Bell Radio -Television Corp was formed in 1950 from the company previously known as Antone Ltd which started in 1947. Bell became the largest and fastest growing company. They made a low priced line of radiograms using solid oak timber instead of the usual Walnut veneer. Mr Al Bell started New Zealand's first experimental Television transmissions in 1957, no doubt hastening the official transmissions, in the early '60s.

The Bell Colt was THE radio to have. More of these were made than any other NZ radio. They started in 1951 and were made, in the same cabinet, but with various chassis, for the next 20 years. They were made in 3, 4, and 5 valve versions. However, there were a few also made in a solid wood Oak cabinet. This was cheaper than using veneered wood. Probably gave better sound, too! I have had an email from a gentleman who said "The Colt was designed by A R Chesterman (Dick Chesterman).Dick told me years ago that he had an argument with Al Bell which ended in a punch up and his leaving Bell." 

Bell Colt Bakelite Radio.

When introduced, Colts sold for just under Thirteen Pounds Ten shillings. ($27.00. ) For the next 15 years it stayed at pretty well the same price! Seven different colours were available, though the white was the most popular. Chassis varied from 3 to 5 valve, and some were also available as Dual Wave units. In which case the tone control was moved to the rear of the chassis, and the wave change switch took its place in the centre front. Over the years, various different dials graced this ubiquitous model.  Some of the dials were labeled Colt, but most were labelled Bell. This is one of eight we have, including a green dual wave, a couple of blue ones and a red one. The one above is one of the ones my son owns.

Standard and Shortwave Bell Colts.

As can be seen, these have two more different dials. See also, Skymaster.  The green one is a shortwave model. The centre tone control is replaced by the wave change switch.  The tone control is transferred to the back of the chassis. That is the only apparent difference, compared with the top one and the Skymaster, apart from the dial showing the shortwave band. The chassis in the lower white one is different, but all are 5 valve, except the red one, which is a 4 valve. I must admit I was just a little bit surprised at how well it works on shortwave. I still have to find a couple of green knobs, but they are as scarce as Hen's Teeth, which is the case for all push on types for Colts.  Later screw on types are not so bad.  

YAY!!  My friend Gerry has found a couple of Hen's Teeth for me! My beloved Green Shortwave Colt will now be complete.  Thank you Gerry!!

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the shortwave model might be more correctly called an "Explorer" rather than a Colt. Instead of being £13.19.6 for the Colt, the Explorer was £15.15.0 and a cheaper 3 valve version, the Champ was £12.12.0 but all were in identical cabinets. There were 7 colours to choose from. The cabinet moulding die actually came from Australia where it had been used for the Airzone model 408 in 1946. The Airzone had just two controls, no tone, so an extra hole had to be made in between the other two knobs, where the Airzone decal had been.

 Red Bell Colt

Click on the pictures for large versions.

Rare Bell Colt in Solid Oak CabinetRear of Oak Bell Colt

Look at what I found!!  A rare Solid Oak Bell Colt, in quite reasonable condition. It was in a building in little Te Aroha where one normally buys demolition materials from old houses and businesses that have been torn down etc. They also had a couple of other radios that had been "restored", but very badly. Fortunately, although someone had added wires for an extension speaker, and gramophone input, nobody had tried to restore this one.  Currently the cabinet is having a sealer of shellac and will then be lacquer sprayed, as it was originally. I am really looking forward to seeing it finished. My wife claims this as hers, because "It is a wife sized radio." Well, I have news for her, and it's all bad!

Bell Colt Oak Radio Restored

Well. that's it. New original knobs, cabinet cleaned up and painted with one coat of shellac as a sealer, and two coats of lacquer. The extraneous wires have been removed, the electrolytics and some paper caps replaced plus one valve. Looking good!

Bell Radio Advertisement from 1957. Click for full size image.

Click on picture for a large version of this 1957 advertisement. 71KB


 Lost my navigation menu? Click here.