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Radio Archeology: Heathkit GR-54 General Coverage Communications Receiver

with one comment

 

Note: 03 Oct 2010 -
The eBay auction for an un-built kit of the radio pictured above ended with a winning bid of $1,378.57
(see it, and read more below)

Whenever I want to play with a new radio I look around the basement and see what’s down there.  With my recent acquisition of the Heathkit BR-2 Broadcast Receiver I wondered what else I had in the way of Heathkit receiver kits.  There is was – my Heathkit GR-54 General Coverage Communications Receiver.

The GR-54 was produced between 1966 and 1971.  It is all mode (AM/LSB/USB) single conversion Superheterodyne consisting of 6 tubes (6BH6 RF Amp, 6EA8 Osc Mixer, 6BA6 IF Amp, 6BA6 IF Amp, 12AT7 BFO Product Detector, 6HF8 AF Amp and diodes).  The price when this kit was produced was $85-$135.

I got a real deal on this one.  I paid $25 for it in good working condition.  And that included the manual.

Turns out, at the time of this writing, there is an original unbuilt Heathkit GR-54 on eBay – the bidding is now at $709.  Got that?  That is not a typo.  An unbuilt Heathkit is bid up to $709 with 16 hours remaining in the auction.  Don’t belive me?  Here, look.

Note: Click any picture on this page to enlarge

The seller posted some pictures of what is in the box.  I snagged these as I know that by the time some folks read this posting this item will be gone and it may be interesting to some to see what was in these kits.  You can get your own “unboxing” experience by proxy – maybe not.  The images are in the gallery at the bottom of this posting. 

The Value of Un-built Heath Kits – The value of History

I have seen unbuilt Heatkits going for $2,400 on eBay.  There is a ham radio operator that posts on qrz.com that is in a state of utter amazement that these unbuilt Heathkits are going for so much money. 

For some, “history” is not worth much.  To others, history is valuable.  The ham radio operator in the state of amazement suggested that one should disassemble existing Heathkits and sell them as collections of parts.  Some people don’t get it – and there is no way you can ever explain it to them. 

The 25 people who bid up this unbuilt Heathkit GR-54 to $709 have a sort of appreciation for things that will ensure that the history of radio is remembered valued, and passed on to future generations.  I can only suspect that other people view history, perhaps, as a sequence of discrete events with no event, product, or idea with no more value than the next and all to be discarded when the moment passes.  (The more academic folks reading this posting can find out more about the the idea and value of history here, here, and read about the seminal work, The Idea of History by R. G. Collingwood)

Enough of that.  Back the GR-54 General Coverage Communications Receiver.  Mine at least – the one I bought for $25 – not the one that has been bid up to $700+ on Ebay.  ( I wonder what the winning bid will be?)

The GR-54 is a basic Superheterodyne but unlike the Heathkit BR-2 it uses circuit boards rather than point to-point wiring.  As you can see, if you compare the pictures of the underside of the BR-2 and the GR-54, just how much the use of circuit boards cleaned up the rat’s nest under the chassis that used “point-to-point” wiring.

Here are a few picture of the inside of ( a built ) Heathkit GR-54.  The last picture is the GR-54 on top of my 1934 Zenith.

As with all the radios in my collection they all get rotated into service over time and they all work.

For as long as RF-based broadcast radio exists, these radios can be of use and enjoyed every day.

Resources

Improving my Heathkit GR-54 Receiver
http://unforgettability.net/content/page/projects_gr54/
The above pages cached – http://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/improving_heathkitgr54_receiver.pdf

The assembly manual and giant schematic for the Heathkit GR-54 General Coverage Communications Receiver -
http://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/heathkit_gr-54_manual_schematic.pdf

The specs
http://www.dxing.com/rx/gr54.htm

A orginal ad for the Heathkit GR-54 Receiver
http://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/heathkitgr54_ad.jpg

Gallery including what is inside the boxes in the eBay auction for the GR-54

 

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Written by frrl

October 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

One Response

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  1. Hello frrl,

    I am surprised to find comments regarding the GR-54 which I purchased a few years ago. Yes, I’m the guy who paid almost $1400.00 for a box of parts…. I thought you’d like to know why.

