Zenith Model 8S661 (8-S-661) Console Restoration

This circa 1942 Zenith console radio was found in an antique shop at a reasonable price, which is rare!  The finish was original and in excellent shape.  This is the condition after only cleaning with GoJo and 00 steel wool.  The grille cloth is original and not torn, but has considerable staining (it was left AS IS).

The circuit is an 8-tube superheterodyne that receives the broadcast band and two short wave bands. It has a tuned RF stage for broadcast band only.  It uses mostly G type octal tubes with only one loctal. It has flywheel tuning and features the Zenith Radiorgan tone control panel and push-button tuning.  The large solid cabinet, push-pull 6F6G output tubes and 12" speaker deliver excellent tone!

The radio had seen some servicing in the past but had not been hacked excessively.  This being the case, I decided to try and retain the original top and bottom chassis appearance if possible. 

The schematic and parts list for the radio can be found on Nostalgia Air.  I also ordered a "Service Manual" from A G Tannenbaum but it turned out to be only a copy of Riders information.

My antique radio restoration logs


My usual restoration procedure is to first make a complete survey of the condition of all components in the radio, then replace any defective parts before any testing is done.  To me this is simpler than diagnosing problems piecemeal and replacement of parts.  The survey results guide my restoration strategy.  If major and unique components are defective and cannot be restored or replaced, I may elect to sell the radio rather than restore it.  I assume that all paper and electrolytic capacitors are leaky and thus should be replaced (I always "restuff" the original components if possible).  And most original resistors would have drifted and be out of tolerance range.


I normally clean the chassis before starting restoration.  I first blew off the above and below chassis dust with an air compressor.  The chassis was then partially disassembled for access and cleaning.  The tuning capacitor, dial drive mechanism and flywheel assembly was removed after unsoldering the leads and ground braids.  All these parts were cleaned prior to installation.

The chassis and top components (coil shields) were cleaned using GoJo, steel wool, and toothbrushes.  


Before repairs were begun, a photo of the underside of the chassis was made and printed.  All parts (resistors, capacitors, coils, trimmers) were noted on the photograph (using arrows from notations in the margin).  Since the parts are not unique (i.e. the schematic has several resistors noted as R1 - all with the same value) all parts were made unique by adding suffixes such as R1a, R1b, C1a, C1b etc.  The schematic was then annotated the same way.  Defective and non-original parts were highlighted on the photo.

All alignment trimmers were also noted on the photo, since I was unable to find any documentation for this set that indicated where the trimmers were!  The trimmers and broadcast padder were identified by tracing the schematic.

Audio Control Panel Before Restoration

After Rewiring

Push Button Station Selector Panel

The push buttons on the original station selector panel were warped and distorted.  Perhaps they were exposed to heat.  The panel itself was not damaged.  I obtained a replacement tone control panel on eBay that had the correct buttons which were in good shape.  I originally planned on replacing the individual buttons from the donor unit.  I then noticed that the station selector panel was the same as the tone control panel, except turned upside down!  So I was able to simply cut the metal bracket that held the tone control switches with a Dremel tool and also slice off the plastic switch tabs from the back of the buttons.  But this left the tone control labels on the switches visible (and upside down).  There were remnants of existing stations labels installed.  I was able to use these as a pattern and  fabricated some stations selector labels from paper, cut them out, and inserted them into the push buttons.  The station adjustments were later tuned to the indicated local stations.


After the radio was completely reassembled, power was applied through a wattmeter and fused Variac.  Power was brought up slowly while monitoring the B+ voltage.  The radio worked the first time.  The radio was then aligned.  Since several resistors in the phase inverter circuit had been replaced, I then wanted to make sure the output tubes were close to balanced (the 6F6G tubes were measured at 1980/2000 and 2000/2000).  I applied an audio tone from my signal generator to the volume control and measured the voltage on the plates of the 6F6 output tubes.  Initially, the voltage was about 10% different.  I then played around with the 6F6 grid resistor using a resistance substitution box until the voltage was about equal on both plates.  I then installed a suitable resistor.  It turned out that the needed value was 346K (the schematic called for 330K 10%).  The existing resistor had drifted to about 369K.  I found a suitable dogbone resistor and repainted it as 330K using hobby paint.

The radio has great tone and is very sensitive.

Chassis before restoration

Chassis after restoration (C21 not yet installed)

Chassis Top Before Restoration

Chassis Rear After Restoration

Rear View of Cabinet