Thread Number: 74155  /  Tag: Vintage Dryers
1961 RCA Whirlpool Imperial Dryer - New Daily Driver
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Post# 979307   1/21/2018 at 10:21 (268 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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I just bought this RCA Whirlpool electric dryer at a local estate sale. I only paid $25. While cleaning it out I realized that the heating element had failed. I have already purchased a NOS one off of eBay. I also have already ordered an UV ozone bulb from Atlanta Light Bulbs. When tested at the sale it powered on just fine, I didn't wait for it to heat up.

It is going to be slotted in next to our SQ AWN432 to replace a modern late 2000s WP 29" gas dryer that has a warped, out-of-round drum that clunks once per rotation. It is driving me crazy! Don't ask how it got that way, I haven't the slightest idea, as it was like that when we got it. This vintage one is quiet. I've noticed how much heavier gauge the steel is vs the modern WP dryer. No contest!

The control panel lights up, too, I'm debating on whether to replace the incandescent bulb with a cool-white CFL, I think it would look better, but then it wouldn't be original. About the two speed fan, what really was the benefit for it? I cannot possibly see it being useful.

Being that the current dryer is gas and this new-old one is electric, an electrician who is a family friend is coming today to wire in a 240v circuit for it.

I also bought a vintage Atlas-Aire box fan and a 100w Drake soldering iron at the same estate sale.

***Please excuse my father's cardboard cutout of George H.W. Bush in the background***

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Post# 979314 , Reply# 1   1/21/2018 at 11:47 (268 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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Nice-looking machine.  Timed-drying, no auto-dry.  Auto-dry (thermostatic) at that time apparently was exclusive to the TOL Imperial Mark XII.

Gentle drying speed reduces the airflow and may also reduce the element wattage for less-intense input air temperature.

LME is 1965 model year, not 1961.  Serial number indicates manufacture 47th week of 1964.

Post# 979318 , Reply# 2   1/21/2018 at 11:53 (268 days old) by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        

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UV Lamp.

No more Polio : )

Post# 979322 , Reply# 3   1/21/2018 at 12:09 (268 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        

Dryer, not what is sold for one today!

Post# 979325 , Reply# 4   1/21/2018 at 12:47 (268 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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Thanks Glenn, I thought it looked more like the mid 1960s but I tried to count back on the center letters of the model number from a known one after trying to find the pattern. I guess I failed! I couldn't seem to find the dating information anywhere.

Thanks for the complement, Hans, I think it certainly is a more well built dryer than made today. I think it has features and style that one cannot get anymore.

Eddie, does that mean I can skip my polio vaccine and trust in RCA Whirlpool instead? Just kidding!

Post# 979327 , Reply# 5   1/21/2018 at 13:20 (268 days old) by toploader55 (Massachusetts Sand Bar, Cape Cod)        
@ Speed Queen

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With the UV lamp... You can skip all vaccines.

Who needs all those heavy metals and toxins when you have a Whirlpool UV Dryer.

Now get the UV Washer and there will be no more disease. ; )

Post# 979348 , Reply# 6   1/21/2018 at 15:52 (268 days old) by akronman (Akron/Cleveland Ohio)        
Very cool

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Nice design and fine machine. You can change the console light to anything that screws in, but the drum light needs to remain incandescent. It is the "ballast" for the ozone lamp. I can't electronically explain how it works, but the plain old incandescent light in the drum needs to be working for the ozone light to work.

Take a close-up, HDR pic of the electric diagram, we'll better be able to figure out both the light, and what all happens when you go to low speed.

Post# 979351 , Reply# 7   1/21/2018 at 16:07 (268 days old) by RP2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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Mark, that drum light wiring sounds like it works the same as the Intermatic hard wired timer/switch I installed for our front porch light.  It will only work with an incandescent bulb.  Also, if the bulb burns out, the indicator light on the timer goes out too, so I would assume that if the drum bulb burns out, the ozone lamp won't operate.


