Wednesday, March 29, 2023

It all started with a woman's suggestion!!

I came across what is probably a little known piece of history that covers the beginnings of the car radio to the development of a highly successful aircraft.  I got it through email, but I also found it on the interwebs.  This link has most of the story, but not as in depth as the one I'm sharing below.  Enjoy.
                -  Tuna

HISTORY OF THE CAR RADIO Seems like cars have always had radios,
but they didn't.

Here's the story:
One evening, in 1929, two young men named William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, to watch the sunset.

It was a romantic night to be sure, but one of the women observed that it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios (Lear served as a radio operator in the U.S. Navy during World War I) and it wasn't long before they were taking apart a home radio and trying to get it to work in a car.  But it wasn't easy: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical equipment that generate noisy static interference, making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio when the engine was running.

One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention in Chicago. There they met Paul Galvin, owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. He made a product called a "battery eliminator", a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household AC current.

But as more homes were wired for electricity, more radio manufacturers made AC-powered radios.  Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention, he found it. He believed that mass-produced, affordable car radios had the potential to become a huge business.

Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin's factory, and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker.

Then Galvin went to a local banker to apply for a loan. Thinking it might sweeten the deal, he had his men install a radio in the banker's Packard. Good idea, but it didn't work. Half an hour after the installation, the banker's Packard caught on fire. (They didn't get the loan.)

Galvin didn't give up. He drove his Studebaker nearly 800 miles to Atlantic City to show off the radio at the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention.

Too broke to afford a booth, he parked the car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that passing conventioneers could hear it. That idea worked -- He got enough orders to put the radio into production.

That first production model was called the 5T71.  Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier. In those days many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses used the suffix "ola" for their names - Radiola, Columbiola, and Victrola were three of the biggest. Galvin decided to do the same thing, and since his radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, he decided to call it the Motorola.

But even with the name change, the radio still had problems: When Motorola went on sale in 1930, it cost about $110 uninstalled, at a time when you could buy a brand-new car for $650, and the country was sliding into the Great Depression. (By that measure, a radio for a new car would cost about $3,000 today.)

In 1930, it took two men several days to put in a car radio -- The dashboard had to be taken apart so that the receiver and a single speaker could be installed, and the ceiling had to be cut open to install the antenna.

These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery, so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them. The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions. Selling complicated car radios that cost 20 percent of the price of a brand-new car wouldn't have been easy in the best of times, let alone during the Great Depression.

'33 Ford Tudor Sedan    Source

Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorola's pre-installed at the factory.
In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with B.F. Goodrich tire company to sell and install them in its chain of tire stores.

By then the price of the radio, with installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running. (The name of the company would be officially changed from Galvin Manufacturing to "Motorola" in 1947.)

In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios. In 1936, the same year that it introduced push-button tuning, it also introduced the Motorola Police Cruiser, a standard car radio that was factory preset to a single frequency to pick up police broadcasts.

Police Cruiser Radio - Source

In 1940 he developed the first handheld two-way radio
-- The Handy-Talkie for the U. S. Army.

A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II.  In 1947 they came out with the first television for under $200. In 1956 the company introduced the world's first pager; in 1969 came the radio and television equipment that was used to televise Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon.

In 1973 it invented the world's first handheld cellular phone. Today Motorola is one of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world. And it all started with the car radio.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO the two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin's car?

Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different paths in life. Wavering stayed with Motorola. In the 1950's he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first automotive alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention lead to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually, air-conditioning.

Lear also continued inventing. He holds more than 150 patents. Remember eight-track tape players? Lear invented that.

But what he's really famous for are his contributions to the field of aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot, designed the first fully automatic aircraft landing system, and in 1963 introduced his most famous invention of all, the Lear Jet, the world's first mass-produced, affordable business jet. (Not bad for a guy who dropped out of school after the eighth grade.)

Sometimes it is fun to find out how some of the
many things that we take for granted actually came into being!


It all started with a woman's suggestion!!

This interested me for the Paul Harvey sort of vibe- "Now you know the rest of the story!" as well as the fact that the first smart phone I owned was a Motorola (below).  I liked the fact that it was an American Company, it wasn't an Apple, and I was sold on them when I dropped one of my later phones off the second deck landing at work and the screen was still intact.  Now it's owned by Lenovo, so probably Chinese, but the phones are still good.

I'll close out with a little jazzy take on a modern song.  Not a fan of the original version, but I'm really enjoying the Stella Kat Cole songs I've found recently.  This one is one of many collaborations between Post Modern Jukebox and female singers with outstanding pipes.


  1. Here's one by the Speakeasy Three and one by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and one by The Dead South .

