Philco Model 42-350 Radio (1942)


A fine radio, if you overlook the fact that the insides are missing!

When I found this cabinet lying atop a pile of junk in a roadside shop, I just had to rescue it. The rounded lines and wraparound ribs remind me of one of my favorite Philco designs, the Model 46-420.

The radio has four knobs, labeled Tone, Volume, Band Select, and Tuning. The slot below the dial held 6 pushbuttons for station presets. The label inside the cabinet shows seven tubes, labeled XXL, XXL, XXFM, 7V7, 7V7, 7B5, and 7Y4. For a radio this size, the speaker is not very big, an oval measuring about 5.5 inches.

This is a large tabletop set, at 18.5 inches wide, 11.5 inches tall, and 10.5 inches deep. The slide-rule type dial indicates three bands: the normal AM band, a shortwave band from 9.0 to 15.5 megahertz, and an FM band with "FM call numbers" labeled from 21-99. I was a little puzzled over the FM call numbers at first, since they don't match the values for the prewar FM band, which was from 42-50 megahertz (after World War II, FM was moved to the present 88-108 Mhz). Fellow collector Ed Ellers sent me the following explanation:

Those were the official FM channel numbers as specified by the FCC in 1941. The numbers 21 through 99 correspond to the frequency with the 4 and the decimal point deleted (i.e., 421 through 499). The FCC assigned call signs that had the customary W or K, the two-digit channel number, and one or two letters indicating the city, so a station on 44.7 MHz in New York City would have been W47NY.

Since Philco didn't sell FM sets until after this scheme was announced, they (and some other makers) decided to use the channel numbers on the dial instead of markings in MHz. Companies like GE and Zenith that had already been selling FM radios (there were a few experimental stations on the air) continued to use the MHz markings. The FCC dropped the special call sign system in 1944—at the same time that it permitted co-owned AM, FM and TV stations to use the same call letters—and assigned new standard calls to all the commercial FM stations.

When the band was changed to the present 88-108 MHz, the FCC did make up a new channel number system with numbers running from 201 (88.1) to 300 (107.9). However, they announced the new band a few months before the channel numbers were made known, so only a few makers bothered to add the channel numbers (Philco didn't, for one).

I don't know of any radios that had only the new channel numbers and not the frequency markings. However, the FCC has never acted to change its rules, so all legal paperwork related to FM broadcast stations (license applications and renewals, etc.) is still required, fifty years later, to use the channel numbers!

Many older European radios have markings both in MHz and channel numbers, for the German system with channels at 300 kHz intervals starting with channel 1 at 87.3 MHz. This is mostly seen on older sets, though I did see a Magnavox CD "boom box" a few years ago that had those numbers on the dial (the same model was also sold in Europe by Philips).

Ed Ellers

I owned this radio for over a year before I finally got my hands on a complete chassis. During that time, I restored the cabinet. It was badly scuffed on the front edges, but some careful staining evened out the color pretty well.

The electronics needed total restoration, but at least everything was there. I eventually overhauled the chassis and reinstalled it in the radio, then sold the radio at a local swap meet. This photo shows the restored radio.

The selling price was $75, which just about covered what I had invested in the cabinet, chassis, and parts for restoration. I think $75-$100 would be a reasonable value for any of these in good working condition.

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