history as well as a challenge and a learning experience. And that makes it worthwhile for me…

Currently I'm part-way through restoring & refinishing the cabinet; it's coming along quite well and, when done, I'll write it up. After that I'll get the chassis working as-is - bodged rectifier and all -  before deciding how to return it to something like its original design. And trying to figure out what the correct/appropriate valve line up is…

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