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Author Topic: Boat anchor TLC pays off  (Read 4384 times)
W7GIF
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Posts: 126




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« on: March 30, 2013, 05:26:30 PM »

I recently pulled a Racal RA17 C-3 out of the storage cabinet, after being dormant for over 15 years. I remove the bottom sheet metal cover to inspect all the caps (all original factory). Seeing no evidence of leaking/swelling, and no discolored resistors (also all original), I connected up the power with a variac, and started a VERY SLOW gradual application of power. Didn't remove any tubes (although that's recommended), and the rectifier is solid-state. Ramped the input voltage from 0 to 60vac over a 2 hour period, and 60 to 120 vac over a 6 hour period, while visually monitoring the underside caps and resistors. And checking the caps for any warming (finger tip "probe" and infra-red RayTek Raynger). After another hour of operation at 120vac, and with no evidence of cap warming, I re-installed the bottom cover, and put the Racal back into it's cabinet. What a GREAT receiver it is! Surely as accurate a frequency readout as an SWL receiver needs to be....very sensitive AND selective, low noise, and superb audio. The 8 hours to bring it up was no-doubt overkill, but the results were worth the patience. After three weeks of nightly use, it's still as healthy as when new (1960). And what a great receiver!
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W4OP
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 06:37:38 PM »

What a pretty receiver Allen. Osterman's book says new price varied from $1200 to $2400.

Dale W4OP
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W7GIF
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 07:54:33 PM »

What a pretty receiver Allen. Osterman's book says new price varied from $1200 to $2400.

Dale W4OP
Hi Dale,
Yes, it really is quite a receiver. It was my first Wadley Loop receiver, and I was so intrigued by it, that I had to buy it. That was 25 years ago, and I bought it from the original owner who had it at a non-radio flea market. I thought his firm price of $350 was really high, but he was absolutely FIRM. I have the original operating & maintenance manual (with the uncompleted warranty cards). The chassis is cast aluminum, and the mechanisms are absolutely precision. I should have taken some pics of the chassis underside while I had it out of it's cabinet. It's my favorite SWL receiver......even trumping the 390A, J-4, SX-88, and SP-600. And, considering the design and manufacturing quality, and real (not spec) performance.....I'd have to say it was well worth the original cost. No receivers from that era that I've owned measure up in features and performance (for SWL'ing purposes). I have to believe that the RA17 was Racal's pinnacle "moment". It sure put them on the Quality and Performance map. Definitely one of the best (if not THE best) investments in my many years of searching for the Holy Grail of SWL receivers.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 07:59:57 PM by W7GIF » Logged
W4OP
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 08:02:54 PM »

Looking at a photo, I am guessing it has 1KHz dial calibration?
The book says it has selectivity from 8KHz all the way down to  100Hz - How does CW sound with the narrow filters?
I also see they made an LF converter and a spectrum display- those pieces have to be beyond rare.

I restored an SX-88 several years back, right down to a new silk screened front panel. Except for the nice full audio sound I thought the receiver was  extremely mediocre and microphonic. And of course, dial calibration got more and more course as one went up in frequency.

Dale W4OP
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KE3WD
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2013, 08:15:11 PM »

It is a Racal. 

Topshelf stuff. 

That ain't no Heathkit.


73
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W7GIF
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2013, 08:39:12 PM »

Yes, the dial is calibrated in 1KHz increments, and is far more linear from end-to-end than any of the J-4's I've ever had. It does have a movable cursor/index on the dial, but never needs more than about 200 Hz correction between bands. And the moving "film strip" dial tuning is silky-smooth.....with absolutely NO hysteresis. And.......NO bandswitch contacts to get intermittent (aggravating). All of the filters are tuned circuits, and the 100HZ and 300Hz filters are great for CW.......at least as good as most crystal and even mechanical filters, although the skirts aren't as steep. No "hollow ringing", which is easy on the ears. I don't use AVC when copying SSB or CW.....but use AF gain cranked up, and adjusting the IF gain. Actually, AVC could be used, but would require cranking in/adjusting the RF attenuator to allow the AVC to keep up with the CW signal dynamics. The AVC copes well on AM broadcast thanks to carrier level, even with rapid QSB and over-the-pole flutter.
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W7GIF
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Posts: 126




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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2013, 08:59:51 PM »

It is a Racal. 

