Vox: Single Manual Continentals

(I apologize for the size of this page.  It's just exploded since I started it.  Eventually, I'll split it up into multiple pages, but for now, just be patient and read the text while your browser loads all the images)


Let's see....a single manual organ, 4 octaves, no bass section, 2 voices, 3 single footages and one mixture, fixed, single-speed vibrato, no percussion, no sustain, no bass pedals - sounds like a cheap, bottom of the barrel model, right? Ah, but I've just described the infamous Vox Continental. Arguably the coolest of the combo organs, and in many ways the standard by which all others are judged, the Continental was probably used on more well-known hits of the 60's and early 70's than all other combo organs combined, and is still one of the most(if not THE most) sought-after combo organ around. They're not terribly uncommon, though, as combo organs go, but they do typically command a premium price (but still nowhere near the prices seen in the vintage guitar market!).

Controls:

The IV drawbar is a mixture of four ranks: 2-2/3', 2', 1-3/5' and 1' (The Roman numeral "IV" indicates the number of footages included in the mixture)  The "~" drawbar (aka "Foundation"), produces flute tones (it looks like a sine wave), and the "M" drawbar (aka "Reed") produces brighter tones (it looks like a sawtooth wave).   If the ~ and M drawbars are all the way in, no sound at all comes out.  Each of these two controls it's own voice in the footages selected by the other four drawbars.  Example: If you have 16' and 8' all the way out, and all others in, you get nothing.  If you pull the ~ drawbar out, you get 16' and 8' flute tones.  If you pull the "M" drawbar out, it adds 16' and 8' reed tones.  So the first four control the ranks, or pitches, and the last two control the timbre, or voice, of the selected ranks.  Get it? 

Vibrato Speed/Depth control modification Click in this link to go to a site with detailed instructions on adding speed and depth controls to an Italian Continental (the concepts would probably still hold for UK or US, but the hookup points may be different)

Original Prices:

The following prices have come from various sources, which I've documented briefly.  They're probably so variable because of the differences between UK, US and Italian models, as well as declining demand as time went on. Of course, some were "list" prices, and some were "street" prices, which typically differ by as much as 30% or more.  If you have any price lists, or clear recollections from way back when, I'd love to hear from you, and add to the pile.

I've heard from various people that back then, salespeople would always steer potential organ customers toward Farfisas, and away from most everything else.

Design and Construction

I asked Derek Underdown to expound a bit on some of the design motives behind the Continental.  Here's what he had to say:

"The intention was to achieve a Hammond sound in addition to typical theatre organ tones.   The drawbars were intended to look and operate like the Hammond style. They had previously been used on our earlier theatre type organs, "J" series. I don't know of any other organ company that used this type of drawbar at that time.  The reverse coloured keys were intentional to create a striking appearance and was influenced by the old spinet/harpsichord instruments."

Others have suggested just such a notion (that it was intended to emulate a Hammond), but I must say I was rather surprised to hear it "straight from the horse's mouth", so to speak.  It does seem rather paradoxical that the Continental, designed to emulate/replace the Hammond organ, spawned a whole new genre of organ music, totally foreign to the typical Hammond sound, which eventually "matured" beyond the cheesy combo organ sound, and evolved into the classic Hammond/Leslie rock band combination (or "combo", heh, heh), eventually relegating the Continental and it's brethren to dusty attics and music shop back rooms barely 10 years after it's introduction.  Of course, today (now that we've all come to our senses), it enjoys the same "vintage collectible" status as it's Hammond "nemesis".

Regarding the fixed, single-speed Vibrato:

"Vibrato was left at a fixed rate for space saving on the control surfaces and for simplicity. It is quite easy to convert it into a variable vibrato by adding a variable resistor into one of the arms of the "parallel-T" network, as we did with the theatre organs"

The Continental's filtering is a bit unusual.  Instead of taking the raw square wave output from the oscillators, mixing them together and filtering at a global level, there are individual filters located at the output of each frequency divider, thus sending sawtooth waves to the keyboard.  A further global filter is used after that to create the Foundation(flute) tones.  Derek speaks briefly about the choice of waveforms:

"[The] foundation tone...needed to be a good Sine wave shape over the whole of the keyboard.  The best way to get this was to convert the natural sawtooth waveform of the oscillators. This then gives you the standard (and only) Hammond sound. We gained the added advantage of being able to add in some or all of the sawtooth tones."

Regarding the target market:

"Many groups/rock bands in the UK were using the Hammond spinet two manual+pedal organs at that time. This instrument as you know is very heavy and not liked by the roadies when they had to move the bands equipment every night while on tour type gigs. It was our idea to use our technology to give the groups the Hammond sound but in lightweight/portable form."

