1956 through 1959 Columbia Highway Hi-Fi Discussion

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Playing 16-2/3-RPM Records on Modern Turntables

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From Joe Strickland:

I still have some of the 16RPM records offered with the Chrysler system in 1956. I used to own a '56 Chrysler Windsor with the system which plugged into the rear of the radio.  The RCA model probably used the large hole 45RPM records. The Chrysler 16 RPM units used custom made small hole records.

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From Tony:

I just bought "Davy Crockett" and "Pajama Game" records from the following gentleman:

Bob O'Reilly
2300 Brookdale Ave
Edmond, OK 73034

I believe that he still has one more of each of those two titles still for sale.

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From Lee:

I have owned both but currently have a new, in the box 16 2/3 rpm unit. I will be installing it in my 1957 DeSoto adventurer convertible when i finish the restoration. Like others have said the records are hard to find they were made for Chrysler corp. by Columbia records just for that player.

There were 36 records released in late 1955 when the player became available (records 1 through 6 came in a box set with every new player) and an additional 6 in mid-1956 for a total of 42 different titles. not including the dealer demo records from 1956 that were used to promote the features of the cars on test drives.

Since these were not intended to be resold to the public they were pretty much useless when the 1957 model year came out. This makes them hard to find today. (I have the dodge one). The option was canceled in early 1957 so information on brackets and mounting instructions are also hard to find.

I have been very lucky in that I have been able to find 31 of the 42 records so far but I am always looking for more. I would also like to look at making replacement sleeves for the records. I have photocopies of all but one of the sleeves.

From James Rudolph:

Just read in your extensive pages about your interest in Highway HiFi's. I have one installed in my '57 Imperial. Its installation would be the same as for that in 58 and 59 since the cars are so similar. As for '56 I do not know. 

I also have reproduction record jackets (blue paper).

Contact me if you have any interest.

Jim (Rudy) Rudolph JAMES_RUDOLPH@gillette.com
617-463-3517 days (EST)
617-438-2018 nights

From Henry:

I picked up the January '98 "Cars and Parts" at the local Giant Beagle Supermarket yesterday, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but the following ad:

1955-57 (sic) Mopar highway hi-fi 16-2/3 record player with 6 records. Excellent condition. 

Of course I called immediately, and of course it was already sold. For $400! With the proper records! Less than an hour away on Interstate 79 from my house!

Spend several very pleasant minutes with the seller, who commiserated appropriately. He shared the history of the unit - it came from his father-in-law's Chrysler. It seems he bought the car new (perhaps late in the model year) and convinced the dealer to deduct the cost of the HiFi (no small amount!) from the selling price. The gentleman continued that his wife remembered listening to the system as a little girl, and especially remembers how "Davy Crockett" skipped when they traveled over back roads. It was just so neat that when they sold the Chrysler they kept the HiFi, records, and sleeves (aargh!) in a trunk in the garage, where they remained until a few days ago.

From: Tony:

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I have two 16-2/3 RPM records intended for the 1956 Imperial Columbia record-player - The Pajama Game and Davy Crockett. I have never heard them, so here's my request:

Who has a hardware setup that will allow these records to be played and taped onto audiocassette? 

From Joe:

I have two records which I am going to tape. I have an early 70's Garrard turntable (automatic) which will play the 16rpm records and is still is excellent condition with the Shibata elliptical stylus (needle). I will try to get this done before I send the records to a member who wants them.

All the records which were available then were strictly monophonic, not stereo. It would be interesting to see if anyone still has record cutting equipment that could reproduce some modern copies to play on the Highway Hi-Fi units. I have a friend in West, TX who restores Juke boxes. I need to contact him and see if he knows someone who could make the 16rpm records.

From Henry:

I have a turntable attached to my computer that can handle any sized or speed disk, from 16 2/3 up to 16" 78rpm radio transcriptions. (I used it to transfer a "brand X" filmstrip and record set to M-JPEG and MPEG-1 video). The problem is that the Highway Hi-Fi records have an extremely small microgroove.

You'll note that, on the cover sleeve, Columbia warns not to attampt to play these records on a conventional turntable. After 23 years of looking for the Highway Hi-Fi disks, I'm afraid to try them out without confirmation that no damage will result.

On the other hand, in his autobiography "Maverick Inventor", Dr. Peter Goldmark commented that the 16-2/3 rpm speed was added to home audio equipment so that you could "take your Highway Hi-Fi records home" and play them.

From: Bob

There is probably a good reason to check on the specs required for either 33 1/3 or 16 2/3 records, although I used to play 16 2/3 "spoken word" records (from the Kaimuki Public Library) on my early '70's system without any concern. There's been an enormous evolution in needle/cartridge design from the 50's, still going on, but I haven't been keeping up. You might check with:

The Needle Doctor

which advertises in the "high-end" audio mags. I'd expect they could give accurate advice.

The record/needle interface is very "mechanical", with amazingly high forces working on very small areas - the wrong needle could rip through the vinyl and do irreparable damage.


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