67 AB165 BF Bassman "restoration" complete.


Apr 29, 2022
Parts Unknown
Yesterday, I finished up my poor-man's restoration of this 1967 BF AB165 Bassman which I picked up last year at a very low price of $500. I did not need another amp at the time, however for that price it was a steal considering today's market for these amps. I am by no means an "amp tech" and am very much learning. However I am moderately mechanical and I've learned things in the past by doing it, for example playing guitar or learning how to fix old air cooled Porsche 911s. So far, I have done re-caps and maintenance on 4 original BF amps in the past year, this Bassman, a Bandmaster, Pro Reverb and Super Reverb. All have turned out well.

Below are some photos of what the amp looked like when I got it vs. today. It had been painted a very ugly gray color, and the original grill cloth was unfortunately painted black. I was not able to save that grill cloth, but I replaced it with a piece of an early 70s "silverface" grill cloth and it looks great. The modern grill Fender grill cloth replacement which is available today, has wider rectangles on them than the originals did. I do not understand why no company is making accurate vintage Fender grill cloths? The modern ones have 2 rectangles per 1" and the vintage have 3 per 1". Its easy to spot a grill cloth if you look for that. So I went with the "silverface" piece since I could not find a "blackface" grill cloth piece.

Internally, I did the screen and grid resistors, rebuilt the bias board with all new diodes and resistor. It had a Sprague bias cap in there which someone had poorly soldered by just laying the leads over the terminal. The cap is fine, so I soldered it in properly. I replaced the power switch with a new Carling switch. I replaced the 220K negative feedback carbon comp resistors, which had drifted way high (to 376K). I used metal film for those because thats all I had on hand. I replaced the 2 100K carbon comp resistors leading to those with carbon comps which I did have on hand. I experimented with removing the 220K negative feedback resistors, however I did not like how it sounded when cranked to 10 on the volume through the Fryette Powerstation. When removing those, the distortion became very splatty and unfocused. Putting them back in, it became much more focused with a touch of natural compression.

I properly wired the 3 prong cord, giving it a chassis ground. I bypassed the original ground switch and removed the blue Ajax .047 death cap. Those sound great as caps for guitars and its good to have spares.

I did not replace the "tootsie roll" electrolytic caps on the board yet... but I will get to those. I did replace the doghouse caps though. It had original GE caps in there, and I replaced them with F&Ts.

I sprayed black matte Rustoleum paint over the badly painted gray tolex, to take it back to its original color. I had considered putting new tolex on it , however the original tolex is fine it was just badly painted grey. I removed some splatters of white paint on the rear panel. For whatever reason old amps often end up with splattered white paint on them. I put some black Rustoleum brush on paint on the power transformer to cover that rust, and some silver matte Rustoleum brush on paint on the rust spots on the internal of the chassis. Unfortunately there is rust over the date code on the internal chassis, and I dont want to mess with that or it may rub off.

All of the "iron" on this amp is original to 1967. The chassis codes date to early August. From my research, August was the last month or, one of the last months which any BF amps shipped before Fender went totally to SF. Various amps were phased in from Jan-August 67. I have yet to see any BF amp with September 67 date codes on them, and I look online all the time for them.

The amp took a fall at some point in its life, which is why there is a "gash" in the top of the rear chassis. Its also why the original switch is gone, probably.

With caps, resistors, diodes and paint, this "restoration" cost less than $50. So I am in it for $550 and it now would sell for at least several hundred dollars more. However I am not going to sell it. It sounds amazing. The cleans are great and the distortion/overdrive is rich and breaks up incredibly well. Its also very quiet now with no hum and very little hiss even if I turn both channels up to 10.

Last night after the work was done, I did some testing swapping out various output and preamp tubes. The 5881s that were in there, were harsh so I took those out and put in a new matched set of Groove Tubes 6L6s which sound great. I also tried a set of vintage RCA Black Plate 6L6s which I have, which sound amazing but I dont want those in this amp because they are valuable. The Groove Tubes are fine. Similarly, I tried a bunch of different 12AX7s and vintage RCA 7025s. I settled on newer JJ 12AX7s and a Groove Tubes 5881 in V4. I dont want to burn the vintage RCAs on this amp, but when they were in there with the Black Plate 6L6s they were amazing. Its no wonder that those vintage RCAs get a premium price when you can find them on ebay.

This amp has the AB165 "hum balance" in it, not real bias. Its not humming so everything is good, if not maybe a little cold biased. I messed with the hum balance control to see what it does, and it did not need any adjustment. Maybe some day I will take it to AA864 bias spec, but not right now.

I also have a 1964 AA864 which is pictured next to it in the photo below. Its nice to have both "flavors" of BF Bassmen.

If you find an old BF amp at a good price, scoop it up even if it needs work. A couple weeks ago, a 66 Showman in beat up condition sold for $550 on Ebay. Deals are out there if you are willing to do a little TLC. Thank you to everyone who helped me with advice, including Wally, Paul and others.

In the photos below, how it looks now are the first set of photos. What it looked like when I got it (sad condition grey and black) are the latter photos. Since the original photos were taken last year, I cleaned up the grill cloth on the 1964 so it looks good now. I'm missing one of the nuts to hold down the chassis straps on the 1967 so that is why it is bubbling up in the photo.


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Poster Extraordinaire
Mar 16, 2003
Memphis TN
Those are great amps, I've restored several BF and SF Bassman heads over the years. My first real amp was a BF Bassman head that I paid $75 for in the mid 70s, really I could have quit right there and kept it.
Great restoration enjoy the amp!


Apr 29, 2022
Parts Unknown
Id love to get a Traynor YBA1. Here is an original one from 1966 which sounds amazing and would be hard to beat. The Bassman sounds very different:

Here is a shootout, but its between a Bassman and a YBA-3