Radio brands manufactured by Bell Radio-Television Corporation Ltd
The Bell company, originally known as Antone Radio Ltd, began business in 1947.
Alan O’Brien and his brother-in-law Jim Stewart were returned servicemen who worked together at British Hearing Aids (N.Z.) Ltd after World War 2. They left to start their own company producing hearing aids as the government was planning a funded hearing aid scheme (which was announced in late 1947) - a venture which progressed as far as presenting their product to Mabel Howard, the Minister of Health at the time. It looked promising initially but ended in a dispute with British Hearing Aids.
Northern Advocate, 23rd November 1947
Undeterred, Alan and Jim then founded Antone Radio Ltd, and produced a revolutionary small portable radio which had a removable AC power pack that could be quickly replaced with a battery pack for portable use, making the set very small and light in a market where portable radios could probably more correctly be called 'luggable'. This clever model was on the market for 2 years until 1950.
Alan's wife was the sole salesperson, and sales went very well, to begin with - but radio technicians don’t necessarily make good businessmen and the company quickly ran into cash flow problems. They realised the need for someone with some business sense, and Mr Al Bell was brought in as a shareholder in 1950. At the same time, the portable was modified and updated, and joined by a small plastic mantle set called the 'Cadet' which was housed in a plastic cabinet purchased from Airzone in Australia. The only known schematic for this set shows Jim's name as having checked the drawing before release - but no date is shown. It was referred to in technical literature as the model 407.
Not too long after this, Alan and Jim sold their shares to him and left the company. Bell then renamed the organisation, showing his future intentions, as Bell Radio-Television Corporation Ltd.
Bell updated the Cadet model to use newer miniature valves but discontinued the portable. By 1951 he had replaced the Cadet as well, with a new small mantle set called the Bell Colt, which surely even he could not have foreseen the success. It would go on to sell, in various versions, in the tens of thousands over a span of almost 30 years and be found in homes and workplaces all over the country. He would also introduce a line of affordable radiograms to the public, while producing some very high-end products as well.
[MORE BELL AND GENERAL HISTORY TO COME]
The company ran until 1980 when it merged with Dominion Radio and Electrical (DRECO) (and Atlas Majestic?) to form Consolidated Industries Ltd which would go on to produce TVs, Stereos and other electronic equipment.
Alan went on to spend his working life at McAlpine Refrigeration and passed away in 2019, while Jim worked for Philips in Auckland for many years and then with the Electrical Registration Authority. Much of the information on Antone was gratefully received from Pat O'Brien, Alan's Son.