Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR radio kit

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Welcome to the Lafayette KT-135 pages. If you found this site because you Googled "KT-135" then you're probably a fellow fan of this radio, and likely built one as a teenager. Below you will find a restored KT-135, and in the following pages some information, pictures and repair tips.

When properly constructed and used with a decent longwire antenna, the KT-135 is capable of surprising performance.
Lafayette Explor-Air KT-135
Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR regenerative radio (1958- 1965)
Lafayette Explor-Air
Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR regenerative radio (1965 - 1971)

Possible KT-135 pre production
Lafayette KT-135 1958 prototype recreation (See page 4)

Lafayette KT-135 Explor-Air
1968 Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR found on ebay in 2015

The radio directly above was originally built around 1968 by persons unknown. It was purchased on ebay in February of 2015, but it wasn't sold by the original owner, and there is no history on it.

Lafayette sold the KT-135 Explor-Air kit from 1958 to 1971. In 1972 the Lafayette catalog didn't carry a KT-135, but interestingly you could purchase the much older Philmore Model 7001C three tube, two band kit.

The copyright to Lafayette for "Explor-Air 4 band receiver kit" was granted on January 6, 1961. Originally sold in 1958 for $18.50, in 1963 it went up to $21.95. In 1964 the price rose to $22.95 and remained there till 1971.

According to Peter A. Markavage, who worked for Lafayette, the cost of the kit for Lafayette was about $9.00.

This 1968 version was purchased in 2015 for $90.91 which was a good deal. $90.91 was only worth $13.35 in 1968!
This is how it looked after it was restored.
Click for full size photo.
1971 KT-135
1971 KT-135
Above is yours truly in my "ham shack" in 1971. To the left of the KT-135 is a 40 meter transmitter. It was built into a wooden box that my dad's "English Leather" aftershave came in. Believe it or not, I actually made a few contacts with this setup. My first contact was made on April 28, 1971 with Emil B. Walker, WN8GBT in Columbus, Ohio.

The "ham shack" was a storage room in the basement that my parents let me use. On the outer door was a clasp that had a clothespin in it, but I put a padlock in its place so my brother Rob wouldn't mess with my stuff. This attempt to keep my brother out actually made him break in to see what was in there. I would have been better off with the clothespin.

I had a novice class license. My call letters were WN3QQE, which I hated. When I sent my call sign, the end of it sounded like "Dah-Dah-Dit-Dah, Dah-Dah-Dit-Dah, DIT". I didn't like that DIT at the end because it sounded so dumb. I wondered why I had been cursed with this by the FCC. C'mon man, FUNK DAT!
Notice the little desk I'm using. That was once in my bedroom, and it came from my Uncle Jim via my grandmother. I built my first crystal radio on that desk in 1966. In 1974 we moved to a new neighborhood and I lost track of it.
Here is the KT-135 right after I built it, but before I built the transmitter. On the left is a key and a code practice oscillator built into an old radio cabinet. Behind the KT-135 is a stack of Conan books, the real ones by Robert E. Howard! Above them on the shelf is my (useless) Astro Commander walkie-talkie. The plastic bag-looking thing is the dust cover on my enlarger, a Durst J35. These pictures were printed with that enlarger.
This colorized photo shows the second version of the transmitter. It's the same transmitter, but now it has a real power supply and is isolated from the AC line. This was a good idea, considering the floor was concrete and you could get shocked on the key. A piece of wood was nailed to the top of the desk to hold the KT-135. The transmitter chassis was actually that color. It was aluminum but had a bronze colored metal plating.
Before and After.
Before and After.
This is how it looked when I got it in the mail. It was in very good condition cosmetically and when I turned it on, IT WORKED! Sort of. It didn't work very well, and the antenna tuning control (on the bottom-left) gave a horrible static when you adjusted it. The vinyl clad wooden case is in excellent shape.
Gunk on panel
In addition to causing static, the antenna tuning knob wobbled. There was some kind of gunk on the faceplate that I initially thought was rust. It came off for the most part, but it took the letter "U" in "ANT. TUNING" with it. There was also a scratch near the BANDSWITCH control.
After the letter "U" was rebuilt. It's not perfect but it's hard to see when you're using the radio. To the right is a broken and glued knob. I don't know what kind of glue that was, but I got most of it off. ALL of the knobs had issues. One was glued on to the shaft!
The wiring was another story. I have no idea how this radio was working. Several of the connections didn't even have any solder on them. One of the resistors BROKE when I touched it.
No solder
No Solder
I don't want to be too critical of the soldering job. It's not an easy kit to build and it may have been somebody's first attempt at soldering. It worked when I turned it on, so I can't complain. The best thing for this radio was to take it apart, turn it back into a kit and put it back together.