Here's a similar dryer that's been on CL around here for a couple of years.   It has the automatic drying cycle.   I think the price may have started out at $150 and now it's down to $40.  I noticed that the latest version of the ad now has Mike as a contact.  It used to be Vivian.  More pix in the link.



CLICK HERE TO GO TO RP2813's LINK on San Francisco Craigslist

Post# 979362 , Reply# 8   1/21/2018 at 18:25 (268 days old) by philcobendixduo (San Jose)        

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That dryer looks ALMOST the same as the one we had from the early/mid 1960's until 1987 BUT I seem to remember the background color of the dial being BLUE rather than brown. I don't recall it having the ozone lamp either but I may just not have been aware of it since I was but a wee lad when it was purchased.

All I could ever detect that the SUPER/GENTLE knob did was to shift the blower and the drum to a slower speed on GENTLE. When turned to SUPER, the drum and blower ran at "normal" speed and the SUPER light came on.

Sadly, I have no pictures of that set (had the matching washer, too). It was donated to a charity in 1987.
The washer had the "super sugilator", "magic mix filter" and bleach dispenser.

Post# 979365 , Reply# 9   1/21/2018 at 18:46 (268 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

With the perforated back of the drum in an electric dryer, this will be much slower than in a gas model due to the great inefficiency of the dryer design being compensated for by the higher BTU gas burner while the electric element stayed the same wattage. If you take the drum out, you can place strips of felt below and to the right of the heat inlet and to the left and above and below the exhaust port. This helps make sure more of the heated air goes through the drum and the tumbling fabrics instead of scooting behind it. At some time if you find a solid bulkhead dryer with the small door, you might be able to do a top or control panel transplant. I have a 37K BTU perforated drum back match all dryer and it is extremely fast.

Post# 979367 , Reply# 10   1/21/2018 at 18:57 (268 days old) by jeb (Mansfield Ohiio)        
auto dry

Isn't one half of the timer dial auto dry

Post# 979368 , Reply# 11   1/21/2018 at 19:03 (268 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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Drum rotation speed does not change on Super vs. Gentle ... only the blower speed changes.

Auto dry ... no.  The non-Wash 'n Wear cycle labeled for cycles 1 through 6 but it's timed.  There's probably a legend sticker under the lint filter door that outlines those cycles being for various fabric weights.

Post# 979369 , Reply# 12   1/21/2018 at 19:22 (268 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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Sadly no sticker, I presume I will get a crash course in timed drying specific to this machine.

I am going to guess that the 40 watt appliance bulb ballast for the UV lamp is just a glorified dropping resistor to take line voltage down to the 10 volts used by the UV bulb.

Anyone have the manual for a model similar to this one?

Not having used it yet, I don't know how much longer it will take. How bad are the inefficiencies in the design? Is it really that concerning? I don't want to have to modify the design. All the other perks of the design still outweigh any inefficacy in my mind, lighted controls, germicidal lamp and quieter than the current one with the damaged drum.

I am, however, ready to make a comparison of cycle time once installed. The current gas model clunked through 5 bath towels, 3 hand towels and a wash cloth spun out of my Maytag A207 in 45 minutes.

Post# 979390 , Reply# 13   1/22/2018 at 04:07 (267 days old) by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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"Drum rotation speed does not change on Super vs. Gentle ... only the blower speed changes"



How does that work?  The blower belt is connected to the motor pulley.  Is there some kind of mechanical something or other in there to slow it down? 


My parents were married in April, 1966.  They purchased a basic Maytag washer and a Whirlpool BOL dryer both new.  The dryer had the same drum as this one except no lights inside, but I've read that '66 had the next model drum.  Would theirs have been a left-over 65 model?  I have yet to see any pics on here of one like it.   The back side of hers looked much like this one too.  I changed the blower belt once when it broke.  It lasted 25+ years until the motor seized.   She just replaced it.