Drawbar and contact assemblies:

"The actual drawbar assemblies were designed by myself in conjunction with the manufacturer Kimber and Allen Ltd,. Swanly, Kent.  My contact there was a Mr. Milton. (now retired).  This company also made all of the electrical contact assemblies which we modified from their standard pipe organ assemblies"

(Derek may have been referring to the Continental II, which he designed.  According to Dave Linsell, Kimber-Allen also made the plastic keyboards used in the Continental II)

Many Continentals (single and double manual) have a tag with a name hand-written.  I've seen or heard of a few that say "Jasmine".  I'm sure there must have been others.  Here's that Dave Linsell has to say about that:

"...the cable looms were made-up using 'pin-boards' in a psychiatric hospital (long-since closed) called Stone House, located about 1 mile to the east of the Vox/JMI Dartford factory in Stone, Kent...It was a horrible Victorian-style secure institution and we would visit from time-to-time to ensure things were being made properly etc. I don't know about the commercial arrangement, but I would guess that this 'sub-contract' set-up produced a high proportion of the looms used for keyboard-isolator interconnects...The cable looms, keyboards and isolator 'biscuits' were then assembled in Dartford or Erith, and that's probably where the 'Jasmine' tag originated - I didn't know her though."

Keyboards

According to Dave Linsell, the UK wooden keyboards were built by Herrburger Brooks

http://www.uk-piano.org/herrburgerbrooks/index.html

Continental 198p.jpg (43475 bytes)

Optional Features

The first Continentals were offered with a Perspex (or Plexiglass, for those of us on the west side of the pond) music stand, which was an expensive, little-requested option. You can see it in some of the promo pictures below.  Another optional feature was a Repeat Percussion.   Derek Underdown does not remember fitting any Continentals with it, but concedes that some may have gone out as prototypes.  This optional circuit  (and a 5th set of key contacts used to trigger it) is shown on an early block diagram of the circuit, but there's no detail. And perhaps oddest of all, a 1964 catalog indicates that the Continental could be powered by either Mains (regular AC power) or batteries!  Whoa! Derek confirmed that this idea was indeed considered, but he's fairly certain that, due to lack of customer interest, it was never actually implemented.


Model Variations

Since the Vox organ line was produced over so many years, by so many different companies, numerous variations have crept into the design. There are always going to be one-off's, aftermarket modifications, and other unexplained anomalies to be found, but I've attempted to document here the most common (and actual production) variations found.

Regarding model names,  there are four major categories of models:

Origin Model Name(s)
UK: JMI TC (a.k.a. "V301J")
US: Thomas V301H
Italy: EME, GEM V301E, V301E/2, V302E
UK: Vox Sound, Ltd. STC 

All of the UK models I've seen have either "TC" in the model name, or else the space is blank (examples can be seen below).  TC stood for "Transistor Continental" (no, there wasn't a corresponding  "valve" version).  The designation "V301J", used by some to refer to UK Continentals, was never (as far as I know) used by JMI, and never appeared on any UK ID badge or literature.  It was used by Thomas Organ in their service literature to designate the UK models, with the "J" probably standing for "Jennings".  The "E" in V301E may have stood for "EME", and the "H" in V301H stood, I'm told, for Hayvenhurst Ave., where the Thomas organ plant was located in Sepulveda, CA.  I've seen what I believe was a Vox Sound Continental that had the model designation "STC", which, I presume, stood for "Silicon Transistor Continental".

ALL of the Italian Continentals were built by EME - nearly every one of the internal paper ID tags I've seen (the ones with the production dates stamped on them, found on virtually every Italian Vox organ) bears the name, both printed and signed, of either Tersino Ilari or Giuliano Claretti, both of whom were technicians at EME, responsible for the final testing of the organs.  This fact has been confirmed by Terzino Ilari himself.  Neither GEM nor JEN ever produced any Continentals.  Only the Junior and one version of the Jaguar were made by GEM.  JEN only made the Vox Piano and the "String Thing".

UK Version 1, aka "Square Top" (1962)


This promotional picture depicts the very earliest style of Continental, of which only about 100 were produced.   The name "Square Top" was coined by fellow Combonaut, Micke L, and, for lack of a better designation, seems to have stuck.  Note how the top is the same height front-to-back, and it's front edge is vertical rather than slanted.  Compare this to the top design of later models (many shown further below).  Note also that the top is shorter, front-to-back.  The internals of this one are quite different than most you see, due to the more limited space inside.  It also had a very different style mains/vibrato switch and pilot light.  Read on...

The "Square Top"

This version is quite rare.  Many thanks to Stefan for supplying me with these pictures of his "Square Top"

SQTFront.jpg (43915 bytes) SQTSide.jpg (48625 bytes)

Well, there's a surprise - beveled front edges on the stand?  Maybe this was not the original stand.

SQTBoard.jpg (75467 bytes)

Primitive generator board design.  Dig the point-to-point wiring - no Printed Circuits here!