Topshelf stuff. 

That ain't no Heathkit.


73
You're absolutely spot on, WD. Everything about the RA17 exudes CLASS. And, Dale, yeah I always felt the SX-88 was over-rated.....but very aesthetically appealing. Actually, I also liked the NC-400. But, what a bugger it was to keep up with alignment/peaking, what with the component value aging. And although it's performance was very good, it was not as near a pleasure to use as the Racal.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2013, 02:55:57 AM »

The RA17 'made' Racal. Large numbers were sold to the UK government, military, BBC etc. Racal has gone now - I think most of it became part of Thales. Racal originally owned Vodafone, one of the big cellphone players. Eventually, they did 10kW transmitters, military manpacks, marine - all sorts of stuff. I worked for the marine group for a while. The RA17 wasn't that brilliant on phase noise or intermod by today's standards, but was a big advance at the time - it came out in the 1950s, and the basic radio was, at that time, about $1000.

When the requirement for the US Army SINCGARS came out in 1975, Racal and RCA (amongst many others) did a joint bid for the contract. That contract went to ITT AOD in Fort Wayne, and finally got into full production in about 1985-6: Racal-BCC carried on with their development of the similar JAGUAR-V (JAmming GUARded Vhf) and had the frequency hopping tactical military radio in service with the Iraqui Army by 1980.

I worked on both projects at different times.....
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W7GIF
Member

Posts: 126




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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2013, 12:45:32 PM »

The RA17 'made' Racal. Large numbers were sold to the UK government, military, BBC etc. Racal has gone now - I think most of it became part of Thales. Racal originally owned Vodafone, one of the big cellphone players. Eventually, they did 10kW transmitters, military manpacks, marine - all sorts of stuff. I worked for the marine group for a while. The RA17 wasn't that brilliant on phase noise or intermod by today's standards, but was a big advance at the time - it came out in the 1950s, and the basic radio was, at that time, about $1000.

When the requirement for the US Army SINCGARS came out in 1975, Racal and RCA (amongst many others) did a joint bid for the contract. That contract went to ITT AOD in Fort Wayne, and finally got into full production in about 1985-6: Racal-BCC carried on with their development of the similar JAGUAR-V (JAmming GUARded Vhf) and had the frequency hopping tactical military radio in service with the Iraqui Army by 1980.

I worked on both projects at different times.....
Hi Peter,

Before starting the resurrection of my RA17, one of your counrtymen was good enough to steer me to Ian Ropper GM0UHC, who is also a former RACAL employee. He has been very helpful with suggestions regarding maintenance and restoration of the RA17. He has a website that provides a lot of good info for RA17 owners:

http://www.chavfreezone.me.uk/index.html
http://www.chavfreezone.me.uk/history145.html (tube complements of various models)

Some very useful information there, as there were several different versions/configurations of the RA17.....including tube complements for the various models. I feel fortunate to have found genuinely knowledgeable RACAL people from across the pond, who are willing to share their knowledge and history of and with RACAL, and this great receiver.

Cheers....
« Last Edit: March 31, 2013, 01:19:36 PM by W7GIF » Logged
G3RZP
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Posts: 4965




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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2013, 12:54:45 AM »

There was (and the call is still valid) an amateur radio club at the Bracknell works with the call G3RAC. We had a club at the Broadstairs Racal Marine establishment too: the only call I can remember from there is G3PSV, but there were others.

There's a lot of Racal gear in use in the UK, as you might expect: Racal had a place in Maryland, somewhere in the Baltimore area. A guy that worked for me in Broadstairs went there, and after about 35 years and various jobs has come back to the UK. He had a very nice place in Ellicott City so why he came back is beyond me!
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