Comanches, Mohawks and Chippewa – Oh My!

These days, most Amateur Radio gear is identified with nothing more interesting than simple alpha-numeric designations like a Kenwood TS-570, Icom IC-7410, or Elecraft K3, but the naming landscape was far more colorful and romantic back in the day.

Heathkit chose the Native American to anchor their Amateur Radio product line
Heathkit chose the Native American to anchor their Amateur Radio product line

Heathkit, for example, chose to celebrate Native Americans with a variety of offerings for the Amateur market. Among those were the Apache transmitter and matching Mohawk receiver, the Cheyenne transmitter with the companion Comanche receiver, and a nifty little general coverage receiver called the Mohican. And it didn’t stop there either.  The Heathkit  6 Meter transmitter was named the Shawnee, and it’s rhyming 2 Meter cousin was the Pawnee.

Continuing the theme were Heathkit Kilowatt amplifiers  Warrior and Chippewa. And the VHF offering of the day was the Seneca. I have no clear explanation for the interesting Native American naming convention used by the former manufacturer from Benton Harbor, but I always enjoyed hearing those names on the air as a station would describe his rig. I was a youngster back then, and the mention of an Apache or Comanche always triggered thoughts of Roy and Trigger, or Hopalong and Gene, and a scene from a western would often play out while I vicariously rode the range while riding the airwaves.

And Heath didn’t hold a monopoly on creative license back then either, not by a long shot. The Hallicrafters company made a short-lived line of high-powered transceivers which paid homage to the weather. These included the Cyclone, Tornado and Hurricane. The later of these may be the only 2 KW transceiver ever produced.

The Clegg Company, out of New Jersey, was a big player in VHF gear throughout the 60s and chose names that were literally  out of this world. Imagine hearing something like this on a 6 Meter roundtable during the day. “Your Thor 6 is really punching through today, Old Man, I’m running a brand new Venus here”.  “Your turn, Bob, and let us know how we’re sounding on that new Interceptor receiver of yours”. No, I’m not making this up. And heaven knows what Clegg was thinking when they named their 6M/2M transceiver the Climaster Zeus.

The E.F. Johnson Company is another that obviously had a host of wacky creative talent in the product naming division during the 50s and 60s. I had the pleasure of cutting my teeth in Amateur Radio on a Johnson Viking Adventurer. Other wonderfully named gear from this pioneering company included the Viking Invader, Viking Ranger, Viking Valiant, Viking Challenger and the Viking Pacemaker.

Lafayette Radio had their Voyager transmitter, Swan Radio had the Astro and Cygnet transceivers, and Gonset offered the Commander, Communicator and Sidewinder to the Ham market.

And no conversation about the nostalgic names of gear from yesteryear would be complete without including the many fabulous offerings from the Ten-Tec arsenal of Amateur products.

The extensive Ten-Tec product line has included, or still includes, the Argonaut, Argosy, Century 21, Corsair, Delta, Eagle, Jupiter, Omni, Orion, Paragon, Pegasus, Rebel, Scout and Triton. And to their credit, Ten-Tec maintains a warm and friendly naming convention even to this day for many of their products, perhaps the sole practitioner of a practice that is quickly fading into the noise.

I get it that all things change. Change, in fact, is the one great constant of our Universe. But I still have a warm spot in my heart for all the wonderful names of the past. And lucky for me these names aren’t lost to the historians either. All I have to do is crank out a CQ on 40 Meters most any evening, and then sit back and listen as the Apaches, Mohawks and Chippewas come back from the ether.

Hi Ho Silver!



One thought on “Comanches, Mohawks and Chippewa – Oh My!”

  1. Oh Bill!!!!

    You are such a GIFTED writer. Nice Going! What a read, which I printed for the archives.
    My first rig: (1985), the HOTWATTER 101. Why the Sam Hill I sold it I don’t know. It was a dumb move. Such a fun rig!!
    Your website is OUTSTANDING!!

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