SQTBoards.jpg (83137 bytes)

This must be the "milk crate" design mentioned by Dick Denney in Mark Vail's "Vintage Synthesizers", also described as "mounted onto metal plates" by Derek Underdown (see quote above).

SQTDbars.jpg (63484 bytes)

Blank drawbars and a legend strip on top.

SQTDbars1.jpg (134825 bytes)
   

 

 

Another view of the one shown in the promo picture above

Live, with the Tornadoes, April, 1963.  Note the unusual "VOX" logo on the left, and the "Warning" ID badge on the right.

 

Another of the Tornados.  Looks like a square top, and is that a music stand?

MK1d.jpg (77024 bytes)

1964 catalog - this weren't no '64 model!

(not sure if this was a JMI or Thomas catalog)

1965 Thomas/Vox Catalog - still showing old "Square Top", this time without his music stand

Tornados2.jpg (33876 bytes)

Another of the Tornados.

And a few more shots of the "square top":

 DC5a.jpg (37884 bytes)DC5b.jpg (31480 bytes)

DC5c.jpg (39623 bytes)DC5d.jpg (21453 bytes)

Here's what Derek Underdown has to say about the internal design of the early Continentals: "I don't have records of change dates for method of fixing the tone oscillators, however, the earlier Continentals had restricted room inside that limited methods of fitting the tone chassis. Soon after the first production batch of cases were sold the case and chassis fixing was modified to the more robust form you have seen on later models. There was probably not more than 100 or so of the first batch made. Circuitry remained substantially the same over the whole run."  

and: "If I remember rightly this version had case dimensions that were a bit tight, so oscillator boards did not have room to be mounted onto metal plates as we did on our larger organs"

By "metal plates" I assume he's talking about those found on Version 2 (below)


UK Version 2 (1963)

MK1a.jpg (45377 bytes)
 

The next version of the JMI continental came out, I believe, some time in 1963. This specimen, one of only a few I've sen, has oscillator boards dated "30 NOV 1963".  The lowest "C" key does not have a date stamped on it, but does have the words: "LONG EATON NOTTINGHAM".  It has the same style Mains/Vibrato switches and pilot light as the Square Top, but has the more typical slanted top configuration, and the same primitive "milk crate" generator boards.  I don't know how many of these were produced, but I've been told they're not that uncommon in the UK.  

(Thanks to Henry Badowski for the pictures of this one)

MK1b.jpg (65052 bytes)

Primitive "milk crate" generator boards.  While I don't have a full view picture of the organ, Henry assures me it's NOT a Square Top, and also notes that the vinyl covering is not original. Sadly, the ID badges are missing as well.

 MK1c.jpg (54721 bytes)


UK Version 2.5 (early 1964)

Version25fa.jpg (91603 bytes) Here we see the first appearance of the far more common control panel, with it's rectangular Mains and Vibrato switches and pilot light.  The generator boards (still the original style) on this one are labeled with dates from December 1963 thru late January 1964, making it (possibly) a slightly later incarnation than Henry's "Version 2" (above).  

I discovered this model long after coming up with the "UK Version x" designations, and rather than confuse the whole combo organ world, I took the suggestion of it's owner and decided to call it Version 2.5.

The serial number is partly obscured, and appears to start with "21", which fits neatly into not a single sequence of any UK Continental serial numbers I know of.

(Thanks to John for the photos and the "Version 2.5" designation)

Version25a.jpg (131988 bytes)

Same primitive generator design as Version 1 and 2

Version25b.jpg (167229 bytes) Version25c.jpg (197827 bytes)

Note the "Manufactured by The Jennings Organ Company, Ltd".  Later UK continentals say "Jennings Musical Industries, Ltd".   

Version25d.jpg (96574 bytes)

Typical later style drawbar panel.  (Vibrato switch is obviously an aftermarket replacement)

Version25e.jpg (118187 bytes)

Smooth Rexine top

Version25g.jpeg (16460 bytes)

Here's the "Jasmine" tag referenced by the previous paragraph regarding construction details


UK Version 3 (mid-to-late 1964)

MK13a.jpg (73477 bytes)

 

Some time in mid-to-late 1964(probably) the Continental saw more changes.  The oscillator board style was changed, as was the mounting method, this time lining them up all together in one large cage, on a slight diagonal.  These boards are much wider than any other style.  The specimen at left is dated September, 1964.

 (Thanks to David Egrefin for this picture and the ones below)

MK13b.jpg (55974 bytes)

Extra knob is "Vibrato Speed" - definitely NOT an original feature!

MK13c.jpg (96448 bytes)

Early UK ID plate.  Note the "Manufactured by The Jennings Organ Company, LTD", rather than the more later "Jennings Musical Industries".  
MK13d.jpg (55374 bytes)

With the top on, it looks just like all the others.

