1954 Motorola 16CK1 15" Color Restoration

In late November of 2009, a good TV collector friend of mine, John Marinello called me.  He told me that he found a rare Motorola 15” color set on Craigslist in his hometown of Naperville, IL, and wanted to know if I had any interest.   I said “SURE, go right over there with your crt tester and check it out for me.”  Within an hour John was there and called me on his cell phone.  He had tested the 15GP22 and it was good.  I made an offer over the phone to the seller, and he accepted it.  I had John give the seller a $500 cash deposit and get a sale contract and receipt for the down payment.  I made arrangements with the seller to drive down to Naperville and pick the set up the next day.

The history of this set is interesting. The set was in the possession of a young family.  The original owner of the set was the wife’s father.  Her late father was a railroad worker and was an avid early adopter of technology.  He purchased this 15” Motorola color TV set new from a Motorola dealer in the Chicago area.  According to the daughter it was one of her father’s prized possessions.  The daughter told me of her remembrances of watching the set as a small tot, and how everyone who saw the set was amazed because it was almost unheard of in those days to see a color TV set, let alone OWN one.  The set was retired to the basement for many years, and when the gentleman passed on, this 15” Motorola color set was one of the things that the daughter salvaged from the stuff that was being tossed out.  She knew how much her father had valued this set, and she felt that it was sort of a family heirloom and wanted to honor her father’s memory by saving it from the trash. She was selling the set because the family was having some hard times financially, and Christmas was just around the corner.  I assured them that the set was going to be one of the centerpieces of my collection and that before long it would be restored to “like new” fully operational condition.  She was sad to see it leave her family, but was happy that it was going to be fully restored and preserved for posterity.

This set is a very rare one.  It is estimated that probably no more than 500, and possibly as few as 200 of these sets were produced by Motorola.  There are only 2 other known surviving examples, and those sets are not presently operational.  Motorola was one of only a hand full of manufactures that produced a FIRST GENERATION color TV set with the 15GP22 picture tube. RCA wanted color television to be widely adopted and so they helped other manufacturers to get into the new COLOR TV business.  The sets were very expensive, and there was very little color programming available in those early days.  So with little to watch, and big price tags for the color TV sets, very few people were willing to spend the money for a color TV.  Those who did purchase a color set were likely to be employed in the television service industry, in television broadcasting, working for a manufacturer of television sets, or, as in the case of this set, an early adopter of new technology.

One of the reasons that there were so few of these 16CK1 15” models produced, is that shortly after this set came onto the market, the 15GP22 picture tube became obsolete because CBS Hytron introduced its’ 19VP22 19” color picture tube.  At that point Motorola switched to the new 19” CBS tube and produced a 19” version of this set.  The model number of the 19” version is 19CK1.  Then shortly after Motorola started producing the 19CK1, RCA introduced its’ first 21” color picture tube the 21AXP22.  In order to compete with the new 21” RCA color sets, Motorola sent conversion kits out to it’s dealers to convert the remaining 19CK1 19” color sets which were still in dealer inventory, to the new 21” RCA color picture tube. Only a couple of the original 19” Motorola sets survived to this day.

This set was very complete.  All the knobs were present as well as the original back of the cabinet. But having been stored in less than ideal conditions, the set needed a lot of work.  The finish on the cabinet was in poor condition, and would need a full strip and refinish treatment.  The front metallic trim pillars, the control door, and the trim plate below the screen were in poor shape. Here are some before photos of the set in the condition it was received.

So the first order of business was to dismantle everything down to the raw cabinet. Then I took the cabinet to a fellow that I know who does furniture refinishing on the side. He hand stripped the cabinet and refinished it to its’ original factory new condition.

Motorola sets always have always been known for having a bit of glitz about them visually, and this set was no exception. On both the right and left side of the cabinet, there is a full length, zinc, die cast column. There is also a zinc die cast control door in the center of the set. All of these zinc castings were originally given a cheap finish. They were originally polished and then nickel plated and sprayed with a tinted yellow lacquer to simulate a "brass" like finish. The original fake brass finish was in very bad shape. Years of being exposed to dampness, had caused the zinc to corrode. 

So I sent the two side columns and the control door to a company that I use called The Antique Service Center. They restore and refinish old hardware items like hinges, drawer pulls, lamps and other assorted antique hardware. I had them refinish the parts for the Moto in a beautiful satin brass finish. They turned out wonderful, and the parts look better than the day Motorola put them on the set. Unfortunately shortly after ASC refinished these parts for me, they went out of business.  I have since found a new plating shop in the Milwaukee area that does beautiful decorative brass plating.

The horizontal aluminum panel behind the control door, was also sprayed with a tinted lacquer, and it had faded. I re-sprayed it with lacquer that I custom tinted to approximate the brass finish on the control door and the side columns.

The knobs had the common knob fungus. I cleaned them and polished them with polishing compound. The left and right center knobs were missing the brass inserts. I plowed through 15 boxes of knobs and came up with some knobs that had the correct brass insert. I removed the inserts, stripped and polished them, and then transplanted them onto the original Motorola knobs. Then the knobs were sprayed with clear gloss lacquer (Ace brand in a spray can) and force dried with a blow dryer.

The original grill cloth was very dirty and faded. But it was in otherwise good physical condition with no rips or tears. I was able to remove the cloth from the speaker board, and I cleaned it in hot water and concentrated Oxy Clean. A ton of brown liquid came out of the cloth. After that I blocked it to prevent shrinkage and let it air dry. Unfortunately it was badly faded and I needed to do something about that. I got several bottles of liquid Rit Dye in some colors that were appropriate and mixed up a batch that was sort of burgundy colored. I like the way it looks on the set, however the dye also stuck to the metalic threads woven into the material and now the sparkles are no longer visable. Oh well, you can't have everything, and it looks fairly nice in any event.

