Gilligan’s Island Radio

I love recreating props from movies and TV shows.

My newest project should be quick and easy.

I came across a Packard Bell AR-851 radio from the 1960’s, and while you may not recognize the model number, I’m sure you would recognize the radio itself.

radioIt’s the one from Gilligan’s Island.

The radio on the TV show was capable of picking up shortwave broadcasts, and thanks to the Professor, the 1960’s version of Macgyver, outfitted with rechargeable batteries.

In reality, the radio was a simple AM transistor radio, so it didn’t need an antenna. In fact, the handle and antenna were added by the prop department at CBS because they wanted to make the radio look a bit more substantial.

When you actually examine the TV radio up close, you realize the radio’s antenna is actually a car antenna (click on the picture and you can see the “ball” on the top of the antenna).

I had no problem finding a matching handle and attaching it, but finding the exact antenna has been difficult. I think I’ve gone through just about every car make and model from 1960-1966. Hopefully I’ll come across one and complete this project.



  1. Blue Bear says:

    I just saw one of the first episodes of Gilligan’s Island. The Professor is described as a ” a research scientist AND well-known scoutmaster”…what’s that all about?

    1. Michael T Williams says:

      How much ?

  2. Mark S says:

    If you ever finished your radio project, if you go to Dawn Wells Facebook page, she is looking for a prop radio to use in a project she is working on.

  3. Thomas Santoro says:

    I just purchased one.
    Could you tell me where and what style the handle is.

    Also if you have any update on the correct antenna?

    Thanks ….

    1. stevemargolis says:

      I don’t remember the the style of handle.
      What I do remember is, looking all over the place for the handle and then finally finding it at Home Depot. Apparently it’s a pretty common style.
      As for the antenna, I never did find the correct one.
      But, after watching an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, where he shows how he uses 3D printers to reproduce pieces for his cars (mirrors, door handles), I’m starting to wonder if I could just have someone “fashion” me an antenna for the radio. When I have some spare cash, I’m going to check it out.

      1. Thanks Steve,
        After posting my question I did a search for, “1950s style drawer pull,” the handle popped up Immediately and I bought it for under $3….

        The antenna, im leaning towards a pre-1964 Corvette antenna. I called one website that deals in car antennas and even sent them screen shots of the original radio. The rep stated that she believed that the foot of a car radio antenna would be too big.
        I politely disagreed with her and plan on looking further.
        I’m pretty sure that I’m on the right track.
        Hopefully someone in the know will respond.
        Start with this site.
        They even sell just the antenna nut for about $9.00.
        Admittedly it’s close but not exact.

      2. Anonymous says:

        Hey would you mind posting the dimensions of the handle? I want to make sure what I have will work on a relatives radio without dickering with it

        1. stevemargolis says:

          I don’t have the radio any longer so I have no way of measuring it. I’m 90% sure I bought the handle at a hardware store, and that it was a standard size- nothing special about it.

  4. I’ve watched ebay for years looking for suitable antennae. A handful seem to have a base similar to the Gilligan radio. Late 50’s Impalas have antenna masts that are close (indented ring about 3/4’s inch from the end of each section), but too long. Promising bases are seen in Dodge Dart, Plymouth Barracuda, Belveder and Savoy. A late 40’s Studebaker antenna looks very promising. Other interesting vehicles are an Austin Healey Sprite, Triumph TR2, 3, and 4, Studebaker Lark, Champion and Commander. Note that the radio mast looks like it is 5 sections, but is in reality only 3 short sections. It looks like 5 because the two lower sections have indented rings about an inch from the end. Hence, the lower section looks like two pieces, the middle section looks like two pieces, then you have the top with the ball. Examine all shots of the radio or freeze the DVD and look for yourself. Sometimes the total length changes, or the tip may be pushed all the way down, but you will always see what looks like two “sections” about an inch apart, twice along the length of the antenna. It is NOT a 5 section antenna. And remember, the antenna will be older than 1964 (probably much older), and is probably an AM antenna which can be shorter as it is on the Gilligan radio. Either that or the prop department cut down each section which is difficult. Hope this helps.

  5. Michael T Williams says:

    How much would you want for it?

    1. stevemargolis says:

      I sold it years ago when I gave up on trying to find the right antenna.

  6. How did you know what the dimensions of the radio was? I’m having problems finding them online.

    1. stevemargolis says:

      I’m not sure what you mean?


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