64Contident1.jpg (17637 bytes)

This is where the date was found on another one - 10/15/64

64Contident2.jpeg (12974 bytes)

And a closer view of the date at left

 

You can see more pictures of this Continental at David Egrefin's web site.  Click on "Vox Continental I" (and check out his Compact Duo and Philicorda while you're there)


UK Version 4 (1965 and later)

V301J.jpg (24276 bytes)  This is the UK version you most often see, with the typical top design, oscillator board style, and Mains/Vibrato switch and pilot light.  

I've included below a couple of representative ID badges, one with and one without the "TC" model name, as well as one of the paper tags sometimes found just behind the drawbars.  The serial number on the paper tag seems totally unrelated to the one on the metal badge, and I'm not sure what it represents.

(Picture courtesy of Warpdrive Musical)

ContinentalDrawbars.jpg (34326 bytes)

Typical later UK drawbar panel

V301Jinnards.jpg (66904 bytes)

Silver Power supply box, black drawbar assembly, most common UK generator board design - typical for this version 

V301JSilver.jpg (50076 bytes)

Silver drawbar assembly on this one.  Not sure of the significance of that. (Thanks, Allan)

TCNameplate.jpg (69854 bytes)

*Model No. "TC"

TCNameplate2.jpg (62929 bytes)

Model No.    (not specified)

UKContiparts.jpg (119459 bytes)

A disassembled '65 model (ready for restoration), with the silver drawbar assembly.  I thought this was an interesting picture.

TCIDTag1a.jpg (47693 bytes)

Paper ID tag located just behind the drawbars.

   

 


UK Version 5 (date unknown)

V301JVa.jpg (83225 bytes) This one's really very much like Version 4 (above),  The main outward difference being the drawbars - they're white and red, more like the US models.  The internal layout of the circuit boards is also somewhat different.

(Pictures of this one, courtesy of Ralph D. Sherman  Click on the name to visit his web site - maybe he can help you out some time)

Other than the drawbar colors, the main difference with this one is the internal design.  Rather than the large metal power supply box found in previous versions, there is a transformer, and two circuit boards, for Vibrato and Power Supply circuitry, fixed to the left of the generator boards, much in the same manner as the Italian models.

V301JVb.jpg (109973 bytes)

Right two drawbars are still more reddish that US models.

V301JVc.jpg (79567 bytes)

Good closeup showing the vinyl grain on the top.

 

 
V301JVe.jpg (111445 bytes)

ID badge looks typical

V301JVf.jpg (156235 bytes)

Somewhat more "Italian" style(note the two circuit boards sitting atop the power supply), but still the later UK style generator boards, and, of course, good ol' wood keys!

V301JVg.jpg (86096 bytes)

Another specimen.  In this one you can see the black power supply case, looking just like the one in Version 6 (below)

(Thanks to Dave B for this one)


UK Version 6 (date unknown - possibly 1967)

V301Jplastic.jpg (31240 bytes) A real odd bird, this one.  Very much like Version 5 (above),  but look at those keys!  They sure don't look like wood, but they're not like any plastic ones I've seen, either.  I believe they're the same all-plastic keys used on the dual manual UK Continentals.  According to Dave Linsell, the wood keys were probably phased out around 1967.
V301Jplastic2.jpg (41028 bytes)

Looks pretty standard on the outside, though.

V301Jplastic3.jpg (31215 bytes)

US-made Thomas, Model V301H (Early 1966)

V301H.jpg (29007 bytes)

This the Continental built by Thomas Organ in Sepulveda, CA.  They must have been in an awful hurry to get their chunk of the exploding Combo Organ market, because they cranked this sucker out for only about 4 months (~Feb-Jun 1966), then stopped production and began marketing Italian-built organs exclusively.

The V301H is a bit mysterious, what with the wooden keys and rear supports just like it's UK brethren, but with a very different oscillator board design, and straddling the fence on the drawbar tip color (White like Italians, Red like UK models).  While not as common as Italian models, they're certainly not as rare as some would have you believe.  I've seen quite a few of these on eBay and elsewhere.  In fact, I own one myself!

(Thanks to Tom and to Antonio for the pictures)

V301HDrawbars.jpg (108866 bytes)

Control Panel Layout.  The "Red" drawbar tips tend to be a bit more on the Burgundy side than UK models.

V301HBack.jpg (26710 bytes)

Rear view - braces meet at a single point

 

V301HNameplate.jpg (63728 bytes)

Typical ID Badge

 

V301Hinnards.jpg (107587 bytes)

Insides:  Metal power supply box, unusual generator boards,  wooden keys.

