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Classic Radio Column
Restoring an Heirloom:
The Gonset Twins


by Mark Persons W0MH
QST Magazine article
August, 2021
Pages 93 and 94

The Gonset G-66B Receiver and G-77A Transmitter make up the famed Gonset Twins from Burbank, California in the 1950s.  They run CW and AM.  A set is our family heirloom that dates back to my childhood.  My father Charles B. Persons W0KNN, later W0LOJ (SK), built WELY Radio in Ely, Minnesota, in 1954.  The radio station was sold in 1959, but the Twins came with us to a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Gonset Twins for Remote Broadcating
I was only seven at the time, so it was an adventure for our family to own and run a radio broadcast station.  A radio trend back then was to do live remote broadcasts from civic events via radio relay to a studio so they could be put on the broadcast station live.  The FCC authorized 26.47 MHz for that use.   To make it work, my father purchased the Gonset Twins in 1958.

Touted as ham radio equipment for mobile or home, the Twins were designed with Hammertone gray paint and chrome steel front panels.  They were built small enough to fit under car dashboards of the time. 

Because the receiver and transmitter are separate, they were divided so the transmitter was in a remote broadcast car while the receiver was at the broadcast studio.  The transmitter is VFO or crystal controlled.  In this case a crystal was used to put it exactly on frequency.   

Gonset Twins Operation
The Twins are dedicated to hamming and cover 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10-meter bands with slide rule tuning.  The conversion from 28 MHz to 26.47 MHz involved re-tapping one coil, in each unit, and some minor retuning.

The G-66B Receiver is a 10-tube superhet.  There is an RF amplifier with two 265 KHz IF stages.  The BFO knob is calibrated to tune upper or lower single sidebands.  There is a speaker is in the power supply module, attached to the rear of the receiver. 

 

The G-77A transmitter is AM and CW, but no sideband.  It has only three tubes in the RF chain, using a 6146 final tube amplifier handling 50 to 60 watts input with 30 to 40 watts of output power on AM.  The trunk-mounted power supply and modulator has five tubes, including a 6DQ6 pair for push-pull audio.      

A simple nine-foot steel whip on a car rear bumper made a great antenna for the fifteen miles or less range necessary to get the signal to the studio.  The transmitter has output tuning and loading controls so it can tune into a reasonable load without the need for an antenna tuner.

Gonset Quality design
Preparing to restore the Twins brought back so many memories from my childhood experience with them. 
I kept remembering using the pair as a 15-year old Novice, taking the Gonset Twins, a 12 V storage battery and a wire antenna in a wagon behind my bicycle during the summer.

Gonset provided a detailed instruction manual with photos.  Written in pencil are modifications my father made to broaden the audio frequency response to make it closer to broadcast quality.  He used a broadcast microphone too.  Gonset was progressive by utilizing silicon solid state rectifiers that plugged in like fuses.  The originals still work.       

Restoring the Gonset Twins
I am a retured radio engineer so I put my skills to use with this restoration.  Blowing dust out was just the beginning of the project.  Paint fell off the meter pointers.  I had to carefully disassemble the meters and use a drop of paint on each via a Q-tip.  Switch contacts were cleaned and lubricated with Caig Labs DeoxIT D100L solution.

The front panel knobs are aluminum and suffered badly over the years.  I put each one on a drill press to gently remove tarnish with a 3M Scotch-Brite Hand Pad.  Then a coat of polyurethane went on to keep them looking good.    

I replaced the twist-lock aluminum-canned electrolytic capacitors.  Because the Twins were designed for mobile use, they were very compact, and there was no extra room for me to do the work myself.  I hired Hayseed Hamfest in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  They put new radial-lead capacitors in new twist-lok cans that fit exactly where the original, now failed, capacitors were.  The capacitors were not cheap, but they solved the problem while keeping to the original Gonset factory design. 

The receiver and transmitter each have power supplies capable of operating from 6 VDC, 12 VDC and 115 V ac.  Vibrators are used to chop DC so it can be fed into the power transformers.  Neither vibrator worked at first.  I found an ARRL Hints and Kinks note on page 73 in the March 1957 ARRL QST.  It showed a way to connect a 40-watt incandescent light bulb in series with a vibrator attached to 115 VAC, for up to 15 minutes, to clean the vibrator switch contacts.  That was successful in getting the receiverís vibrator working.  Not so with the larger vibrator in the transmitter power supply.  I had to carefully pry the vibratorís can open, at its base, to gain access to the switch contacts.  A burnishing tool and some DeoxIT restored normal operation.   

 

Results
In all, I probably have 40 hours of time cleaning, replacing components and tuning.  That included troubleshooting and replacing a dozen or so carbon resistors and capacitors that went out of tolerance.  The Twins are beautifully hand-wired and the original receiver book was very helpful in the receiver tune-up. 
Testing the rig, with the required interconnect wiring, worked out great.  I made contacts around Minnesota on 80-meters AM with good signal reports during the day.

