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Highway Hi-Fi
The closing of the St. Paul Porky’s Drive-In on Sunday, April 3, 2011, brought back a great story that a customer told me, years ago, about hot rods in summertime and Highway Hi-Fi.

Until 1956 the only music heard in a car came from its AM radio. Then Chrysler introduced their Highway Hi-Fi record player. It used seven inch, 16 2/3 rpm “long-playing” discs that provided up to 45 minutes per side. Unfortunately, the playlist was limited and the device would not play conventional records.

But in 1960 RCA introduced the AP-1, a chrome-plated appliance designed to hang under the dash and play a stack of up to fourteen, seven-inch, 45 rpm records. The records were loaded onto a spindle that pointed downward. The tone-arm was forced up against the bottom record on the stack. When the record was done, the tone arm moved out of the way and the record dropped off the spindle into a pile at the bottom of the cabinet. The service manual gives no information about the stylus pressure, but it is reported to have been about an ounce-and-a-half.

AP-1 box

The timing of the introduction of the AP-1 was perfect for the woman in our story. She was one of the many kids who spent their Saturday nights cruising Lake Street in their hot rods. The route was book-ended on the west by the Porky’s at 31st and West Lake Street, and on the east by the Porky’s at 21st and East Lake Street.

Since there was no air-conditioning in most cars at the time, windows were open and each stoplight became an opportunity to converse between vehicles … or turn up the radio. She installed the AP-1 in her ’57 Chevy and played the tunes she wanted to hear. When another car would pull up next to her, she’d see them frantically tuning their radio, attempting to find the station she was listening to. By the time they finally gave up and leaned out their window to ask her, she was down the road.                       snr

Porky's sign



exploded view of AP-1

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