It was now time to tackle the usual re-cap of the chassis. It was a fairly easy job because this chassis is well laid out and has plenty of room to work. One nice feature is that the entire chroma section is on a vertical sub chassis that is easily removable from the main chassis. It made re-capping the chroma chassis a breeze. I also removed and re-stuffed all the electrolytic cans.

The chassis uses the old selenium rectifiers and I bypassed those and installed silicon diodes. Installing the diodes caused the original sub standard B+ of 362vdc, which the inefficient selenium rectifiers were producing, to go to over 475vdc. Because the only schematic of this set in existence has no voltages, John Folsom and I took a guess that somewhere around 425 to 430vdc was probably more appropriate so I added a 7.5 ohm 25W resistor in series with the output of the transformer to put us in the range of what was needed.

Ultor voltage regulation on this chassis was originally done with the infamous Victoreene Corotron gas voltage regulator tube. I sent the one from this set off to my buddy John Folsom and he put it on his high voltage DC power supply and found it to be regulating at around 16KV, 3 KV to low. Of course Victoreene Corotron tubes are pure unobtanium, and so I needed to develop a work around for this issue.

I decided that I would use the high voltage regulator circuit design from the RCA CTC2 and use a 6BK4 for the task of regulating the HV. Fortunately there was some extra room in the HV cage where I could mount an elevated socket for the 6BK4 regulator tube, and there was a nice spot on the rear of the chassis inside the HV cage where I could mount the high voltage control pot. Here are some photos of those modifications.

I mounted the 160 meg resistor for the high voltage divider network in the shunt regulator circuit, in a small length of Plexiglas tubing and mounted it alongside the flyback. I used silicon high voltage wire and sealed the ends of the Plexiglas tubing with silicon RTV.  This photo shows that modification. 

The original 3A3 rectifier, corona cup, and doorknob capacitor were insulated against arc-over to the sides of the high voltage cage with a Mickey Mouse pile of wax piled all over the assembly.  I didn’t like the way this was done so I ordered some 1/8” wall Plexiglas tubing the correct size and fashioned an insulator around the entire assembly.  Here are the before and after photos of the modification.  

After bringing the set up on the variac I was getting a raster. I set the new voltage regulator pot for 19KV at zero brightness, which is spec for the 15GP22. At 19KV I was getting lots of corona hissing from the crt. I later found out that it was caused by being dirty. I eliminated the corona hiss all together by simply removing the crt and the protective plastic HV insulator from around the crt, and cleaning both the crt and the inside and outside of the plastic insulator with lacquer thinner and paper towels. The lacquer thinner removed a heavy layer of brownish residue (possibly cigarette smoke), and after I put it back together ALL the HV hissing was gone.

Another nice feature is that the crt is mounted on a crt truck which allows the removal of the crt from the cabinet. The chassis is removable from the crt truck and so you can have the chassis and the crt sitting on your bench side by side with extender cables running from the chassis to the crt truck. This separation of crt and chassis, make it very easy to work on the chassis LIVE with the crt right next to you, as if you had a 15GP22 color crt test jig.

I did the usual cleaning of the chassis which had some rusty areas.  After a good cleaning of the chassis I sprayed it with a light coat of clear lacquer to prevent any further deterioration.  These are some photos of the completed crt truck and the restored chassis.

After I was satisfied that it was working pretty well I hauled the crt truck up to the living room and installed it in the cabinet. Then I followed it with the chassis and hooked it all up. This photo shows the restored CRT truck and chassis installed in the refinished cabinet.

I did some last minute tweaks and hooked up a converter box outputting channel 4 and with some final adjustments (about 3 hours worth) I was finally happy. Convergence is acceptable, but not perfect, but it is as good as it is ever going to get on this particular set.  Here is a photo of the convergence cross hatch.

All in all I have to say that the effort was well worth it. It is producing a very pretty picture. The screen shots don't do it justice. I tuned in a golf match on NBC. The colors were "Knock your Socks" beautiful. Here are a few screen shots, and several front views of the completed restoration.

Post Script:
Upon completion of this restoration, I posted a story and photos about the process on Videokarma.org, and I e-mailed a note with a link to the posting to the family I purchased the set from.  I got a reply back from the husband who informed me that when his wife saw her father’s old Motorola color TV restored and operating again, it brought tears to her eyes.  It made me feel good to know that my promise to restore her father’s TV had been fulfilled, and that she was so happy to see her dad’s first color TV restored and operating like new again.

And most recently Wayne Bretl, a serious collector friend located in Chicago, discovered this item on e-bay. Proctor and Gamble held a contest to give away 100 Motorola 16CK1 color tv sets by completing the last line of a 4 line Fab laundry detergent jingle. The contest closed on August 15 1954. According to Steve McVoy, the 19" version of this set was already available and the 16CK1 15" version was already obsolete. So perhaps Proctor and Gamble got a special deal on the unsold 15" sets to use in this Fab contest. I found it interesting that the price on this "Large Size" box of Fab sold for the measly price of only 30 cents (2 for 59). What a shame, how the buying power of our dollar has been destroyed by the US government printing money at a furious pace to cover run away government spending.

Many thanks to Wayne Bretl for allowing me to use these photos of the Fab Detergent box.