R.L. Drake

Drake Mods - VE3EFJ Notes

Authored by VE3EFJ


    Anyone who contacts me for assistance will get it. I cannot say I'll make the badness go away, but I will give it a good shot. Past experience has shown that trouble shooting at a distance is frustrating at best, but if you're stuck, I'm available.

    If you've found an error in this document or if its caused you grief, then I WANT to hear from you.


    Where comparisons were made to other equipment or statements of 'functionally like' were indicated, they were done for illustrative purposes only. I've had a few people on the Drake side get quite upset with me for even mentioning Japanese gear. The R71A/R7 comment got me in trouble. I've owned many a piece of Japanese equipment, and its good stuff. Its just different. Most of it is treated as a disposable commodity, but that does not make it inferior or the engineers stupid. I will readily admit that my current equipment inventory includes Drake, Ten Tec, some Icom and a Yaesu FT/707. I see virtues in all of this equipment to varying degrees. None of it would I call inferior. In some cases its a matter of necessity - Drakes don't operate 10 FM. In other cases its just a simple case of my personal affliction with HF receivers, transmitters and transceivers regardless of the country of origin.

    I have heard manys a time Drake to be referred to as a "poor man's Collins." While I understand what is implied here, it is in a way an insult. Collins never really did make equipment for the Amateur. What amateurs got from Collins was commercial/military gear. Its similar to saying a Kenwood TS570 is a poor man's SG2000. Its almost a meaningless statement. Drake, with the 4 line, made the best amateur market equipment available at that time in the whole world. So good, as a matter of fact, a large percentage of this equipment is in service today and will hold its own despite 25 years, 2 sunspot cycles and much more hostile band conditions since its inception. There is not one piece of Drake equipment that I know of (R4C excepted) that was not the best it could be.

    The American equipment of the era of the 70's had a different engineering and marketing philosophy than today's commodities. I've stated before that Drake equipment is well built. Additionally, just about every product in their HF line would work together in some form despite the changes and progress made over the years. You could connect an RV4C to a TR3 with but only a very minor change. One can connect an R4B to a TR7 and get antenna switching and mute. This is from the same manufacturer using two entirely different levels of technology manufactured over 10 years apart. This is in contrast to todays commodities that are replaced constantly with a whole line of new accessories. Rather than improve upon a radio, todays gear is replaced by the manufacturer en mass. While the parts availability from Drake won't last forever, you can still get them for a 25 year old radio. An S meter for an R4B is less than $8. And Drake hasn't made amateur equipment in over 12 years. I'll allow them their front panel policy as silly as it sounds, for their support is absolutely top notch and every bit as good as the other highly respected manufacturer of amateur products. Drake is America's best kept other secret.

    I too lament Drakes departure from amateur radio. I suspect they, like others, got out of it for the reasons that have come true today. Selling ham gear is a cut throat business left to the big 'dealers'. There is not much brand allegance, but price allegance given to the lowest bidder with a 1-800 number. A $20 difference in price will kill the sale on a $2000 transceiver. To stay in the game you have to be a player with an army of engineers and a 'new' product line every year. Drake and others saw this coming and went for a more stable market for their electronics. I hear stories of people asking Drake to 'come back'. Look at what the amateur market has become today and ask why any domestic manufacturer would bother.

    What started my Drake exploits was pure accident of fate. I went out looking for something different and discovered how good Mr. Drake's wares were. I also discovered and confirmed that what you really need for some enjoyment of this hobby isn't all that much. The arms dealers will try their best to sell you a $6000 Death Star, but unless you're trying to run communications intercepts for the NSA, you don't need this stuff. My apologies to Mr. D. Vader.

    But I may be preaching to the converted.

    I do not profess this to be 'the' definitive Drake bible, but it is at least not a bad start. I would like to think, and I do hope, that someone that wrote off a Drake with a bad PTO has been able to dust it off and fix it with a bit of glue. Unfortunately far too much old gear gets written off because fewer people have any idea just how well it really works. It ends up rotting in someones garage for lack of just a little TLC.

    I wrote this article for a few reasons. First, I wanted to publish whatever maintenance tricks I had learned. I wouldn't want someone else to learn the hard way as I did. Life's too short. Second, I believe that it is important that mods and data regarding this equipment should be available. The intent of this paper is not only to put on paper some mods - I wanted to have some kind of a record indicating what this gear was like. Not only is this equipment part of our heritage, Drake and others made some excellent products. An increasing percentage of amateurs every year have no idea what Drake, Collins, Hallicrafters or even Heath were all about.

    More than anything else, I guess, was the initial frustration I had getting information. Drake equipment and its expert enthusiasts were hard to find and were somewhat akin to visiting the Great Owl. I decided that anyone that wanted to follow my path shouldn't have to go through this. One may read into this that I am a 'Drake expert'. This, I do not profess to be. All I've done is kept my eyes and ears open, had some experiences, and wrote them down for those that are interested.

    "I blew it up. I had to"

Wayne Montague, VE3EFJ
4146 Marigold Crescent
Mississauga, Ont
Canada. L5L 1Y7
C/Serv (73057,3063)
I/net montaw@inforamp.net

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