This is a very nice “vintage” typewriter, the Underwood S Model, made in 1942 (s/n S11-5703637). The tab bar is marked “Champion” which was an advertising “name” used by Underwood. The machine design is the “end of the era” for the early Underwoods. Later models incorporated more streamlined lines, plastic keys, a longer carriage return handle, and different mechanics. This is a “carriage shift”, when you shift to capital letters, the actual carriage is lifted up. Newer designs, and most typewriters made during the 1950’s and beyond, use “segment shift”. That is where the type keys (the basket) moves up and down when shifting. It requires less force and is an improvement. In typing on this machine, I find that is is extremely smooth and fast. The carriage shift is surprisingly light (I didn’t notice at first) for such a solid, heavy machine. The overall condition of this typewriter is excellent. I found it at a local antique shop laying on the floor, tipped over. The ribbon spools were laying in the basked all unwound and tangled. The keys and carriage worked, but there was a grinding sound. It would not shift. The body and keys were very nice. The price wasn’t marked, but …. I did not buy, as the machine was dirty and the unknown mechanical issue was a concern. Besides. I didn’t know anything about this model typewriter, other than it “looked” like the one we played with as little kids. Dad had an old machine. It could have been an Underwood, or a Royal..who knows? I recall it looked like this, but it may have even been earlier, as the type slugs were exposed (or the cover was missing!).
A week later, I went back in to the antique store and looked again. There was no price tag. I asked how much they wanted for it. The sales woman called the owner of the store, and told me that the price “today” was $45. I was still worried about the shift mechanism being jammed. I could not see any binding and could only think that this would be a waste of money, or expensive to take to California Typewriter in Berkeley for repair. I did not buy it.
Three days later, I went back in and decided to risk it. This time, the owner of the store was there, and she told me the price was $65! Oh? What about the earlier price. “Well, the other lady must have gotten confused, and I’m sorry, but I told her $65 and she misunderstood”. She went on to explain that the original price was $85, and that she could not go lower as it was a consignment item. OK , deal.
I got the machine home and opened the covers, blew out the dust, and brushed the inner workings with solvent. Years of gunk washed away. The metal body was scrubbed, and the chrome polished. I manipulated the mechanism and carriage to see what was binding, and there was a gentle “clunk” of something going back into place. The carriage was somehow off track perhaps. Success…now it was operating normally and shifting with ease. I installed a fresh new ribbon, and (after cleaning the type slugs) tested…wow. Sharp and crisp. The only issue was the backspace key did not work, and if I pressed it, the carriage “ground to a halt”. Oh, no! So more cleaning and prodding, and soon the backspace worked, but then it would lock up. Seemed to be improving. I remember Ken at California Typewriter telling me that “sometimes, they need to be worked to loosen up and free”. Yep. After a couple days of GENTLY using the backspace and manipulating it by hand…it is now working exactly as designed.
The rubber feet are very good, and the chrome is mostly bright. The body is clean, decals a bit faded, and the tab ruler on the front of the machine has some wear spots from years of use.
Overall, this machine is outstanding in it’s feel, sturdiness, and I can type extremely fast on it. The term “snappy” is often used to describe how a typewriter “feels”. They all have a unique personality..even machines from the same manufacturer, year, or model.
Overall, a very nice vintage addition and a warm memory when I remind myself how we eight year old boys abused a similar machine, attacking it with screwdrivers and curious fingers over fifty years ago. Who’d a thought yesterdays old junk would become today’s treasured antique?