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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The W8SX Drake Interview

Bob, W8SX, (aka "our man at Dayton") conducted an interview with Bill Frost, Service Manager for R.L. Drake -- a fellow who knows a lot about the history of our beloved (and ever-more-valuable!) Drake 2Bs:

-- The Drake 2-B was designed and built in the early 60’s, but was not continued because R4 was its replacement. It was hoped that the 2-C would be a replacement for the 2-B, but the companion CW transmitter 2NT caused hams to associate the 2-C with a novice station and the sales number show that is was not as popular because 2-B with non-novice hams.

-- Why no crystal filters? Crystal filters not considered because of cost in terms of design & parts. In addition the LC filters allowed the designers to provide passband tuning both easily and cheaply in the 2-B.

-- How did it stack up against other receivers of the era? The 2-B was better than anything else for sale except Collins receivers, which cost a great deal more. There was also the R390, which was available on the surplus market, but it frequently was not is good shape and again cost a lot more.

-- Who designed it? The 2-B was designed by several engineers, but principally it was both Milton Sullivan & Bob Drake.

-- Why the copper chassis? Bill was not sure on this point other than to say that the Cu was meant to keep corrosion of aluminum chassis components to a minimum. Later they use cadmium as in the R4C/T4XC combination. In a couple of instances the chassis was plated with chromium and these radios are very rare and expensive collector items.

-- How important was the 2-BQ multiplier? While this is a highly sought after item today not very many were sold with the 2-B or even the 2-C. Today these are very valuable and command prices well above their original list price.

-- Was dial parallax a problem considered in the design? Not really as the crystal calibrator was supposed to be used along with the lines on the main dial slide to indicate the exact frequency. Band to band variation was very good for the time at around 3kHz. Not bad for a press DDS VFO.

-- Does he still have a 2-B? YES! And he would not part with it for any amount of money.

-- How many were made? He was not sure about this, but did say that the receivers are numbered consecutively, so that by knowing the first 2-B and the first 2-C it’s a simple subtraction to find the numbers of each manufactured.

-- Was it a big seller for Drake? Yes, but the R4 line which had a longer run and therefore sold more. The TR-3, and TR-4 line was a big seller for many years until the Japanese cut into their market share.

-- The TR-7A was Drake’s last ham gear and now they manufacture only home and commercial satellite receivers. These sell well to commercial cable, dish network, lodge net, channel modulators, D-A converters. They are now located in Franklin OH.

-- No ham gear is made by Drake these days as it is all commercial receivers for the satellite TV/radio market. The R8 was their last ham receiver and it still sells well on the used market.

-- For replacement tubes look to http://www.tubesandmore.com/. The transmitting tubes, 6JB6’s, are particularly hard to find. Look for a substitute sweep tube that can be used in that circuit.

-- John M Cherry, John Covelli, WB4HFN and Evin Rolek K9SQG@aol.com host the Drake Forum every Dayton Hamvention run by. A good resource for repair is John Kriner, WB4HFN

-- Drake's web sites: http://www.n9bor.us/drake.htm & http://home.online.no/~sindtorp/

To preserve the parts on a 2-B, especially the cosmetic parts, keep it out of sun & don’t smoke. These parts are particularly had to find these days.

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