Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Remington Torpedo (Dynacord) typewriter

This image on eBay caught my eye recently. A "Remington Torpedo"? With such an enticing, bulbous shape? Advertised as working well, with a wonderful touch? I hesitated a bit, but couldn't resist long before hitting "Buy It Now."

When the typewriter arrived, I could barely lift the box. This thing is heavy — portability was not a consideration for its designers at all — and very large, even bigger than an Olympia SG1 or Adler Universal.

The typewriter was dirty, the carriage would not advance when you typed or hit the spacebar, the shift went way too far down, and the backspace worked only intermittently.

Fortunately, I was able to resolve all these issues, and I am now able to tell you about this unusual machine.

The typewriter features a 46-key keyboard. At the upper left is a margin setting key (you move the carriage to the current margin, depress the key, and move the carriage to the new margin). To the right of that key are the tab clear key, the tabulator bar, the tab set key, and the typebar unjammer key.

To the left of the keyboard are three ribbon position buttons. The middle one lets you type in the middle of the ribbon. To put the typewriter into stencil mode, you hit the top two buttons simultaneously.

On the right is a space for a control that does not exist on this machine, for switching from regular to
e x t e n d e d  typing (more on that below).

On the left of the carriage, behind the platen knob, is a smaller knob that you turn in order to clear all tab stops.

The lever you see above is matched by a similar lever on the other side (they're easily visible when you raise the ribbon cover). When the levers are pulled forward, as above, the carriage can be lifted right off.

Here is the machine sans body shell, with the carriage on and off:

The underside of the carriage shows a clever construction that mounts the mainspring horizontally, instead of vertically as on most typewriters:

The depression at lower left is where the mainspring goes when the carriage is on the machine:

Rear view, showing the shiny, heavy back panel that protects some of the delicate mechanisms:

With the back panel removed, you can see some of those mechanisms. The little rod indicated with an arrow limits the movement of the loose dog; if it's in the wrong position, the escapement either will not advance or will advance too far (2 spaces at once).

Here's a closeup of a linkage, when the rightmost typebar is in the raised position.

The serial number, 2037840, dates my typewriter at 1963 and identifies it as a Torpedo Dynacord.

From the Torpedo serial number database:

2053001 upwards19641
From the Dynacord serial number database:

2064000 19656
2080001 19666
2081001 up19676
II and IV
26310001 [2631001?] up19676
Classic 18
1363001 up19676
From the numbers, you might think that Dynacords are plentiful. But Torpedo had a habit of putting all of its models into the same serial number sequence, thus obscuring the actual numbers produced. Based on my experience, and after a recent Web search, I say that these typewriters are quite rare. The Remington-branded version exported to the US must be especially unusual. (Remington acquired a majority share in Torpedo in 1931, which explains brandings such as "Remtor," which you'll find on some '30s Torpedo portables.)

Presumably the Dynacord name was licensed from the German amplifier manufacturer, which is still in business, but the online Dynacord company history makes no mention of typewriters.

The Peter Mitterhofer Typewriter Museum in Partschins, South Tyrol, Italy, possesses a brochure for the Dynacord V:

"All the operational elements are arranged ergonomically. This leads to a flowing work rhythm. All keys are adapted to the curve of the fingertips, so they are especially easy to use. The keyboard does not glare ... The distance between the carriage and the type guide is adjustable, allowing up to 15 copies to be typed at once." (My machine does not have this feature.)

I have found very few photos of Dynacords online, but here are a couple of handsome blue-and-silver examples. Both are exports: the first has a Danish keyboard, and the second sports the friendly Torpedo name variant used in Britain, Blue Bird.

I love the fact that this British seller called this a "portable"!

Apparently the same color treatment was available in the US, to judge from this snippet of a 1960 issue of The Accountant that I found on a search for "Dynacord typewriter":

Both of these blue-and-silver Dynacords have some features that mine does not. To the right of the keyboard you see buttons for changing from regular to  e x t e n d e d  spacing. On the right of the carriage you see a paper injector and a control for adjusting the position of the carriage, as mentioned in the brochure. Both of these typewriters have decimal tabulators.

The Mitterhofer archive also includes a brochure for a later version of the Dynacord, with more modern, angular styling and faux-wood paneling. I have not found any actual photos of this model.

Here is an ad for this model:

Addition (2022): Stefan Nürnberger has posted photos of a later Dynacord on the Typewriter Database. Here are a few:

Here are some examples of '60s Remington portables with the Dynacord name:

The Dynacord Classic 18 (made 1965-1967 according to the serial records I quoted above) is a descendant of the Torpedo 18, usually seen under the name Remington Mark II. It's a very nice typewriter. The model shown above it may be one that was usually called the Remington Streamliner.

As for the electric Dynacord (1965-67), I haven't found a single photo or illustration of one with that name, but I bet it's identical to this Torpedo electric shown in two brochures owned by the Mitterhofer Museum:

Will Davis has identified the Byron Mark I (1957) as the last attempt to design a new standard manual typewriter from the ground up. I am not enough of an expert on Torpedos to say for sure, but I wonder whether the Dynacord is an even later effort. Although I've sold my Torpedo Solitaire, a mid-'50s example of a Torpedo standard, and can't do a point-by-point comparison, I think the mechanisms are different in many ways.