V301HOsc3.jpg (45854 bytes)

Two views of the Generator board

V301Hinnards2.jpg (111376 bytes)

Italian: Very early V301/E2 "single-point" (mid-1966)

V301Esinglept1.jpg (56039 bytes) Yep, this one is Italian, through and through. It's a V301/E2, but look at those leg braces!  And there's no evidence that this one has been re-covered or otherwise modified.  All I can figure is that the first few models out of the Italian factory used the UK stands with the single-point leg braces, and later went to the crossed style.  I've seen a handful like this, all with very low serial numbers, so I don't believe it's a one-off or a hatchet job or anything like that.

The only date I have for one is 6/27/66, the earliest date I've seen for any Italian Continental, and just after the latest date I've seen for any US Continental.

(Thanks to Sandy A. for these photos)

Otherwise, it's pretty much like the other V301E/2's (below)

V301Esinglept3.jpg (52780 bytes)V301Esinglept2.jpg (67122 bytes)


Italian V301E/2 (1966-1967)

 V301E2a.jpg (54733 bytes) The first Italian version, built by EME.  Standard Italian characteristics include White/Black drawbar tips, plastic keys, and crossed rear braces.  This model had a medium-dark grey textured vinyl covering.

I've seen dates on these ranging from mid '66 to early '67.

V301E2c.jpg (55081 bytes)

Rear view - crossed leg braces

V301E2b.jpg (43173 bytes)

Control panel

V301E2d.jpg (59704 bytes)

Internals

VinylV301E2.jpg (44082 bytes)

ID Badge - good view of the vinyl texture, too.

V301E2tag.jpg (31325 bytes) Internal paper ID tag

Italian V302E (1967)

V302Ea.jpg (32819 bytes) This one is sort of an oddball.  At first, I thought perhaps it was just a typo, but it turns out it's a real model variation.  It's pretty much identical to the V301E's, with the following improvement:  " the '2' has a built in keystoke pressure adjustment. In the metal part of each key, there is a small wedge shaped piece of plastic with a screw on the top. You are able to slide the plastic part back and forth, changing the distance between the key and the contact trigger below. This lets you change how far down you have to press the key to get the full tone to sound. This is much easier than gluing different sized shims to the bottom of your English Continental's wooden keys."  (thanks to Mark J. for this tidbit) 

This design change apparently continued with the V301E models that followed

I've documented several examples of this model, and they all fit in neatly, date-wise, between the V301E/2's and the later V301E's - all from late '67 to early '68.

Sharp-eyed combonaut Micke Lindgren noticed that on the internal paper ID tags, the "0" following "105" has had a number "2" hand-written over it in red ink (you can see this in the example below).  Every one I've followed up on has been like this.

Another interesting, but not terribly relevant detail:  In the 1969 price list, the Stand/Case Combo appeared as model V302 (but was not priced separately)

V302Eb.jpg (26864 bytes)

Looks just like any other Italian

V302Ec.jpg (29605 bytes)

Looks like the others, but note the "2" in red written over the second "0" in the serial.

V302Ed.jpg (64734 bytes)

No surprises here, either. (leftmost yellow drawbar tip is non-standard, I'm sure)

V302Ef.jpg (238485 bytes)

Note the "2" is part of the stamped serial number.


Italian - V301E (1968)

V301Ea.jpg (93227 bytes) The second Italian version, also built by EME.  Virtually identical to the V301E/2 and V302E, it's most easily distinguished by the vinyl covering.  It's a sort of a crosshatch pattern, like little squares or diamonds (I've also heard it referred to as a "chain-mail" pattern).  It's a much lighter grey than other Continental coverings, too.  The pictures here, while very good, make the vinyl look much darker than it really is. The "Innards" and "ID Badge" pictures below are more accurate.

I've seen dates on these ranging from early '68 to late '68.

(Thanks to "G-Force" for these pictures)

V301Eb.jpg (84826 bytes)

Rear view - crossed leg braces

V301Ec.jpg (88884 bytes)

Innards - Note the split (4 and 2) drawbar assembly.

V301Ef.jpg (96995 bytes)

Control panel.  Note the diagonal ends on the legs - this is the typical Italian style.  Also a pretty good view of both the Grey and Red Vinyl textures

 

VinylV301E.jpg (49832 bytes)

Typical V301E ID Badge

V301Ed.jpg (130796 bytes)

This badge is from the V301E pictured above.  Despite what it says, it was NOT built in the UK by JMI.

V301Ee.jpg (58774 bytes)

The companion paper tag from the inside of the above organ.  Note that it definitely is a V301-E.  The date is 9 SEP 1968 - well into the Italian period. (Some suspect it's actually 1965 - I can see it either way, so make up your own mind.  Given the pattern of serial#'s and dates that I've found, it makes much more sense as a '68)

 


Vox Sound, Ltd. (1970?)