All photos by the author.

Mark's comment, "The project made me feel young again!"


Emails:
11-11-2021:  GREAT ARTICLE.  Mark, Enjoyed your article in August QST.    What beautiful radios.   Great job restoring them.  Owen Heath, KB2QQM, Racine, Wisconsin.

09-06-2021:  
Hello Mark, Many thanks for your August 2021 Classic Radio article in QST on ďRestoring an Heirloom: The Gonset Twins.Ē  Iím the son of Faust Gonsett who owned and operated the Gonset plant.  Your article brought back so many good memories.  As a kid, I may have touched the meters that wound up in your G-66B and G-77A.  No, I wasnít the reason the paint fell off the pointers:)  Best 73,  Bob Gonsett, W6VR, Fallbrook, California.

08/05/2021: Hello Mark. I am W7SCY and I was attracted to your article in the August 2021 QST magazine primarily because it was about the "Gonset Twins" because I had a Gonset Commander; but I was really surprised to read that it was really about using the Gonset G77A transmitter for a remote link to your father's radio station! I did the same thing with a Johnson Viking II in the same time period (1958 or 1959) at KGAL in Lebanon, Oregon where I was Chief Engineer, and have had hams doubt that the FCC would allow it.
We did a lot of remotes with our local radio station and they all had to have telephone lines connected for a special hookup for our "remote studio" with two turntables, three mike inputs and a small mixer mounted into a small portable desk of sorts with folding card-table-like legs that we could take to our station remotes. The telephone lines were expensive, time consuming and a hassle. As an active ham I discovered that we could license a radio link to KGAL with a frequency that was very close to 10 meters (that must have been 26.47 Mhz). We had acquired a British Morris van with a window on one side to carry our equipment to the remotes, so I bought a used Viking II, got it licensed for a broadcast link and installed it in the van with the appropriate crystal (Vikings were crystal controlled, with no VFO) a 10 meter whip on the side, the portable studio mounted in the van and wired into the modulator of the Viking. We had a ham receiver in the radio station wired directly into an input of the main studio console to do live remote broadcasts on the air. We painted the van with "KGAL: Radio on the Go!" and put speakers on the top so visitors could hear the broadcast and eliminated the hassle and cost of telephone lines for remotes. All we needed was a 110 volt extension cord. The fidelity was pretty low but it was a real innovation as, to my knowledge, there were no studio-link radio systems available at the time. I thought I had invented a new way of creating instant remote broadcasts! It's great to hear that someone else had the same idea. I am vindicated; the FCC did indeed license ham radios for broadcast use!
About the Gonset Commander: it was strictly crystal controlled and I had it mounted in my 1952 Ford but  I only had one crystal for 3.840 Mhz. In 1958 I moved to Hollywood, CA to attend the Grantham School of Electronics and acquire my FCC First Class Radio Telephone License so I could be a broadcast radio engineer. When I found that Gonset was nearby in Burbank, I called them up and found they had manufactured an outboard VFO for the Commander but no longer made it. However, they had one that was partially completed when they shut down the production of them and I could have it with the parts and diagram to finish it myself if I wanted. I drove right over there and grabbed it, finished it and mounted it on the steering column of my Ford. It had a simple tuned circuit and plugged into the crystal socket of the Commander. It worked perfectly as long as I had the Gonset. How many manufacturers would be that helpful today?
I was in radio broadcasting for 35 years and evolved from engineering into sales and management and spent the last 22 years with the Radio Advertising Bureau. It was a lot of fun. I received my Novice license, WN7SCY in July, 1951 so I celebrated 70 years of continuous Ham radio fun with my original call (minus the "N") last month.  I'm active in the High Desert Amateur Radio Group (HiDARG), the Central Oregon DX club and ARES and it's still fun!
Thanks for the trip down memory lane.  73, Bob Weed, W7SCY, Bend Oregon.

07/28/2021: Enjoyed the Gonset Twins article.  Mark, I ejoyed your article about the Gonset Twins in the August, 2021, issue of QST.  From 1988 to 1997, I worked in Pittsburgh and lived east of Cleveland, Ohio.  I used a Gonset G-66B to listen to on the two hour drive on Monday and Friday.  I have the pair, but use a G-76 or Collins 32V-3 on AM.  I am in Classic Radio often; I worked part time while in high school and college at ham radio stores selling and servicing equipment 1965 to 1974.  73.  George Misic KE8RN, Allison Park, Pennsylvania.

07/18/2021: Ham Radio & QST Magazine.  Hi Mark: Please allow me to compiment you on your truly excelent article about "The Gonset Twins." in the August issue of QST magazine.  This is a terrific story with some very moving references to your dad  As such, it brought back many nice memories for me too.  73,  Dave Hughes WA3NFN, Huntsville, Alabama.  

     Questions?  Email Mark Persons:  teki@mwpersons.com       

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