Retro Radio Upgrade





Introduction: Retro Radio Upgrade

About: Follow me on Instagram

Retro gadgets are extremely hot!

Things that are cool and have the right patina is easy to find and buy on the secondary market. But there are some things that are more sought after than others. Both me and my girlfriend are very fond of old radios with nice design for example.

In this instructable, I'll tell you how I upgraded a broken old radio with new electronics to a fully functional and stylish Retro FM-radio.

Step 1: Required Components

To begin you are required to find a really neat old radio to start from. That´s the hard part!

Old radios can be purchased on auction sites such as eBay. But you can also find treasures at flea markets, etc. My girlfriend found one broken for only 1.12 USD.

Next thing to do is to get new electronics. For me, it was relatively easy, I bought a cheap new FM-radio from a shop for about 22 USD.

Before the purchase, I went through the manual to ensure that all the features I wanted were included.

Features that I wanted:

  1. FM-radio
  2. Battery and 230V power supply
  3. Speaker
  4. Small size (for fitting inside the old radio)
  5. Antenna

Tools that can be helpful for this project:

  1. Screwdrivers in various sizes
  2. Knife
  3. Drilling machine
  4. Saw
  5. Soldering iron

Step 2: Removal of Old Broken Electronics

In order to fit the new electronics in the old radio case, I was required to completely remove all the old contents from the case.

In order to maintain the old look some panels and buttons were fasten with a new construction and glue.

Step 3: Preparation of the New Electronics

The newly purchased radio was screwed apart to take out the electronics. I was surprised how small it was compared to the old broken components.

Be careful and observe how all the wires are contacted.

Step 4: Installation of the New Inside

I choosed to make two new holes on top of the old casing for the new knobs representing volume and frequency. It had also been possible to use the old control knobs but it would have required more work.

Be sure to take accurate measurements of distances and placements for the holes.

I had to make some small modifications to the new knobs to fit properly. For example I had to grind down a few plastic pins.

When control knobs was there it was easy to install the rest of the electronics and make sure that all connections were right. I used a flat iron to attach the battery holder. Since the inside is not visible the appearance is not important.

Step 5: Stylish Retro Radio Ready for Use

The final result was very good, both me and my girlfriend thinks. We have received many comments and appreciation from friends and family.

The radio was used many times during the summer. In retrospect, it was a good choice be able to use both batteries and grid connection for the mobility.

There is great satisfaction in giving new life to old gadgets. Especially considering today's materialistic society. I highly recommend to implement a similar project like this.

Amps and Speakers Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Amps and Speakers Contest 2016



    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest

    11 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I would urge people to check the value of a restored radio first. If the circuit board or chassis inside is damaged or badly corroded you're losing nothing by doing this, of course. I have an old "cathedral" tube radio. I think I'm going to restore it, or have it done, simply because it was my grand parent's. That might change as I find out just what that will cost. If cost is way out there, and value is nil when restored (it's a relatively common late 20s radio, nothing fancy or rare), I might just go this route. At least it will LOOK the same, and be useful in my den. I have thought about mounting a car radio, or some other radio with a remote, in it and leave the front and controls alone, just put a little light in the dial that comes on when powered up.

    2 replies

    If you going to restore the radio, which is a great thing to do, you have to check all resistors and condensators. They have a tendency to change with age, which might give bad or malfunction.
    If you have radio tubes, be extra careful, as they use high voltage, and that can be in the circuits for a long time after the power is removed (like days). So you have to handling it proper.

    There are some places on the net where they show how they restored old radios. I remember one specially that went through the a old stereo self loading record player/radio furniture that lost one channel. The site went through step by step how to fix this.

    Yes you are right. But this radio was in bad condition and the electronics was broken. For me there were only two options, to upgrade or discard the radio.

    I like the old and the new. taking something and giving it purpose gain. thank you for the share.

    1 reply

    to be clear....using this method does not result in the face of the radio reflecting channel movements. Turning the tuning knobs to change channels will be by feel since you have disconnected the tuning knob from the mechanics of the radio face, right?

    1 reply

    Yes, that's right, the old "FM scale" is not connected to the control knob. To do that it requires a lot of effort and sophistication.


    1 year ago

    At first I was disappointed that you did not attempt to re-use the original controls, but the finished radio looks so good I've changed my mind. What's nice about this approach is that it's actually simple enough for many people to do, while retaining at least the appearance of the original.

    1 reply

    Yes, exactly, for the vast majority it is difficult to renovate old electronic components. Especially when they are missing and are difficult to find. Thank you for your comment

    Part of me is so conflicted between upgrading or restoring old radios, but this came out really well. I'd love to see an instructable one day using the original control knobs

    1 reply

    Hello. I was thinking of renovating, but the components were in poor condition. Now it had to be like this instead. Thanks for your comment and glad you like the radio