Tandem Tweed Amp Resurrection

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by TheGuitArchitect, Jan 22, 2019.

  1. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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    Hello good people! Recently I have had the good fortune to acquire a pair of 50's Fender amps in appalling condition. I want to get these amps back in shape as much as possible, and to retain as many original parts as is practical. The end goal is two great sounding amps that retain as much of the 50's fender "thing" as possible. So here they are, in the order I received them...

    1957 Fender Vibrolux 5F11:
    This amp was neglected for many years, then thrown away, then fished out of the dumpster and sold cheap. The gent who bought it (super nice guy) elected to flip it for slightly higher cash which is where I picked it up. It is missing 95% of the tweed, has frozen pots, delaminating wood, and corrosion on lots of the metal parts. That being said, all the parts I can see look like they are original to the amp. Thankfully, neither I nor the two guys before me plugged this one in. So hopefully the original iron can be saved. Here is a pic (with more to follow)...

    20181227_124934.jpg

    1955 Fender Pro 5E5A:
    This amp was a worker for a couple decades. Gigged pretty consistently and modded as needed to keep it going and make it more solid for the guy who used it to make a living all those years. Somehow it acquired an OT from a 1965 Twin Reverb in the early 70's. It went on the road a couple times, and eventually ended up in a bar fire in the early 80's. It was plucked from the wreckage and rebuilt at that time, then worked on again about 10 years ago with new electrolytics. I picked this one up from the player who had it for the last 35 to 40 years. He was not the original owner, but he was also a super nice guy. Many non original parts, but the PT, choke (?), chassis, cabinet and a few components are original to the amp. The tube chart says 5E5, but it has the additional controls so this has to be an early 5E5A. Here is a quick pic (with more to follow).

    20190121_213532.jpg

    So there they are. My gut reaction is to keep the Vibrolux in the current aesthetic condition while securing all the loose parts of the cab that would rattle. Of course the electronics all need to be tested, unfrozen, checked, etc... (This one is already at my amp guy's shop) I am interested in what you all think of it and any input you might have on what should be done to keep the soul of the amp intact while also bringing it back to life safely. As for the Pro I am thinking the cab needs to almost be rebuilt. It is too patched-up to maintain any mojo... I am thinking seriously about taking it to Vintage Amp Restoration here in St. Louis for a re-tweed. The chassis will make its way to my amp guy as well for the same treatment as the Vibrolux. Thanks for reading. Hope to keep you all posted on the progress.
     

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  2. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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  3. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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    And here area some additional pics of the Pro...
    20190121_213532.jpg 20190121_213537.jpg 20190121_215012.jpg 20190121_215012.jpg 20190121_213256.jpg 20190121_213306.jpg 20190121_213311.jpg 20190121_213316.jpg 20190121_213354.jpg 20190121_213402.jpg 20190121_213431.jpg
     
  4. corn husk bag

    corn husk bag TDPRI Member

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    Cool thread! who is your amp guy?
     
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  5. neilshane

    neilshane Tele-Meister

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    As the previous owner of that '57 Vibrolux, I wish you the best! I really hope you can get it roaring again!! Good luck! It's an amazing amplifier that I was fortunate to find so cheaply, but it was just too much of a project for me to take on. Happy it's in good hands!
     
  6. dannyh

    dannyh Tele-Afflicted

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    IF they were mine...

    I'd want to use these amps, so I'd be inclined to take the Vlux chassis out, get it working (if salvageable), and stick it in a new repro cab with a new speaker. I'd then take the original cab with speaker and put them on a shelf to display as a monument to all that poor amp has been through.

    The Pro doesn't look like there's that much original left, so I'd probably go the re-tweed route myself. Get the amp working best as possible. Install a new correct-to-the-circuit replacement OT. Make an "as vintage correct as possible" rat rod player out of it, if that makes any sense...

    I'm playing with imaginary house money too, so take that into consideration...Whatever you do, I'm envious of your situation. Best of luck! I'm subscribing to this thread.
     
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  7. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'd look for a original spec tranny for the Pro. I'd want it as close to original electronically as I could. As for the cab, probably a retweed.

    As for the Vibrolux, I think I'd just repair the cab as best as possible and have your tech bring the amp itself totally up to snuff. I like amps that look like hell and sound like heaven.

