My First True Boat Anchor: A Collins R-390A

My boss is retiring, and as part of his downsizing made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I’m now the owner although have not yet taken delivery of) a vintage receiver: the Collins R-390A. Here’s a pic of it, in all it’s vintage glory:

Here’s the thing: I’m mostly completely out of my element with regards to these things. The only other piece of vintage tube gear I have is my trusty (not rusty) Drake 2B, and this thing appears to be in a completely different league. While searching around, I found this awesome resource manual, but I would feel better if I had a real genuine mentor to help me get this radio a) safe (some of the things in the manual scare me a teensy bit) and (b) operating well. Can anyone out there suggest any resources (either online or local to the Bay Area) for people who are crazy enough to try to fix/maintain/use this fine bit of vintage equipment?

4 thoughts on “My First True Boat Anchor: A Collins R-390A”

  1. Congratulations on the nice “new” receiver! Saw many of these come out at Kelly AFB Property Surplus in San Antonio back in the mid-80’s, but they all were demilitarized (i.e., had the two meters removed). Guess that was about removing the radium hazard, but the receivers sure looked sad with 2 empty holes and clipped wires hanging out. Bring a friend to help load/unload it (heavy and maybe a few sharp edges/corners). Consider using a variac if it hasn’t been powered up recently. Enjoy your new post-EMP-capable emergency communications device!

  2. Hi Mark,
    I know this Receiver very well. Was in the 60’s working in the Radio-Workshop in the Army in Europe. We are using only GRC-26D Radios. There in we have had 2x R390A receivers. In total we have had in service 26 GRC26D.
    Yes the are very good receivers in that Day’s. Only a bit bulky. I ave rewinding many front-end-coils when the Boys putting to much RF in to the Rx Hi.
    Mechanically it was a marvel.
    One of the most important things was that the Rectifier-Tubes in good conditions. Otherwise the whole RX was not very good any more. At that days we have hat no Silicon-Diodes Hi. What he really need is a good product-detector.
    Otherwise it is a good receiver. I think 47 Tubes Hi ? or was it the CV116 RTTY- Converter ?.

    Regards Success with this good Collins-Receiver.

    vy73 de DU1 MGA (W3WAZ)

  3. The R390A rocks. I used this machine in the 70s while aboard US Navy ships on active duty. It was used primarily for monitoring AFRTS, now defunct.

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