Painted Bakelite

American radios, like the Airline and RCA, differ from Australian ones in a number of ways. There are a variety of fashions and manufacturing techniques that were popular in one place but never took off in another.

It was a very common thing in the U.S. market for manufacturers to take a plain brown bakelite cabinet and paint it a variety of colours. White being most popular but also red, blue and other colours.

Painted bakelite is rarely heard of in Australian radio manufacturing with only a few manufacturers (Kriesler was one) using the technique. Instead coloured bakelite style plastics (probably more like Plascon) were used. Showing up in every colour of the rainbow.

The other popular idea here is "Stationised Dials" in Australia Vs. "Pushbutton Tuning" in the U.S.

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ill titleRCA 75X12

Spit & Polish.


I feel really silly that I didn't take any "before" photos of this radio.

Bought on eBay from the U.S.A., this is an RCA 75X12 from 1948.

It was described as working but of poor appearance with much tarnishing of the brass trimmings and the factory Ivory paint worn away in many places.

ill titleAs Found On eBay.

The photo below from the eBay description is all I have to show how it used to look.

RCA 75X12

The RCA 75X models had different numerical suffixes to indicate the colour scheme. The 75X11 was Maroon (actually unpainted Bakelite), 75X12 Ivory, 75X14 Mahogany, 75X15 Walnut and 75X16 Blonde.

Well after 3 months at sea coming over from the states, I was pleasantly suprised to see that not only was this radio in working order, it was in EXCELLENT working order and on all it's original parts.

The exterior however was another story.

RCA 75X12

The Ivory paint was scratched up on the cabinet, worn off the knobs in some places and it appears that at some time (probably whilst in storage) an electrical lead had been draped over the top of the cabinet and the plastic had caused a reaction in the paint, melting it and leaving the impression of the power lead in a number of places.

I decided I would strip off all the paint and turn the Ivory 75X12 into a "Maroon" 75X11.

Acetone took care of the knobs, whilst paint stripper took care of the cabinet. It took a few hours dissolving and scraping and a little more time to detail the nooks and crannies but a beautiful smooth Bakelite cabinet soon emerged from the muck.

Interestingly, the Bakelite is a very even brown, with almost no evidence of the mottling usually seen in brown Bakelite.

RCA Again

The brass frame and bullet shaped dial centre came up a treat after I hit it hard with the Brasso.

Here she is on my bedside table. Attached to a voltage transfomer and a timer switch, her music, accompanied by the soft golden glow of the dial face, lulls me to sleep at night and gently wakes me in the morning.

RCAs like this one are everywhere on eBay and certainly aren't rare. A quick search will turn one up just about any week of the year.

The non-rarity of this model is also reflected in the princely sum of $10.60 U.S. which I paid for it.

RCA did produce a series with cabinets painted in an oriental design which fetch much better prices.