    When I was 15 yrs old, I was offered a Summer job at my local grade school cleaning toilets, mopping/waxing floors, and weeding the gardens around the school and church for $1.50 and hour. Being obsessed with electronics, the first thing that I bought with my very hard earned money was a GR-54… It was one of the most precious items of my life for many years… all the things I learned with it, and because of it. That radio solidified my obsession with electronics, and lead me to the very lucrative profession as a very well employed electronics design engineer today.

    Like so many electronic engineers of my age (mid 50′s), I owe my start to hard personal work, and Heathkit. Through the years, I collected manuals and studied the theory sections until I understood how the item worked. I specifically recall sitting in the lunchroom of Denby High school studying the IB-100 frequency counter- amazed that it indicated the measurement in “numbers” and not an analog meter. I sat there trying to understand the description of a “flip-flop” while my classmates were throwing food at each other (wonder what they are doing today?) I studied, studied, and studied until I finally understood how each stage functioned for every manual that I could afford those days (at $2.00 each).

    Unfortunately, my original GR-54 destroyed in a car accident in the late 70′s (very long story). I was absolutely devastated- not just for the loss of the radio, but the special history which it already represented to me at 23 years old! I finally found a replacement at a Ham swap in the 80′s (before eBay). I recally walking into a large room of the swap, I recognized it clear across the room on the table… I ran up to it and confirmed that the corner of the radio that I saw from across the room was in fact a GR-54. For $50.00 it was mine, but it just wasn’t the same- certainly the history.

    Well, today, I am the chief circuit design engineer for my group, and I don’t have a single class in college in electronics!! I Don’t mean to brag, but there isn’t a single EE in my group who can hold a candle to my experience and circuit design abilities, AND most of them can’t even solder!! (I do have a MS in analytical chemistry- which combined chemistry with the electronics which I already knew).

    I have watched eBay for years, searching for that first Heathkit which solidified my profession… when it finally came up, I can assure you that what I offered was significantly much more than what it finally went for. To be honest, I would be absolutely embarrassed to tell you how much I put on the line for it, but I felt there were a lot of guys who were eyeing the kit for the very same reason that I was, and probably had the funds to make acquiring it a challenge.

    In fact, the number of bidders, and final bid price, confirmed my suspicion. If I had my wish, there would be a hundred GR-54 kits available for everybody with a similar past, to enjoy that special memento from Heathkit which really signifies their start in electronics (hopefully at a much more reasonable price).

    About twice a year, usually late at night, I get the box out and enjoy going through the parts, and remembering the excitement of that Summer in 1968 when I spent $100.00 dollars of my very hard earned money and bought and assembled the radio. The sight of the parts elicits memories of my dad carefully inspecting each circuit board as I assembled them, and correcting the mistakes per his direction. As I unwrap the parts today, I start to recognize and enjoy that unique smell of Bakelite, wax, and solder flux that the kit still retains.

    Yes , it was a lot of money for an old kit, but the kit uniquely signifies so much of my early life which ultimately lead to the very satisfying lifestyle that I now enjoy. Pretty cheap if you ask me…. for the one item which more that anything, signifies the main path of my life.

    As I re-wrap the parts and carefully put them back in the box, I wonder which of my kids are going to ultimately get the kit, and what they are going to do with it… They’ll never appreciate it nor know the history… it’ll be just another box of parts or “junk” from Dad’s “workshop” that has to be disposed of…..

    Although, I’ve often thought that if I ever come home from my doctor’s office after being informed that I have terminal cancer or something…. I’m just going to go downstairs and turn the soldering pen on… only my dad won’t be around to correct my mistakes this time.

    Now you know,

    Mark Grandy
    WD8RJJ

    Mark Grandy

    March 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm


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