This Cobra 21 CB radio originally joined my collection in November, 1976, during the CB radio craze. My father bought this after I talked up how handy it would be as we drove the interstates to our favorite fishing spot in downstate Illinois. The fact that a lot of my friends were on CB in their homes and cars also had an influence on why I wanted one.
I used a slide-mount attachment on the radio so I could move it between our family cars as well as connect it to a home-built 12 VDC power supply and base antenna on the roof of our house, effectively making it a base station. Here's a photo from 1979 of this radio connected to the power supply on the workbench at my folks' house:
You can see the slide-mount on the top of the radio, complete with Dymo label with my callsign (KAFS 2864) on the handle. The microphone is a Turner Super Sidekick amplified base-station mic which made this unit (and its operator) sound really good. There's also an in-line TV interference eliminator in the photo, right behind the mic. This seemed to keep the neighbors happy, but in those pre-cable-TV days it was easy for a CBer to splatter across Walter Cronkite.
The Cobra 21 was the little sister to the legendary Cobra 29, and shares many design elements that the company still uses in the CB radios it produces today. I think it's interesting to see the radios at truck stops and the way they look a lot like the ones that were made 30 years ago.
This radio is a 23-channel unit (40 channels didn't come into use until a year later), which was fine with me because most of my friends in the northwest suburbs of Chicago hung out on channels 6, 10, and 14. Hearing the truckers on channel 19 was always an adventure, and the radio delivered on its promise by warning us of many traffic jams and adverse weather conditions.
We bought this radio at a shop called 645 Electronics in Wheeling, Illinois: this was a great electronics hobbyist's shop because they had tons of stuff-- lots more than the local Radio Shack, Lafayette Radio, or Olson Electronics stores. I was sad to discover in the 1990s that the store had long since closed. I don't recall the price, but I'm sure it was reasonable at the time because I was a regular at 645 and a friend of mine worked there.
A few months after we got this radio, a local appliance chain started selling the smaller Cobra 19 and my dad picked up one of those. This was a truly bare-bones unit, and didn't even have a signal meter. That radio has been lost, but its mic survived: more on that in a bit.
It was CB radio that led me away from Shortwave Listening and DXing; I had spent a couple years as a very active listener, and here was an opportunity to become a broadcaster! During the next few years, I found myself in the more interactive world of CB radio, plus I now had a job, a car, and my interests extended beyond twisting dials (yes, that means I discovered girls). My 1974 VW Super Beetle sported a 108" fiberglass whip antenna mounted on its bumper, and I'd often be seen with a mic near my mouth.
Sometime in 1978 I got a deal on a Royce 40-channel CB (model 1-648, shown below in around 1980), and that became the unit that stayed in my car most often.
My interest in CB started to wane in the early 1980s. I got a new car in 1982 and I didn't bother getting a CB antenna for it. And by the time I moved out of my parents' house in 1984 my base antenna had already deteriorated to the point where I had to pull it down before I moved. The '21 went into storage, and my dad had already bought a Midland 77-824 40-channel unit to use on his road trips. (Unfortunately, the Royce was destroyed in a flood in 1986.)
Fast-forward to Father's Day 2011, when my dad returned the Cobra 21 to me. It needed to be cleaned up a bit-- there was an accumulation of dust and dirt all over the unit, the power cable's fuse holder had broken, and the microphone cable had partially pulled out of the mic connector. It was at this point that I discovered that the mic was actually from the Cobra 19, not the original 21 mic. I bought a new fuse holder, cigarette lighter cord, and microphone connector and installed them after giving the unit a thorough cleaning. You can see the result at the top of this page.
I tested out the radio with my wife sitting in the garage with my dad's Midland unit (which he also gave me) as I drove to pick up lunch one Sunday afternoon. The Cobra works perfectly!
My plan is to use this radio on upcoming road trips, and I'm sure I'll feel nostalgic as I press the "talk" button.
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