Motorola Model A1 Tube Portable (1941)

The fellow who sold me this set called it a lunchbox radio. That's a good moniker, given the small size, metal construction, fliptop lid, and leatherette carrying handle.

Almost cube-shaped (6.25 by 5.25 by 4.75 inches), this radio is heavier than it looks. No space-age materials here! Masonite is used for parts such as battery-compartment separators, which are usually cardboard or plastic in later models. And the entire radio is steel, except for the fliptop lid, its thumbcatch, and the two dials.

The main body of this set case is painted a maroon crackle finish. The one-piece faceplate is brushed stainless steel. The Motorola name and dial lettering are incised and painted. Each dial lies flush against the faceplate, with little recesses on each side of the pointer for your fingers.

This is a five-tube radio, using tubes of types 1R5, 1S5, 1T4, and 3S4, with a 117Z3 rectifier. My rectifier tube is gone and somebody has wired a modern solid-state diode between pins two and four of its seven-pin socket.

Motorola got its start building auto radios. That would explain the don't-waste-space internal layout, as well as the rugged design, which seems equal to a military campaign, not to mention a day at the beach.

For a prewar portable, this is a very small set. Most prewar portables, such as my RCA 94BP1, were more like small overnight cases.

Right after the war, in 1946, Motorola sold a model 5A5 that is nearly identical to this radio; another model (5A1) was powered only by batteries. I have a similar Motorola set (Model 51M1U) that was built in 1951. By comparison, that later set has more sophisticated design and stronger consumer appeal. The radios are much alike internally, however.

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