Friday, May 24, 2013

A Michigan Mystery: Is Heathkit Back?

The legendary Heathkit name might once again be appearing on new electronics kits, including amateur radio gear. Or maybe not. The possible second reincarnation of Heathkit is shrouded in secrecy at the moment, so it's difficult to get any hard facts.

Will the old become new again? Heathkit's new owners
suggest in their online survey that they might bring back
classic ham gear ... perhaps a new version of W2VU's
ancient and highly-modified Twoer? (W2VU photo)
Here's what we do know: After the original Heath company got out of the kit business and eventually shut down completely, new owners in 2011 announced its return to the kit market, along with plans in introduce kits focused on computers and education (amateur radio equipment was not part of the initial plan). Things did not work out as planned and the new Heathkit declared bankruptcy and closed its doors last year without ever producing a single kit.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the Heathkit name, logo, and rights to previous equipment designs were put up for auction. CQ Kit-Building Editor Joe Eisenberg, K0NEB, reports that at last week's Dayton Hamvention®, DZ Kits owner Brian Wood, W0DZ, told a kit-building forum that he had been an unsuccessful bidder for the company's assets, but that he did not know who the winning bidder was. 

Around the same time, the website came back online, featuring a Mark Twain postage stamp and a famous Twain quote, "The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated." Also appearing on the website, although without a link from the home page, was an extensive survey for potential customers, saying "Heathkit is back" and seeking input on products that might be offered. The survey is at <>.

Based on the content of the survey, it appears that the new owners are focusing on the amateur radio market to get them started, and some of the questions suggest that they may start out by re-introducing classic Heathkit gear, either in its original form or with updated electronics inside the classic chassis and case.

This still-functional Heathkit keyer has a built-in code oscillator and
speaker so it's useful for demonstrations as well as on-air use. Will
a new version return to the market? Stand by... (W2VU photo)
Here's what we don't know: There is no indication of who the new owners are or how to contact them. There is no "contact us" link on the website. A "whois" search on the internet for the registered owner of the domain name returns only the company name and address (in St. Joseph, Michigan). And there is no record as yet of any company with "Heath" or "Heathkit" in its name in the Michigan Secretary of State's online corporation registry. We don't know how soon the new owners intend to publicly announce their plans for the company, or when - if ever - they will introduce any new (or new-old) products.

 We encourage the new owners to reach out to the amateur radio media and ask anyone reading this who knows them to strongly suggest that they contact us so we can help them spread the word and to get facts rather than speculation out to the amateur community.

When and if we do have additional information to report, we will post updates here in the CQ Newsroom and/or in the pages of CQ.

-- By Rich Moseson, W2VU, Editor, CQ