VoxSoundg.jpg (51901 bytes) After JMI was taken over, and the name changed to Vox Sound, Ltd, they continued to produce Continentals (and other organs, too).  The pictures here (courtesy of Ronny Wyants), are the only ones I've seen of one of these later organs.  Unfortunately, I think this one is Italian, and only sporting a Vox Sound badge <sigh>.  Ronny found the date of "9 70" stamped on the generator boards, so it was probably a 1970 model.  

 

VoxSounda.jpg (82237 bytes)

Looks a lot like the old JMI tags.  I guess they couldn't be bothered to come up with a model number.

VoxSoundf.jpg (66605 bytes)

Same "split" drawbar assembly as the V301E

VoxSounde.jpg (27895 bytes)

These internal paper tags are typically found only on Italian organs.  This one does look a bit different from the typical Italian tags, but I'm pretty sure the name "MARCONI A." is not British.  No idea who's signature that is.

VoxSoundd.jpg (58313 bytes)

Back to the metal boxed power supply

VoxSoundh.jpg (66376 bytes)

Somewhat different rear panel.

VoxSoundc.jpg (78526 bytes)

Considerably different generator board design.  

 


Continental '71

Preset1.jpg (35248 bytes) Hoo, boy!  Can you say weeeeeird!?  Man, I just about fell over when I saw this thing.  Another of Henry B's rare finds, it sits here supported by his trusty ironing board stand.

Clearly a latecomer, probably 1971 (hence, the model name).  The badge indicates it's Italian, a product of EME, under license from Vox Sound, which would place it in that time period.  From the serial numbers I've collected, it appears there may have been over 900 of these suckers manufactured!

Really just a basic Continental with a small bank of five Preset switches (looking very much like those on the Italian '300 or the Baroque).  They function like Hammond presets (minus the "cancel" switch), with the first five "presetting" combinations of the four white drawbars (the drawbars themselves are deactivated), and the fifth activating the drawbars themselves.  With a preset selected, the two sliders to the left of the keyboard determine the mix of Foundation and Reed tones.  With the drawbars activated (preset #6), the black drawbars perform this function (like on a regular Continental).

Henry did a bit of experimenting, and determined that the presets are as follows:

PRESET	16'	8'	4'	IV
-----------------------------------
  1	8	0	8	0

  2	8	0	0	8

  3	0	8	8	0

  4	8	4	3	1

  5	1	3	4	8
  6	   (white drawbars)

After he found this rare bird, Henry and I were quite surprised to see not one, but TWO of them pop up on eBay within a few days of each other.  (You can find ANYTHING on eBay, if you wait long enough).  Funny thing is, all three (including Henry's) were located in the UK! (maybe they were trying to get back to their roots).  In fact, I've seen no less than 10 Continental 71s, and every one of them was in the UK.  I guess EME just shipped them all right back to Vox Sound, and never marketed any through Thomas or on their own.

Cont71DB.jpg (106911 bytes)

Drawbars and Presets.

Cont71Panel.jpg (126452 bytes)

Sliders to control the mix of Foundation and Reed for the Preset voices

Preset4.jpg (28161 bytes)

Well, looky there - a "square top"!  So we've come full-circle, I guess.

Preset5.jpg (47673 bytes)

Model name doesn't appear on the badge, but rather on the owners manual

Cont71c.jpg (101318 bytes)

Under the hood, looking quite different indeed, but definitely with those Italian-style plastic keys.

Cont71b.jpg (122513 bytes)

Sharp looking organ.  Be nice if it had all it's "tips".

Here's a manual (well, more of a "quick-reference" card):  Many thanks to "Oz" for supplying me with scans:

Cont71manual1.jpg (99735 bytes)Cont71manual2.jpg (90705 bytes)

And here, of all things, is a picture of one of these in action, with "The Brood", in January, 1993:

broodlive.jpg (24096 bytes)
(Thanks to Micke for this one)


Norman's "Erith Prototype"

ErithPrototype.jpg (25157 bytes) Ok, here's another odd bird.  I'll just let it's former owner, Norman Dickinson, tell the story:
"This photo, based on other pictures in the series of negatives, would have been taken some time in 1967. 
This Connie was one of the prototype organs made at the Erith factory, and what you will notice is that the keys are "normal", 
i.e. white naturals with black sharp/flats, also there were additional controls on the side panel, one was variable vibrato, the 
other was a toggle switch, and for the life of me I cannot remember what that was for!. My only regret is that I do not still have it, 
having sold it in the mid 70's when I stopped gigging. Ah well!!!"  
As to it's origin, Norman says: 
"It came from the Erith factory. My brother worked there at the time, and they were clearing out redundant equipment and 
I was able to purchase it. If memory serves me I paid less that 10, which back in the mid 60's, 1 was worth about $8.00."

 


Serial Numbers/Dates

UK Models:  I'm told that the very first Continental MK-I's had the number "119" embedded (I don't know exactly how - perhaps something like "11900" or "01191").  This came from the address of the factory, 119 Dartford Rd.  I've not yet seen one so-numbered. I've observed three different number styles on the metal ID badges, and a fourth on a sticker found just behind the drawbar assembly.  I'm not sure of the significance of the differences, nor if any conclusions can be drawn.  I've only able to gather dates from a few UK models.  Here's what I've found so far:

JMI manufacture dates were kept in a factory log book, now long since lost.

US Models: These are more consistent, all beginning with "97", but as you can see, the numerical order doesn't seem to follow the date sequence.  The dates on US models usually come from the left-most key.  This may only indicate the manufacture date of the keyboard itself, which may bear no relation to that of the entire organ. I've seen numbers range from 970043 thru 970952.  

The following are serial numbers for which I also have dates.  The list is sorted numerically by serial number:

	970043	04/12/66
	970179	06/02/66
	970214	04/01/66
	970221	05/20/66
	970310  04/25/66
	970323	06/01/66
	970382	06/14/66
	970464	05/17/66
	970650	03/09/66
	970652	02/28/66
	970920	06/15/66

Italian models: The V301E2 models all start with "104", and V301E's and V302E's start with "105", these digits being pre-printed on the metal id-badge.  Each is followed by four unique digits, stamped on.  On the V301E2's, the 4 digits start with "0" or "1", on V302E's, they start with "0", but are usually over-stamped (on the metal badge) or overwritten (on the paper tag) with a "2".  V301E's start with a "3".  The numerical order and date order seem to line up pretty consistently, as you can see below:  The same serial number appears on a paper tag stapled to the inside. 

 Continental 71:  I've seen or heard about ten specimens, with the following serials (No dates to be found on any of them).

	3175023
	3175052 
	3175084
	3175095
	3175117 (not real sure about this one)
	3175128
	3175140
	3175755
	3175952

Distinguishing characteristics

Different models can be identified by various means, some of which are presented here:

Leg Braces

English and US models have rear leg braces that meet at a single point on the back.

Italian models cross (well, MOST of them, anyway)

Which way should the little cutouts face?  According to former Vox employee, Ron Lebar:

"The hook ends go at the top, with the open ends facing down, so they won't fall off if the screws are loose.  When taking the legs off, some people leave the cross braces attached, swung parallel to the plane of the legs and the screws tightened. That way they won't get forgotten, or the screws lost."

Are the single-point and crossed braces different? NO!  They're the same!  So you can fit Italian braces on a UK or US Contientnal and vice-versa.  In fact, the whole leg assembly is pretty much interchangeable between US, UK and Itlaian Continentals...and Jaguars!  Only the thread pitch for the wingbolts is different.


Drawbar Tip Colors

Drawbar tip colors seem to be fairly consistent, and break down as follows:

UK Models(TC, aka "V301J"):   Yellow and Red (the latest models are more of a Cream/Red)
US Models (V301H):  White and Red
Italian Models (V301E, V301E/2 and V302E):    White and Black

The shades of Yellow and Red tend to vary, with the Red often being more of a Maroon or Burgundy, but again, I'm relying on computer-based pictures so some may be illusion, some may be genuine variances.

Here's an excerpt from "Vox/Thomas Organ Service Bulletin No. 25", dated November 8, 1966 (thanks, Chris):

V301J: Has Ivory colored drawbar knobs and wooden keyboard keys (sharp keys have ivory colored plastic covering).
V301E: Has white drawbar knobs and plastic keyboard keys (sharp keys are white plastic).
V301H: Has white drawbar knobs and wooden keyboard keys (sharp keys \par are white colored plastic covering).

MK1a.jpg (45377 bytes)

Very Early UK

(Square Top and Version 2)

Later (more common) UK

(Thanks to WarpDrive Musical)

V301JVb.jpg (109973 bytes)

Very late UK.  I think the "white" tips are actually more of a Cream than appears here

V301HDrawbars.jpg (108866 bytes)

United States
(Thanks, Tom)

V301EDrawbars.jpg (25407 bytes)

Typical Italian

 

Rear Nameplates

I haven't yet drawn any conclusions about differences in nameplate styles.  I'll just present a few examples for now.

V301JVd.jpg (100879 bytes)

Most every one I've seen, regardless of origin, looks like this

A much less common version.  I've seen only a few like this, on early UK models.

A rather unusual one, from a US model

(sorry, that's as big as it gets)

And still another style (quite similar to the one at left), this one from a UK model - date unknown (again, this is full-size - sorry).

Tone Generator boards

The last two English versions, the first Italian version, and the US version are all documented in a 1966 Thomas Organ service bulletin  The Italian board, while somewhat different in appearance, is fully interchangeable with the Version 4 English board.   The USA and "Vox Sound" boards are substantially different, and are incompatible with the other three (and each other).  

I've seen a few different schematics of Continentals, both UK and Italian in origin, and they're all pretty much identical  There were some very minor changes made early on, around 1963, that involved the addition of a couple of resistors to the divider circuits, but other than that, the circuitry remained largely un-changed.  I've heard a few people say they can hear the difference between a UK and an Italian model.  I've many others say that there's no difference at all.  I can't say from personal experience, because I've never heard a side-by-side comparison, but I imagine it would be a fairly subtle difference, probably due more to aging components than to any minor circuit or component differences.  

It's often presumed that the use or Germanium versus Silicon transistors will have an effect on the sound.  I've heard from several knowledgeable technical folks who are certain that this is NOT the case.  The US Continental uses Silicon transistors, while UK and Italian models use Germanium.  I'm told there is no perceptible difference between the two.  The use of transistors in organ tone generators is very different from their use in fuzzboxes (where the type of transistor DOES make a difference).  It's even possible to substitute Silicon transistors for Germanium ones, and no change in sound will be noticed.  Organ dividers (which generate all the lower octaves from the top octave oscillators) are basically just switching circuits, each creating a square wave output at half the frequency of whatever input signal is applied.  Square waves produced by Silicon transistors look and sound the same as those produced by Germanium.  The key to organ voicing is found in the filters, which typically don't use any transistors at all!

MK1b.jpg (65052 bytes)

English - Version 1, 2 and 2.5

V301J Oscillator version 1

English - Version 3

V301JOsc.jpg (29518 bytes)V301JOsc2.jpg (33187 bytes)

English - Version 4, 5 and 6, the most common type.  Two different specimens shown.

V301HOsc3.jpg (45854 bytes)

USA

V301Eboard.jpg (233716 bytes)

Italian

VoxSoundb.jpg (53892 bytes)

"Vox Sound" Italian model

     

 Coverings

The first batch of 100 or so MKI Continentals had the "square top", covered in orange Rexine.  Red was introduced later, and UK organs were made with both Red and Orange tops. Some may argue that ALL Continental tops are orange.   Having to rely largely on computer-based pictures, I could not argue this point convincingly one way or the other.

Supposedly, a small number of very early Continentals were covered in Red and Blue, to match AC30 amps of the same color.  I've heard of the existence of AC30's in those colors, but have not yet heard of a Continental so colored.

As with most other Vox organ characteristics, a number of different types, shades and textures were used over the years.  There are two terms used for the covering, "Rexine" and "Vinyde".  Here's the best I've been able to come up with:

Rexine (a.k.a. "leathercloth", rather a generic term for a textured vinyl covering) was used to cover Continental tops, and came in orange, red and grey (grey being used on UK Continental II's).  It was made by ICI in the 60's, and the brand name has since been taken over by F.J. Ratchford, Ltd., which sells it as a book covering material.  Rexine was (and still is) used to cover books, car dashboards, drink coasters and loads of other things.  Henry tells me that Ratchford supplies a very good red and grey, but not in the "classic" UK pattern, and also a very good Italian style in red and black but not burnt orange.  The original embossing rollers used by ICI were taken over by Wardle Storeys, which supply Ratchford with their coverings.  Unfortunately, the roller used to emboss the original UK-style Rexine was not taken, and has probably been lost.  Henry supplied me a few samples of different coverings:

OrangeRexine.jpeg (49927 bytes)

The "Classic Orange" Rexine

SmoothTolex.jpeg (115967 bytes)

"Smooth Tolex" - from a 1965 swatch book

 

Rexine.jpeg (65132 bytes)

Grey Rexine, also from the 1965 swatch book

Vinyde:  Also a branded product produced by ICI  I'm not sure how this name fits in;  if some organs were covered in Rexine, and some in Vinyde, or a combination of the two.

Tolex:  Tolex is actually a US brand name, and was used on Fender amps, among others.  It's sort of degenerated into a generic term for any textured vinyl covering, especially when referring to amp coverings.  early UK Continental coverings are often called "smooth tolex".

Dark covering examples

VinylV301J1.jpg (49923 bytes)

UK: Early "smooth tolex", as found on amps from the '60-'62 period.  Orange looks original, too.  Odd that it has the later control panel.

VinylV301J.jpg (92947 bytes)

UK: Slightly later - not quite so "smooth"

Conti2UKperc5.jpg (70581 bytes)

"Charcoal Basketweave".  This is from a Continental II, but I believe it was used on some later UK Continentals

VinylV301E2.jpg (44082 bytes)

Italian V301E/2  and V302E - "textured"

VinylV301E.jpg (49832 bytes)

Italian V301E - little diamonds or squares, depending on your point of view. Has also been called "chain-mail".

VinylV301H.jpg (32956 bytes)

US V301H.  Looks a lot like regular ol' Fender-style Tolex to me.