  2. A very interesting post Tuna, Wavering and Lear had some brain power and gumption.

  3. Bill Lear is also famous for naming his daughter Chanda.

    Chanda Lear

    Not making this up. Guess Bill Lear's wife must have had a good sense of humor.

    1. My neighbor Brooke named his son Rio. Last name Grandy.

    2. Well...When you got money, who's going to kid you about a name?


      P.S. Worked at an FBO to pay for college. Lears were great jets to service. Nice and easy.

  4. Interesting history that I had not a single clue about, excellent post Tuna. It's good to learn something new!

  5. What a fascinating piece of history Tuna! I had no idea where Motorola came from - and like Sarge, it is good to learn something new!

  6. My 1967 Mustang Fastback wound up with a Lear Jet AM/FM 8 Track, after the original AM 8 Track went to Valhalla.

    1. One of the best cars ever. Still have it? I'm a big Mustang guy. Drove a 67 convertible, now a 17 convertible.

    2. Nope. I had it at 17, and the previous owner had mistreated it. It threw a rod one cold February morning in 1979. 289 HiPos are beyond the means of 17 year olds, so it was sold.

  7. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Yep, Galvin Mfg in Chicago designed the SCR-536 (BC-611), the first hand-held military wireless comm device. Built by many others, Stewart Warner, etc. including Galvin/Motorola. One of the comm devices that helped win WW2.

    Later in the war, they designed and built the SCR-300/BC-1000 backpack VHF FM transceiver.
    If you ever carried an AN/PRC-10, AN/PRC-25, or AN/PRC-77, you were carring the progeny of Motorola's original WW2 grandpappy.

    Motorola also played a role in the demise of the US TV industry, though not by choice. Remember the Motorola Quasar, "Works In A Drawer" TV set? It was the first all solid state color TV set on the commercial market. Well, Motorola sunk a lot of money and development effort into it, and by the mid 70's, Japanese imports were cutting into their profit margins enough to be a problem. Motorola had to sell their TV works around 1975 to stop the losses, and they sold to Matsushita (Panasonic), who promptly shut down the Chicago works.

    1. Thanks, Crusty! And thanks, Tuna for a very interesting post to begin with!
      We all do lots of things at the behest of our women; most of them improving life for all of us.
      Yes, I've humped s PRC-77, gave me a LOT of respect for anyone who did the same thing with an SCR-300.
      Boat Guy

  8. Ladies and Gents, thanks for the comments, but I won't be able to respond to more. I have a full day and then I'm heading out this afternoon on a getaway with my wife for my B-Day tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend.

    1. The big double nickels if you were wondering.

    2. Have fun, you young whippersnapper (when you get around to reading the comments again, that is.) Who knew I wasn't the youngest here? Whoohoo...

    3. The Birthday Badger Sends Respectful Birthday Greetings!

  9. Tuna- Fascinating stuff there! I had no clue about ANY of that. History is important to know and understand, not just for the fun facts, but as a foundation for the future.
    John Blackshoe

  10. Amazing what a little fun and ingenuity and tinkering can achieve.

  11. The early Lear Jets had hard points for bomb racks and missile rails.

    1. No bomb racks or missile rails on Lears. A few have been modded to carry tow targets, ECM pods, sensors etc, for government contracts and research.

  12. Tuna- excellent story. I remember hearing bits of it from my Dad, many years ago. Lear and Waverling were smart, determined and never gave up!
    PS- I love Postmedern Jukebox and similar music! Thanks for sharing!!

    Mary F.

  13. I remember that the radio in my 1964 Porsche had two chassis. It took the techs nearly a day to install it. It had vacuum tubes! It was expensive, but I wanted a radio in my dream car. I paid for the whole thing, more or less, with the proceeds from the sale of my 1960 MGA just when I moved home to George, from Itazuke. They loved those foreign cars back in that day. They must have had a strange tax system goin on, the guy bought it with Yen. A lot of paper for that amount.

  14. Not everyone enjoyed car radios. My uncle had an early 50's Pontiac. He was taking an old neighbor from MN to AZ to visit my uncle's brother. The old fellow liked music but was pretty hard of hearing so he had the radio cranked up full volume. After a couple days, my uncle had had enough. One night when they camped in the desert off the highway he waited till the neighbor was asleep, then ripped the radio out and buried it in the desert. He told the old fellow that someone must have stolen it when they were asleep. As a kid, I was always puzzled by the gaping hole in the dashboard where a radio should have been.

  15. I was a SatComm maintenance operator in the Air Force. After I retired I worked for Rockwell-Collins for about a decade. I knew the Collins radio story and bits and pieces of the Motorola story. Thanks for the history lesson.


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