I want a 1930s fridge!

A meeting place for regulars to discuss the lighter side of old-houses.

Moderators: oldhouse, TinaB, Don M, Schag

I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby catya on Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:59 am

I've been trying to find a new refrigerator for the last 2 years, I literally have gone through 3 of them. 2 I returned because they were much too noisy, and one did not function at all. That last one was truly surreal - it was 90 degrees in Wisconsin and when I called about returning it I was told that "all refrigerators are designed to run at a maximum of 75 degrees air temperature" and "it was working too hard." That's why it didn't work! Apparently, it was all my fault - I should have had air conditioning installed so that my fridge would work.

Anyway. I give up. After reading reviews, it's become clear that well built ones do not exist, except maybe for the large behemoths. That's what a salesman told me, that the small ones aren't built well because no one would pay $800-900-1000 for a small fridge which is what it would cost to build it right - whereas they'd pay that for one of the big suckers. However, since my front door measures only 29 inches wide - the supersize model is out of the question.

That's when it occured to me - I want one of those cool old fridges with legs and the motor on top! And, I thought, even if I have to pay 1 or 2 thousand to get it restored, heck, I'll do it. My thinking is that it would always retain SOME value, like a collector car. So why not?

Anyone know of someone who could do this in the Chicago area or within a 200-300 mile radius? Not finding anyone on the web. Has anyone done their own restoration? Anyone have any pics? I don't know why, I just love those things. Nothing says vintage kitchen like an old fridge.
catya
 
Posts: 661
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 10:55 am

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby shazapple on Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:42 am

I can't see a updated fridge being worth what you put into it. Retrofitting it would certainly be costly, because you'd have to replace almost all the mechanics (and probably the insulation too). As is they were pigs on electricity.

I don't imagine the retrofit would be too difficult, just time consuming, so a skilled HVAC tech would be able to do it.
shazapple
 
Posts: 471
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:08 am

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby airgrabber on Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:41 am

shazapple wrote:I can't see a updated fridge being worth what you put into it. Retrofitting it would certainly be costly, because you'd have to replace almost all the mechanics (and probably the insulation too). As is they were pigs on electricity.

I don't imagine the retrofit would be too difficult, just time consuming, so a skilled HVAC tech would be able to do it.



I love it when people say old fridges were "pigs on electricity". Not true. Up until the advent of self-defrosting coils ("frost-free" models) in the refrigerator's freezer section, fridges were actually quite frugal on electricity. The automatic defrosting models from the late '60s into the early '90s are the worst electricity guzzlers. Automatic ice makers make them even less efficient. Any domestic fridge produced from the thirties into the early '60s would work for what the OP wants to do. Just be aware of the trade offs of using an antique refrigerator for primary food storage:

1. Old refrigerators are smaller and therefore have smaller fresh food sections. The freezer sections usually are tiny compared to new units (especially within the GE Monitor Top that you reference as your target fridge). It helps to have an auxiliary stand-alone chest or upright freezer if you are feeding more than a couple of people.

2. Old refrigerators are not self-defrosting as stated above. You'll have to take a hair dryer and defrost it every so often.

3. Old refrigerators are OLD. A unit from 1940 is likely to need new door seals at least. A leaky door seal will render any fridge inefficient. However, many are found in good cosmetic shape and in running condition, though - so I might consider one of these rather than buying a professionally restored unit as these can run into the thousands of dollars...but then again, I'm a cheap bastard. If you can afford a restored double-door Monitor Top then more power to you. But I would also consider units other than the Monitor Top. Appliances from back then were built like tanks. The compressors in GE refrigerators of the 1930s into the early 1960s are nearly bulletproof. Of course, most use refrigerants you can't legally obtain anymore, but that really won't be a concern in "restored" units since most restorers convert them to modern refrigerants.

Here is my vintage fridge. A "Petal Pink" & turquoise GE Combination from 1958. It was free and very clean, works well. These were pictures from when I first got it; it's actually full of Yuengling Lager now.

Image
Image
Three may keep a secret, if two are dead.
Circa 1921 Dutch Colonial Revival
Image
airgrabber
 
Posts: 381
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:25 pm
Location: Bridgeton, NJ

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby catya on Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:53 pm

Ooooh, its nice. And oh so pink! The lazy susans would make access to the fridge so much easier. Or are they a PITA - seems like the centrifugal force might send your food and stuff flying across the room?