The Dynacord is an impressive machine, but it may be that the '60s were the wrong time to introduce a new, high-end manual typewriter — just when every secretary in the world started to crave a Selectric.

Who has more information to add?


  1. Congratulations on getting such a fine typewriter. I wondered when I saw the easy way the carriage could be removed if it were German. When I saw Dynacord I recognized the name as some of the recording equipment I used to use in the Broadcast business. I never knew they made typewriters.

  2. Thomas Fürtig writes:

    The Dynacord was the latest Torpedo model that was developped and produced in Germany. It came in two models: Dynacord V has the regular tabulator, Dynacord S has the decimal-tabulator. The originally curved housing style was changed to a later style that had clear lines and edges. This later style didn't came with faux-wood Panels (as it looked like in the brochure), it was only plastic with horizontal ripples.

    The first style came in two color variants: silvergrey or silvergrey/blue.
    The second style came also in to color variants: light grey / dark grey or creme / reddish-brown.

    Of the electric model no example seems to have survived.
    Very interesting are the name variants as Remington-Torpedo and Blue Bird, that I never saw before, as well as the portables with Dynacord name.

  3. That's quite an unusual find. It's always hard to ignore the machines you have never ever seen before!

  4. When I first started working in Melbourne 1962, there was a small dealer who had the agency and displayed in his window both the Dynacord and the Bluebird portable. Already then we knew that these were superior machines but just not promoted enough to capture a place in the Australian market. A great pity. This was a time when Olympia were unknown in Australia!.

  5. As you will notice there is very little that resembles Remington in that standard machine and it is quite possibly the best manual typewriter the ever had the Remington name on it.

  6. Thanks for your comments. I wish the Dynacord had swept the Australian market! I would not agree with your final remark; I'm very fond of my Remington KMC.

  7. What an interesting typewriter. It looks to be very solid and high-quality. Now that you have it typing again, what's your impression of the typing experience (if you compare it to other standards of the time)?

    1. I wish I could say the experience is transcendent, but so far I would say it's just average. Of course, this is very subjective, and I haven't written much on it yet.

  8. That Streamliner looks like a Remington Ten-Forty, which I believe was a Torpedo design.

  9. No information to add, but I was astounded by the appearance of the word "ergonomically" in the brochure for the Dynacord V -- a word I never heard until the late 1990s. Google Books Ngrams shows virtually no use of the word before 1963. Apparently the design team was on the cutting edge!

    1. Don't be too astounded — that's my loose translation of the German word "griffgünstig," more literally "convenient for grasping or fingering."

  10. I just bought a Torpedo Dynacord S which is when I came across this as I was trying to figure out what all the levers and buttons did, and at least some of the questions were answered here. I'm still not able to set the margin, however, though I was able to release the original one, which is a step in the right direction.

    I just thought I'd point out something you may not be aware of concerning trademarks. You say in your text: "Presumably the Dynacord name was licensed from the German amplifier manufacturer, which is still in business, but the online Dynacord company history makes no mention of typewriters."

    The way trademark names work, or certainly worked, is that you can only register them for a certain kind of product, so you register for office machines, or clothes, or perfumes, cars, etc. Most brands, when they start out, don't plan to branch out into different areas, they wouldn't want to pay for additional trademarks of the same names, and in many cases it probably doesn't even occur to them to do so.

    That means that Dynacord can be a registered trademark for audio equipment for one company and for typewriters by another one. And everything is fine until someone decides to branch out and it turns their trademark is already taken for that new field of trade.

    Even though this is how it is supposed to work, the system does not necessarily allow trademark opportunism where you take a name that is already well established where someone owns the right to it in some trades, but not all, or they let it lapse and want to use it again, owning other related rights.

    Lehman Brothers, a would-be Whisky brand, had to give up their plans of calling their product that after Barclay disputed it, being the owners of the assets and intellectual property of the famously defunct Lehman Brothers, but having let some of their trademark rights lapse.

    This is quite a recent case, but back when Dynacord was two different things, it wouldn't have been an issue. Kenwood is another one, of course, being both a Japanese hi-fi company and a British kitchen appliance manufacturer.

    From having worked in a shoe shop, I also know there is a Bugatti brand of shoes that has nothing to do with the automotive company.

    Anyway, interesting blog. And if you or anyone else reading this can enlighten me exactly how to use the margin setting, I'd be very interested to know.


    1. Thanks for your observations. Please see below for a reply to your question.

  11. The Dynacord has a margin set key located in the upper left of the top row (beside the tab function keys). It has a horizontal double arrow flanked on each side by a pipe (vertical line). To set: a.) move carriage to current left (or right) margin stop b.) press and hold down on the margin set key c.) while pressing on either carriage release button (rectangle on top of each side of the carriage) d.) slide carriage to new position and release both the key and release. See link for photo:

    1. Thank you Dave. This link may work better: