Crosley “Fiver” 517 (circa 1937)

There are a few models called the Crosley “Fiver”.  This chassis (517) was used in a tombstone, a metal cabinet table radio, and a chairside radio (model  567, selling for $27.95).  The tombstone had two flavors…the one I have is the early 1937 version; this was changed later in 1937 to a plain and much less attractive design.

The advertising highlighted these features:

  • 2 Watts audio output
  • Pentode output tube (6K6)
  • 5” electro-dynamic speaker
  • 3” mirro-dial
  • Power supply line noise filter

The good stuff:  this is a well proportioned, nice size, attractive cabinet.  Not too big and not too small.  Nice tuning dial.  Open, accessible chassis.  AM and SW band.  The bad stuff:  cabinet has lost most of its finish, is a bit out of square, everything covered in thick dust, globs of wax in bottom under the AC power transformer.  The 5” electro-dynamic speaker needs to be checkedas it would be impossible to repair a bad coil.  There are two can electrolytics on the chassis, that have replaced the originals.  One tests good.  The other one is a huge Aerovox that is bad.  The chassis had been crudely repaired in the past (a business card was glued onto the chassis from L. C. Hartman Radio Service, Roanoke, VA).

For electrical restoration, I followed my usual procedure.

  • Remove dust, clean chassis with whatever works, then cover all surfaces in oil.
  • Clean and lube dial assembly, and variable cap.
  • Test the tubes (all were good, but no originals)
  • Replace all caps.
  • Test the main circuit components…make sure transformers are OK. Check coils on speaker.  One “flex resistor” had disintegrated so this was replaced with a modern unit.
  • Clean and burnish switch contacts, clean volume control
  • Replace line cord.
  • Connect to variac and slowly bring up to 115VAC over 1 hour.

Radio came alive and plays fine.  No hum problem.  The most amazing thing is that the dial calibration is spot on!!  So I did not perform an alignment.

In looking around on the web, a couple of things I noted:

First, I don’t think this tombstone had a back.  You were expected to connect an antenna and ground.  The radio doesn’t seem very sensitive, so this kind of makes sense.  I noted a couple of youtube videos where people connected it to ham or longwire antennas, and it did well.  But even in those videos it doesn’t pull in a lot of stations.

Second, the ac mains transformer runs hot!  This is also noted in a youtube video.  One restorer actually mounted a 12V dc fan on the back.  Guess this is why there was wax boiled out of it and in the bottom of my cabinet.  Best not to run this radio very long.  It’s pretty to look at, and fun to turn on and demo, but don’t leave the set on for a long period of casual listening.

Love the dial mechanism.  While it’s not super quality, the layout and markings look precision and allow for fine tuning.  They did a good job with making an inexpensive design work better than the sum of its parts.

Completed electrical resto 3/27/2016.

The radio before restoration
Cabinet finish was scraped but nothing missing.
Condition of cabinet as received
Back of radio, before restoration
Spider’s view of inside


Chassis before restoration. Note molten wax.
Chassis in all its dusty glory
Cabinet after re-finishing
Back view of radio after restoration
After resto
Crosley 517 Restoration by Gray Ghost Electronics
Radio after restoration
Crosley 517 after restoration by Gray Ghost Electronics
Radio after restoration.

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