Post# 979403 , Reply# 14   1/22/2018 at 07:21 (267 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
Speed selector

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I'm not so sure that all it does is change the belt to the other pulley, I opened the back cover to the control compartment and not only is there the Bowden cable arrangement for the pulley shifter but there is a switch connected too. It does more than just the pulley, whether all the switch does is light the "Super" light and nothing else remains to be seen, but the schematic had quite a bit on just the switch.

I will have a picture of the wiring schematic/diagram tonight.

Post# 979411 , Reply# 15   1/22/2018 at 09:39 (267 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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The long-time CraigsList dryer cited in Reply #7 includes pictures showing how the blower belt shifter works.  The blower belt changes position on a dual-diameter pulley.  The drum is driven by a separate belt that does not change.  The switch is either only for the panel indicator light, or it may also change the element to a lower wattage if it's a dual-element.

Two-speed models of the direct-drive blower design had a baffle that moved to reduce the airflow rate and also reduced the element wattage.

Models offered for a few years in the 1970s that truly had multi tumble speeds did not change the airflow rate or element wattage.  The motor pulley to drive the drum was tapered from a smaller to a larger diameter, the drum belt shifted position on it to change the tumble RPM.

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Post# 979418 , Reply# 16   1/22/2018 at 10:20 (267 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
Pre Solid Back 2 Sp WP Electric Dryer

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The speed Sw changes the blower speed and the heater element wattage, On super the heater wattage is 5600 watts and on gentile it is 4600 watts.When you replace the element be sure that you got the exact element, and be sure to connect the three wires to the proper terminals. There was a similar looking element used in KM soft heat dryers around this time and that element will NOT work in this dryer.

This is a really cool well built dryer, but it will cost at least 3 times as much to run as your current gas dryer and emit at least three times the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in using it. It will also take around 50% longer to dry most loads.

In any event you should have fun using it for awhile but it is not a good long term solution for drying clothing if you dry more than about 2 loads a week.

John L.

Post# 979435 , Reply# 17   1/22/2018 at 12:30 (267 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
Thanks, Glenn and John

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Also, for reference, what is the difference between the KM soft heat element and this one?

I hope I ordered the right one, is this one right?

I ordered this:
(you have to scroll down as this is a completed listing and it shows suggestions first)

Post# 979447 , Reply# 18   1/22/2018 at 13:44 (267 days old) by potatochips (Nova Scotia)        

Beautifully styled dryer! Thanks for sharing, great find.

Post# 979485 , Reply# 19   1/22/2018 at 19:14 (267 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        

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Hi Richard, That appears to be the correct element, this one is a Gem-Line copy of the WP element, but should work fine.


Did you remove the old element to see if it actually is what failed ?, in my experience this element seldom failed, I have a lot of these elements brand new in boxes that I will never need.


John L.

Post# 979494 , Reply# 20   1/22/2018 at 19:51 (267 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
Element Failure

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Thanks for the confirmation, John, I was getting concerned for a second that I may have ordered the wrong one.

My first indication that something was wrong was an insulator and some loops of wire at the bottom when cleaning it out. [first image]

When I took it out as you just suggested I was greeted with a rusty mess. It looks as though it sat at the bottom of Lake St. Clair. This is surprising to me as there is little rust on this machine otherwise and the element still has a part number sticker indicating it was likely already a replacement. I know heat can damage metal but this seems excessive. Also a safety hazard because the live coils were touching the cage.

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Post# 979495 , Reply# 21   1/22/2018 at 19:52 (267 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
Wiring diagram

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For those interested here is the wiring diagram.

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Post# 979498 , Reply# 22   1/22/2018 at 20:08 (267 days old) by Maytag85 (SoCal )        

I would try to find a identical wiring diagram, and I would put it in a sheet protector to preserve the wiring diagram. I put the wiring diagram of my Maytag DG810 dryer in a sheet protector, and I did the same thing with my Lady Kenmore portable dryer.

Post# 979504 , Reply# 23   1/22/2018 at 20:17 (267 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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If it has stayed glued on there for the last 53 years, I don't presume it is going anywhere fast.