Yes, that is true about the old ones actually being more energy efficient. What one refrigerator guy told me is that the recent alterations in the compressor to make them more energy efficient is what's behind them now being so noisy and unreliable. Don't know if that's true or not - just repeating what I heard.

Don't know if I'd ever make the whole cost back, but I"m thinking it would retain SOME value..
catya
 
Posts: 661
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 10:55 am

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby Don M on Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:27 pm

Yes I had my Mom's GE fridge that was in the house when they bought it in 1961. It was a double door not as modern looking as Airgrabber's but itnever gave a bit of trouble & was still running fine when I gave it away in the early '90s.
1840 Limestone Farmhouse
Image
Don M
 
Posts: 6965
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2003 11:35 am
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby airgrabber on Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:34 pm

catya wrote:Ooooh, its nice. And oh so pink! The lazy susans would make access to the fridge so much easier. Or are they a PITA - seems like the centrifugal force might send your food and stuff flying across the room?

Yes, that is true about the old ones actually being more energy efficient. What one refrigerator guy told me is that the recent alterations in the compressor to make them more energy efficient is what's behind them now being so noisy and unreliable. Don't know if that's true or not - just repeating what I heard.

Don't know if I'd ever make the whole cost back, but I"m thinking it would retain SOME value..


Those shelves are cool in theory, but you have to be gentle with them when you're going for your sixth beer. :)

Never heard that before about modern refrigerator compressors. I have a new Haier fridge in the kitchen and it's louder than the old GE. I think that a lot of reliability problems of new appliances are the result of needlessly complex electronic controls (which probably add to the efficiency of the unit but not the ease of service - or cost thereof).

If you purchase an already restored unit and take care of it, it should retain a significant portion of its value. How much value exactly, I don't know - there's no "blue book" for appliances - but many pro restorers offer both units for restoration and restored units with warranties. GE Monitor Tops are a blue chip fridge "investment" if there is such a thing...their iconic shape ensures that they will be desirable for years to come. Make sure you get the matching Telechron clock if you go Monitor Top!
Three may keep a secret, if two are dead.
Circa 1921 Dutch Colonial Revival
Image
airgrabber
 
Posts: 381
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:25 pm
Location: Bridgeton, NJ

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby 1880 Stick Victorian on Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:19 pm

catya....we are in the same boat as you...looking for an older frig. I did some googling on appliance repair in my neck of the woods and have found a couple of businesses that will work on/restore old refrigerators. I know the monitor refrigerators can be a bit expensive but very cool looking appliances. I had one in an apartment i had back in 2002 and it kept everything nice and cold...granted there was not a lot of room but for one person it wasn't bad.. i can't remember if it had a tiny little freezer compartment or not... I've seen them on ebay and on craigslist as well.

My parents have a domed top westinghouse frig in their storage shed that they were given when they got married back in '61 from my mom's parents who bought it new in 1949. It has been running continuously since 1949 without any service calls since my parents have owned it. Amazing that it has ran 62 years without a problem...
Image
Theo. & Alice Fries House
Lyons, New York - 1880
1880 Stick Victorian
 
Posts: 833
Joined: Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:35 am
Location: Lyons, NY

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby Don M on Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:33 am

Wow, 62 years! If everyone had one of those they wouldn't sell very many new ones! Planned obsolesence :evil: & new technology keeps things moving!
1840 Limestone Farmhouse
Image
Don M
 
Posts: 6965
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2003 11:35 am
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby melissakd on Thu Apr 28, 2011 4:28 pm

Catya, what style/age is your house and also your kitchen? If you've got a later style than the 1920s, the coordinating fridge might be easier to find than a monitor-top.

MelissaKD
Image
The Thaddeus W. Bayless House
Built between July 1863 and January 1865, major add/reno between 1890 and 1902
Style = Mutt
melissakd
 
Posts: 3468
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 4:29 pm
Location: Indiana

Re: I want a 1930s fridge!

Postby cadrad on Thu Apr 28, 2011 4:50 pm

I hate myself! I had a moniter top GE for about 3 years in collage that I bought when someone I knew was cleaning out their grandparents cottage. $20 dollars! and it ran perfectly! (it was in pretty good shape) I had no way of moving it the three hours away from school where I graduated, so I had a buddy that kept it in his garage. He then moved and left it behind, and when I contacted the new owners, I found that they had had it hauled away to the dump!
Steven R.
muskegon MI
Charles E. Johnson house
1916 prairie style
Image
visit my new profile at http://www.wavyglass.org
cadrad
 
Posts: 441
Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 8:10 am

Next

Return to The Hangout Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron