Inside a 1938 Remote Broadcast Van

This text has been updated to correct the AM frequency in the second paragraph.

Here are two views of WWJ’s elaborate remote broadcast truck in 1938.

The lettering on the exterior of the vehicle shows the Detroit News radio station’s 920 AM frequency as well as W8XWJ, the call sign for WWJ’s early ultra-high frequency high-fidelity AM “Apex” station, which operated on 41,000 kHz. (To answer a reader inquiry: Thanks to the font used, the 920 on the side panel and rear door may appear to read 820 until we zoom in on the photo.)

The interior view shows a shortwave transmitter on the left, with the W8XWJ call sign on the microphone. The nameplate at the bottom says “The Detroit News Radio Transmitter — Power Output: 100 Watts — Freq. Range 1,500 — 50,000 kc. — Designed and built by the staff of WWJ-W8XWJ.”

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Photos from the Detroit News Archives

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Elsewhere in the vehicle we can see a number of National HRO, Hallicrafters and Collins shortwave receivers.

The wooden cabinet on the right rear is an especially interesting device. It’s a Finch radio facsimile printer, which could be used to receive news bulletins and photographs transmitted by the W8XWJ. (WWJ was one of the stations that experimented with facsimile broadcasting in the late ’30s.)

These photos are from the Detroit News Archives.

John Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. Write the author at This is one in a series of photo features from his collection. Find more under the Columns/Roots of Radio tabs at

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Comment List:

Boy, I'll bet that's an International Harvester. Back when we used to make things in this country.
By Duke & Banner on 12/17/2011
Author John Schneider tells us he assumes it’s a fire axe – a sort of “do-it-yourself” emergency exit.
By Paul McLane on 12/16/2011
So what's with the axe (seen at the back of the interior picture)?
By Andrew Dickens on 12/15/2011

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