Post# 979509 , Reply# 24   1/22/2018 at 20:55 (267 days old) by Washerlover (Lake County, California: Wines With Altitude)        

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Beautiful dryer! I had a ‘65 two-speed in turquoise with matching washer. (Lost in wildfire two years ago)

My memory isn’t that great, however, that dryer did indeed have two drum rotation speeds. Maybe that changed in the later models compared to the earlier ones? I remember it was tricky to find a replacement belt for it because when you switched from “Super” to “Gentle,” the belt shifted on the pulley to change speeds.

Post# 979520 , Reply# 25   1/22/2018 at 23:42 (267 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
2 Speed Whirlpool Dryers

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There were three different styles of 2sp dryers, The first type [ 1964-1966 ] is the dryer being discussed in this thread where the blower and heat input changed, drum speed did not change.


The 2nd style [ 1967-1971 ] with a solid drum back had a flapper in the exhaust lint filter duct that restricted the air flow on gentile and reduced the heat input, again no change in drum speed.


The 3rd type [ 1972-1975 ] the drum speed could be varied, first year they gave you 3 tumble speeds and in the LAI and LAE models they only gave you two tumble speeds. On these models that had a variable temperature thromostat settings the heat input was reduced when you set the temperature below medium heat setting.


John L.

Post# 979784 , Reply# 26   1/24/2018 at 19:28 (265 days old) by PhilR (Quebec Canada)        

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I have a similar 1964 Canadian single speed RCA Whirlpool dryer (I don't think we ever had Inglis/Whirlpool 2 speed dryers here).

Mine does have the auto dry cycle and the older style drum and blower driven by V belt and pulleys at the back.

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Post# 979804 , Reply# 27   1/24/2018 at 21:38 (265 days old) by Maytag85 (SoCal )        

Does your RCA Whirlpool dryer have a belt and pulley system on it? I know that the blower on some of the early 60's Whirlpool/Kenmore dryers have a belt and and pulley for the blower, but does yours also have a belt and pulley for the drum?

Post# 979880 , Reply# 28   1/25/2018 at 11:43 (264 days old) by PhilR (Quebec Canada)        

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Yes it does.

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Post# 979911 , Reply# 29   1/25/2018 at 16:31 (264 days old) by Maytag85 (SoCal )        

Belt and pulley dryers are a lot quieter than dryers that have a belt that goes around the drum. I wish they still made dryers like these.

Post# 980516 , Reply# 30   1/29/2018 at 21:38 (260 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
It was installed today!

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The element came today and I installed it. After making a comparison video of it vs a modern 29" WP dryer, I ran the same load I did testing the modern dryer last week, spun out of the same Maytag A207, and despite preconceptions that it might not do so well I was blown away when it finished the load 5 minutes FASTER than the modern gas WP coming in at 40 minutes.

Here is a picture of the machine followed by one of the test load that was washed in the Maytag.

Later I will post a video of the general repair process and a comparison of this machine vs the modern one, as well as a video of it running after that.

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Post# 980744 , Reply# 31   1/31/2018 at 13:28 (258 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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Here is a video of the machine in operation.

Post# 980775 , Reply# 32   1/31/2018 at 17:08 (258 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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There should be a cool-down on the "regular" cycle but it's 5 mins, vs. W-n-W probably being 10 mins.

You can perhaps check the four thermostats for the target temperatures, they may be labeled accordingly.

Post# 980790 , Reply# 33   1/31/2018 at 20:13 (258 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
Thanks DADoES,

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I might do that eventually, I took it apart from the top this evening to grease the main sleeve bearing and oil the idler pulley as well as the fan shaft in hopes of quieting it down a little.

I noticed that the front felt and glides could use replacing, henceforth the scraping noises. Since no parts lookup site happens to list this model anymore, does anyone know what WP felt and glides part I should order, this being a small door model? It probably will be fine for service for a little while longer, but I figure that I might as well fix that, too.

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