A Heathkit re-resurrection?

exaggerated

From Heathkit’s website…

I just completed Heathkit’s online survey and felt a bit as if I were giving CPR to a has-been company – providing my little one-man boost to a team of folks who seem to be testing the waters to see if Heathkit can rise anew and capitalize on the “maker generation”.

When they went out of business, we all understood that kit-building could no longer compete economically or performance-wise with complex transceivers being squirted onto the market from Japan.

Then Elecraft came along and changed all that with better performing rigs at reduced cost.

So how might Heathkit make a viable return to the amateur market?

By providing a better alternative to MFJ’s Junk.

MFJ’s niche is cheaply-produced station accessories that we all need – tuners, antenna analyzers, etc. – none of which are held to any standard of quality that Elecraft or any other high quality manufacturer would put their name on. Ameritron belongs to MFJ and the same statement holds true for them.

In fact, it’s best to think of Ameritron amps as “near-kits” due to the corrective action that very often needs to take place prior to applying power.

The designs are sound – it’s the quality of assembly that is consistently lacking. I have an Ameritron amp (AL-80BQ) that I knew upon arrival would have to be treated as if it were a kit. I checked for (and found) bad solder joints and loose hardware.

What if Heathkit assembled a box of parts based on a proven 3-500Z design (their own SB220?) and let the customer provide the assembly? They’d end up with an amp similar in features to the poorly assembled AL-80B but with proper, customer-provided assembly.

The design(s) exists, the parts are cheap and the demand is there for an economical high-quality HF amp.

Ditto for antenna tuners, wattmeters, dummy loads, baluns, etc. If Heathkit could produce these items as kits at prices similar to MFJ’s, I think many hams would appreciate having an alternative to MFJ.

Anything that MFJ makes is a viable kit idea for a new Heathkit.

You can find the Heathkit survey here.

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Sidenote:
Thanks to Rene ON3VS for informing me of a Heathkit I’d never heard of – the SS9000. Costing $2700 in 1982 dollars, the SS9000 was too complex to be sold as a kit and was Heathkit’s final transceiver offered (completely built) from the company:

ss9000

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  9 comments for “A Heathkit re-resurrection?

  1. Jim
    June 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I would love to go back in time with a Heathkit build and a yellow covered manual.

    Regards,
    Jim

    • June 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Nostalgia would certainly be a factor for some in their decision to buy Heathkit products and the survey addresses this with a few questions.

      Ford and Dodge have certainly made use of that factor – just look at all the retro-looking Mustangs and Chargers you see on the road every day (I’m waiting on Chevy to produce a 70’s-looking Chevelle – there would go my Heathkit budget).

  2. Alan Dove
    June 5, 2013 at 9:37 am

    That’s a great idea. I also did the survey, and suggested that station accessories and small QRP rigs would be their best re-entry points. If they offer a couple of good accessories and maybe something like KD1JV’s ATS-series transceivers, I’d probably buy the whole catalog.

  3. June 5, 2013 at 11:45 am

    My first thought was that the QRP kit market is saturated with KD1JV, Elecraft and several others offering excellent kits in this category. It would take a talented designer with a proven track record to make something marketable – but then I realized that designs can be commissioned and bought in the same way that Elecraft’s N6KR allowed Wilderness Radio to kit and sell the SST, Norcal 40A and Sierra kits.

    I bet there’d be a market for a KD1JV-designed ATS-series of kits using thru-hole components and housed in a proper case (Heathkit green, of course).

    And no kits are yet being produced for the upcoming (2014?) access to the 600-meter band…

  4. Ira
    June 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Let me know if they come back. I have a lot of green in the shack

    • Scott W7SVJ
      January 4, 2015 at 10:13 am

      I too completed the survey over a year ago, nothing but crickets. I own both an SS-9000 and an 8000 that was assembled as a kit (I understand only a few were released, but the fellow I got it from was well connected with Heath management). I love both rigs, and have had no trouble with the 8000, but the 9000 has had a few minor issues related to poor solder joints and a pinched wire. I would welcome a return of kits, but sadly, I think the DIY spirit has evaporated from our throw away society.

      • Ira Miller
        January 4, 2015 at 7:45 pm

        Since I wrote that I have built a Ramsey, a Ten Tec, and a Elecraft. Still using the SB104a and SB102. Kits are still around. Would be nice if there was a green kit.

        • January 4, 2015 at 7:50 pm

          I believe there is a greater variety of ham radio kits today than there were when Heath was in business. Heath did have a wider variety overall though with kits to build stereos, car accessories, and so many other areas.

          • W7gm
            January 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm

            Is there anyone in charge of a Heathkit company anymore? There are hundreds of projects that could be investigated using the Arduino. Ten Tec has a transceiver using the Arduino. The kids are savvy with phones and games. And they quickly grasp programming. Heath was into education. Seems like a savvey CEO and management team and the Heath history could do something, or is it all lost?

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