Weltron 2001 "Space Ball" Radio/8 Track (1970s)

     

A stellar example of 1970s "space-abilia," this Weltron radio/tape player has a unique, unmistakable profile. It's the size and shape of a bowling ball, with a spaceman-like face and a carrying handle on top.

Adding to the space-guy look are the twin speakers, whose grille holes give the appearance of ears or headphones. At the back of each grille is a jack for an extension speaker. A stereo headphone jack is placed under the "chin" at bottom front.

At the bottom of the swiveling base is a giant rubber suction cup, making the radio extremely stable on a smooth surface.

A funky, although not too practical, touch is the chrome mounting ring on top. Yes, you could actually hang this radio from a chain on the ceiling! I doubt that many people actually did that, however. With the telescoping antenna fully extended, that would have made a pretty ungainly setup.

Just for fun, I also included a photo of my JVC VideoSphere television standing next to the Weltron. Together they make a pair that's out of this world!

Like the Weltron, the VideoSphere could be hung from the ceiling, in its case by a chrome chain.

The "mouth" of the spaceman is where you insert an 8-track tape cartridge. The three slider controls to the upper left of the mouth are balance, tone, and volume, from left to right. The rightmost round knob is the tuner and other one selects AM, FM, or Tape mode. The square black pushbutton under the round knobs is the track selector for 8-track use. The round silver pushbutton at lower right is the power switch, and a small battery charge meter appears at lower left.

This set can use AC power, flashlight batteries, or 12-volt DC power from a car's cigarette lighter. The battery pack is accessible through a hatch in the back. Like many others of this type, mine is missing the little battery door (anybody have a spare for sale?).

The Weltron 2001 came in other colors (at least red and yellow) in addition to the white shown here. The white color is most common and it tends to yellow with age. When I bought the set, it was colored a light tan except in unexposed areas.

Whitening Yellowed Plastic

I spent a long time restoring the original white color. I disassembled the entire radio and wet-sanded the case down to white with extremely fine wet sandpaper. After the hand sanding, I polished it back to a glossy shine using Novus Plastic Polish #2. If I had known how much work that would be, I might have left it alone!

This forum discussion refers to a chemical process for whitening yellowed plastic cases. I haven't tried that process, so I can't vouch for it.

Despite the wacky appearance, these are durable and well-built radios. They were very popular in their day and many of them are still in circulation. I bought mine at a rural shop for $23, which I considered reasonable, but not a great bargain considering that the tape player doesn't work. Colors other than white would probably raise the value somewhat.

Electronics

With 25 transistors, this is a complicated radio, and not an easy one to work on. The electronics are packed tightly inside the spherical case, and the tape mechanism is buried down inside the bowels of the chassis. The next photo shows the chassis out of its case.

Apart from shooting some De-Oxit into the controls and cleaning off grime, I didn't do any work on the electronics. The non-functioning tape player doesn't bother me, since we don't have 8-track tapes in this house. I had to visit the thrift store to find a tape to test the player, in fact!

Getting the radio out of the case might have you scratching your head until you lift the handle and notice the two big screws hidden underneath. After you remove those, the top half of the case will lift off and the rest should be obvious. Don't forget to loosen the headphone jack before lifting out the chassis.

The model 2001 service manual is available from Sams.

Final Thoughts

Although I have a houseful of antique radios, this one found its way to our bedside and occupied that coveted spot for several months. Its not-too-big size and compact controls make it easy to operate, even in the dark. And it has stereo FM with a headphone jack, ideal for late-night listening when one's spouse doesn't want to be disturbed. Now, if it only had shortwave!

This radio makes a brief appearance in the movie Boogie Nights. Watch for two of them on a display rack behind Buck, in the scene where Buck tries to sell a stereo system to a local yokel.

Weltron sold a few other models, all of which have become collectible in recent years. A rectangular-shaped radio/8-track set is fairly common, usually at lower prices than this unusual model. Model 2004 has the same spherical cabinet as the 2001, but with a cassette deck instead of an 8-track player. I consider the 2004's dial less interesting than the 2001's. It's a lot more crowded and it doesn't suggest a face as the 2001 does.

After enjoying this radio for several years, I sold it for use in a museum display.

©1995-2014 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved