First marketed in the
UK in 1939 housed in a wooden cabinet, the Pilot Little Maestro was
designed to fill a perceived gap in the market for a small, transportable
second set, perhaps for the bedroom or the kitchen. The compact design was
very popular and was followed in 1940 by a Bakelite cabinet version using the
After the war, in 1946,
Pilot continued to use the same Bakelite design and offered it not only in
'Walnut' Bakelite but also as Bakelite sprayed in a variety of pastel
colours. The chassis of the post war receiver had numerous small changes to
that of the pre-war one but the live chassis technology, the octal valve
range continued. In some models the dreaded
line cord (cable mains dropper) remained.
There was also an AC only
version, using 6.3V heater valves powered by a heater transformer and
therefore dispensing with the line cord - but the chassis remained 'live',
i.e. connected to one side of the mains, creating the possibility that
the chassis metalwork was at a potential of 230 volts AC, a possible
nasty and even lethal electric shock in waiting for the unwary. Live
chassis technology was very common to almost all makers at the time. The set pictured
here uses chassis version 2 and dates from 1946. Originally finished
in garish green, the cabinet was stripped using paint stripper (a
long and laborious task) until the attractive original swirled
The chassis was
modified by a change of smoothing and reservoir capacitors. With chassis
as compact as this one, great care must be taken to work out in advance
whether new additional components can be fitted - and where. The
original two were housed in a single tag-ended metal case and mounted
above the chassis. The new components fitted neatly below decks and left
the space vacated by the original twin capacitor for the large motor-run
capacitor that replaced the line cord.
All wax capacitors were
replaced and the set realigned. When the chassis was refitted to the
cabinet, the countersunk metal screw heads beneath the base of the cabinet
were sealed with hot wax to insulate them. The wire throw-out aerial
was isolated from the aerial coil winding by means of a 1000pF capacitor. A new length of twin-core
mains lead was fitted, ensuring that the set's on-off switch operated in
the live lead.
Performance of the little
set is very good with the aerial lead extended.
This Bakelite cabinet design
must hold the record for longevity: after Pilot had finished with it and
moved on to less deco influenced and more 'modern' styles, it continued to be available from a
variety of kit suppliers until at least the middle 1950s, offered as kits in both TRF
and superhet kit form as well as cabinet and chassis for home constructors
to house their own choice of circuitry.
The white capacitive 'dropper'
is just visible between the loudspeaker rim and the scale plate