    Whatever you, do, keep us informed as to how they turn out.
     
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  8. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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    I work with a local amp wizard who repairs and builds amps out of his house. He goes by "Dave the Amp Guy" here in St. Louis. He has worked on a handfull of old Fender stuff for me as well as a few oddball amps. Solid work for sure. He feels the same way about old Fender stuff as I do... Holy ground, tread carefully.

    On that note... I heard from him today and the iron on the VLux has passed some initial tests. Not a full diagnosis on workability, but at least they are not dead! That was the biggest gamble on the VLux purchase... Hoping for the best...

    Thanks Neil! I'm glad we could connect on this and glad you are seeing it all move forward on this forum. When the V.Lux is done (however it ends up) I'll give you a shout and maybe you can come play it.

    Danny and Paul, Thanks for your thoughts. I am leaning toward keeping the cab for the VLux as long as I can quiet all the inevitable rattles and buzzes. I like the look of it the same way I like SRV's Strat. It tells a story for sure... unfortunately its a story about a damp garage instead of a smoky bar... ha!

    For the Pro I am mostly sure about a re-tweed and a proper OT. Doing a little research I believe the current OT is from a 1975 twin as opposed to a 1965... Just not right at all for the amp. What do you all think about a speaker for this? I have an original cone JBL D130F that needs a home... Any other options? I think alnico would be the right move here.
     
  9. King Fan

    King Fan Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I agree with your 'keep the look' idea on the Vibrolux. Heck, I almost hate to re-tweed the Pro. Did you ever see what the expert's face does on Antiques Roadshow when someone says they had their Chippendale re-finished? You can almost see the appraised value's zeroes falling on the floor.

    But, but... Do you plan to just keep and play these at home? Gig them? Set them aside as collector's items for the future? Or improve/restore them and flip them soon? Do you value the authenticity and the story, or the appearance and the vintage 'look'? I'm not down on either one -- at all -- but it affects what you do. TL;DR version: Do what feels right to you, and feel good you rescued two bits of music history. :)
     
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  10. DADGAD

    DADGAD Tele-Afflicted

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    Great amps. I hope you can Get them working again.

    Be sure to ask your amp guy to return any old parts that he replaces back to you.
     
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  11. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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    King Fan, Yeah I'm typically in your same camp with keeping stuff original, scars and all... with the Vibrolux I think that approach makes sense because everything on the cab is original to the amp. It just needs repair and a new handle. But with the Pro there is so much non original material... the baffle board and grill cloth is replaced, the handle, there is miscellaneous blocking cobbled together on the interior just to hold it together. Even the famous "narrow panels" have been replaced with 3/16" plywood held on with tacks!

    I think repairing the cab correctly is a minimum, but after that I think the repairs will be so visible that it won't look like a cool old amp with road wear, it will just look like it has been patched back together. That's what I'm learning toward the new tweed... But nothing is set in stone and I have the luxury of time on my side. So one step at a time and reevaluate along the way.
     
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  12. neilshane

    neilshane Tele-Meister

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    I would LOVE that! Thanks a lot. Looking forward to following the progress!
     
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  13. TheGuitArchitect

    TheGuitArchitect TDPRI Member

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    Hey folks... been a while, but it has been worth it... Quick update on the '57 Vibrolux... I got a call from my amp guy today and IT LIVES! The iron all checked out OK as did the yellow Astron caps. New electrolytics across the board of course. With a little TLC the speaker even came back to life. There is some amount of coil rub at higher volumes, so a re-cone will likely be needed at some point. The only real casualties are the potentiometers. They were frozen / corroded beyond repair. So new pots, new caps, and a future speaker repair are the only real issues. Dave did some real work cleaning up the amp and chassis... I know a toothbrush was involved...

    I heard it played over the phone and in a quick video from him and it is pretty cool to hear this amp for the first time. I'll be picking it up in the next week or two and I'll post pictures and video if possible. My initial plan is to use it as a head unit of sorts until I can have the speaker repaired properly. Pretty stoked to get this one back.

    -Cheers-
     
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  14. gridlock

    gridlock Friend of Leo's

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    Congrats and very cool story and amps.

    My thought, I would restore both amps as close to original, and I would even re-tolex both amps.
     
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  15. neilshane

    neilshane Tele-Meister

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    Fantastic!! Post pics and a vid when you can!
     
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