G.E.C. AC Mains 3

This was the cheapest mains set in the 1934 GEC range, but as is often the case, now it is by far the most valuable. This is because it is one of very few British radios with a cabinet in the "Skyscraper" style. This was a cabinet design whereby the shape of the cabinet was directly influenced by the new practice of constructing buildings several stories high, then already known informally as skyscrapers. 

The (middle) photo above shows the old Shell-Mex building on the Thames Embankment in London. It was completed in 1932, and the design similarities are obvious. The Shell-Mex building features stepped concrete sides culminating in the clock face centrally placed at the top of the structure (which is some 220ft high, and even today remains the largest clock face in London). Like the building, the real defining aspect of this radio are the stepped cabinet sides as they rise to the top of the bakelite case. In the GEC Universal Mains 3 the steps are integral to the shape of the cabinet, and are further enhanced by the vertical bars protecting the speaker cloth. The vertical bars themselves have painted highlights that rise to a peak as the centre front of the cabinet is approached. The skyscraper style was adopted to a lesser degree by other manufacturers (see Ekco AC97 or Ferranti Nova for instance), but the GEC receiver really is the epitome of the style. A battery version, known as the "Compact Three" was released the same year in a similar, but not identical cabinet style. 

The BC3520 or Universal Mains Three, cost just 7.15.0. As its name suggests it operated from either AC or DC mains, and had three valves (including rectifier). With only two radio valves it can only be a T.R.F, and clearly it's positioned right at the bottom of the market. To operate on DC mains a 301 Barretter provides current regulation. When operated on AC mains a U30 half-wave rectifier valve is utilised. The other two valves are the H30 and N30 "Catkin" output valve. All these valves are very rare and hard to find today. Price constraints meant a large glass or acetate dial could not be provided for the receiver, instead a circular disk calibrated 0-100 degrees suffices, which was viewed through a small aperture in the cabinet. The dial was illuminated though, and a holder for a spare lamp was provided on the cardboard back. This is because the valve heaters and lamps are series fed, therefore in the event of the dial lamp failing the whole receiver would have been rendered inoperative as the series chain would have been broken. Wavechange selection is provided on the front of the receiver in the form of a push-pull switch. Somewhat inconveniently a mains on/off switch is provided at the rear of the receiver. 

So although it's a basic receiver, incapable or picking up anything but the strongest signals, (together with its battery version), this is probably the single most desirable GEC receiver. They are rarely seen nowadays, and if you do find one the price will certainly be in the hundreds of pounds.

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