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.
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: