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Supersonic (Chassay Bros), Bulawayo, SR

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Name: Supersonic (Chassay Bros), Bulawayo, SR    (ZW)  
Abbreviation: supersonic
Products: Model types

Pieter de Kock: In (then) Rhodesia, the 'Supersonic' company was successful designing and manufacturing portable radios, car radios and also some gram radios from the middle 1950s to the 1980s. Now the country is called Zimbabwe.

The founder(s) appear to have been involved in 1948 with the design of the Ever Ready Model J or "Saucepan Special" while working as staff member of the Northern Rhodesia (NR) Radio Services in Lusaka.
Later the company uses "Supersonic" as a brand and is Chassay Bros. (Private) Ltd. in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (SR) and produces Transistor sets.
Today (2012) there is still a "Supersonic Radio" at 69 Josiah Chinamano Rd, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Many "Linkedin" profiles list "Supersonic Radio" as a former Employer in the late 1960s. There was also a Supersonic Radio, Livingstone, Zambia at least in late 1960's / 70's

Some models:
Country Year Name 1st Tube Notes
ZW  58 D29 DF96  Unusual multiband (BC and 7× SW) portable with magic eye and push pull audio output stage.... 
ZW  65 4 Band Radiogram PRG80   The  PRG80 uses audio transformers and the PRG80C doesn't use audio transformers.... 
ZW  59 PR56 OC170  Portable radio fitted with sockets for car aerial & earphone. SW bands 3.2-8 Mhz, &... 
ZW  55 Mullard D11 DK92  Sold in South Africa in 1950s. Uses 2 x B104 (2 x 45V for 90V and AD4 for 1.5V LT ... 
ZW  80 Conqueror Hi-Fi P.R.127   Materiais diversos-Plastico, Couro e Metal. 5 Bandas: OM 550-1600 KHz OC1 1,7-4 MHz... 
ZW  59 Criterion UCH81  Elliptical Speaker 16cm x 8cm. Speaker model 874P Mk II made in England by R&A. ... 
ZW  65 4 Band Radiogram PRG80C   The Monarch PRG80 uses audio transformers and the PRG80C does not. Probably uses 6 off D ... 
ZW  58 D28A EBF89  The tuner and power supply/audio amplifier are in separate enclosures. The vibrator... 
ZW  58 D16 DF96  Uses 2 x B104 (2 x 45V for 90V and AD4 for 1.5V LT Mains PSU has a "rejuvenate" set... 
ZW  66 TU-133M   Wavebands: BC: 550 - 1600 kHz, SW1: 49 - 120 m, SW2: 25 - 41 m, SW3: 11 - ... 
ZW  66 TP-133 AS   Record player brand - BSR P144 - 16/33/45/78 rpm 
ZW  66 TL-133   Floor stand speakers - Impedance 8 Ohms. 


Further details for this manufacturer by the members (rmfiorg):

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Supersonic (Chassay Bros), Bulawayo, SR
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Supersonic (Chassay Bros), Bulawayo, March 1959
Gary Cowans

This article is reproduced from the Rhodesian Recorder, a supplement of March 1959, and was donated by William van Niekerk who worked for the company as Design Engineer from 1959 to 1968.

The idea of making II radio In Africa was considered fantastic …but writes Jacques Chassay, "It was a successful gamble",

Jacques Chassay, Managing Director, Chassay Bros. (Pvt) Ltd. Bulawayo.

Arthur Chassay, Managing Director, Supersonic Africa (Pty) Ltd., Johannesburg

From the time of our arrival in the Union of South Africa, in 1934, my brother and I were engaged in the importation and distribution of radios in that market.

The major problem which we encountered was to obtain a radio which was right for the conditions existing in Southern Africa and it seemed to us only logical that a product that was to be ideally suited to the conditions peculiar to Africa must be made in Africa. This idea was thought to be fantastic and did indeed seem an almost impossible task, but despite warnings (from those with a thorough knowledge of the difficulties involved) I decided to go ahead with the project.

It was a successful gamble.

Bulawayo was chosen for the site of our factory because of its advantageous geographical position for distribution of completed radios to various points throughout Africa and also on account of the fact that a good Native labour force was readily available.

We commenced work at the beginning of 1951 with a team of only a handful of European’s and about two dozen Africans, after a great deal of preliminary work in the preceding year.

We were well aware of the fact that, if we were to achieve success in our enterprise, we would require highly skilled technicians. During the past few years, we have, therefore, brought 28 families to this country from the United Kingdom and most of these settlers are still in the employ of the Company. They have contributed greatly to the success of our business.

In the initial stages, we had a small floor space of only 7,000 sq. ft. and a total labour force of under twenty people.

At the present time our factories occupy 70,000 sq. ft. and we employ over five hundred people, but it is not our intention to be content with past progress.

We firmly believe that to survive we must expand, and we are now making a plan to build a new factory of 150,000 sq. ft., which will not only produce radio receiving sets but also television receivers, at such time as the need may arise.

In 1956 Anglo-Transvaal Industries Ltd., a giant industrial concern in the Union of South Africa. joined in our business.

The investment which this Group has made in our industry is symbolic of their confidence in our future and the future of our country.

Our success has undoubtedly been partly due to a farsighted policy of utilising all accumulated profits for reserves and for constant expansion.

The contribution made by our most loyal, devoted, and skillful personnel has been the most valuable factor towards our success. I feel that we can say proudly and with confidence that the success story of Supersonic should be an inspiration and a guide to every prospective investor who may consider establishing a business in this country.

This is the story of courage and achievement industry, the Rhodesian industry.

It is the achievement of Messrs Chassay Bros. (Pty.) Ltd. who, eight brief years ago, set up a small radio factory in Bulawayo. With a handful of European technicians, mostly drawn from overseas and with many African workers, many of whom had never been in a factory before, they courageously set about producing car radios.

There nearest sources of supply of components were over 6,000 miles away. The home market was small and great distances separated points of population.

When they launched the venture the entire European population of the country, larger than the combined areas of France, Italy, and Eastern and Western Germany, was 180,000, the equivalent of a large English county town.

The African population exceeded 6,000,000.

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland rewards foresight, drive, and initiative is evidenced in the present-day 70,000 sq. ft.

Supersonic factory which occupies ten times the floor area in 1951. Employs 500 workers, of whom 400 are Africans, and earns £500,000 in exports annually.

This brochure, presented as a pictorial tour, introduces the factory, the Supersonic team, and the proud product.

John Whitney, Sales manager, joined the Company in 1931, shortly after its inception. He has served in various capacities on the production and administrative sides and has an intimate knowledge of technical details, a great asset to the sales department.

 Supersonic radios have won acceptance in many parts of the world. Of the total annual output capacity worth about £1 million which includes car radios, portables, bedside and table models, and radiograms, the largest percentage is absorbed in South Africa.

An important customer is the Ford Motor Company, Port Elizabeth, to whom Chassay Bros. supplies on contract for assembly-line fitting. The radios have also been accepted as Ford accessories. A similar arrangement is being negotiated in the Union of South Africa.

Other markets developed by the sales department, include all parts of Africa, Iraq, Iran, Cyprus, Malta, India Malaya, British West Indies, Fiji, Tristan da Cunha, Mauritius, Madagascar, and parts of South America. The company has also entered the Canadian market.

The Supersonic reputation has been built on technical excellence, good workmanship, reliability, and tasteful presentation. The end-product measures up to these high standards are a tribute to the close liaison in the development stages by the radio engineers, industrial design department, drawing office, and laboratory.

Related to total output, the Supersonic range is a big one, including radios, finished in plastic, leather cloth, and wood. They incorporate all that is best in overseas contemporary design, having regard for local demands such as the growing selectivity of the African buyer and his love of colour.

Roy Perkins, M.S.I.A., who came out from a large British firm of electrical appliance manufacturers, two and a half years ago, to become the company’s first industrial designer, creates pleasing designs which are a feature of the supersonic range. Foremost amongst his recent designs is the Transistor Summit Model D45.

Since going into production Chassay Bros. has marketed 51 different models, all designed and developed within our own organisation. Because of greater general usage they have concentrated on shortwave coverage and have attained a high sensitivity on these wavebands.

Among some of their most attractive-looking radios are their portables for which there is a ready demand. In line with overseas trends more recent development by their engineers has been the field of transistorised receivers. Transistors that replace valves have a longer life potential and give highly efficient operation at minimum running costs.

They have no delicate heating elements to give trouble, are hermetically sealed in metal containers, and will last almost indefinitely. Their physical dimensions being much less than those of valves, their design engineers have been able the size of receivers considerably an important advantage in a portable model.

Patrick McCoy (right), Chief Draughtsman, bought to Bulawayo experience in the BBC drawing office where he was employed on television development. He has been with Chassay Bros. for two years and is proud to have done their D45 transistor radio drawings. David Sharpe (left), like his colleague, hails from London where he trained as a mechanical draughtsman with a radio manufacturing company.

Stuart Medway (right), acting chief engineer, has been wholly responsible for developing the Supersonic shortwave transistor radios. Before leaving Briton three years ago he designed high-quality shortwave receivers or export, also television receivers.

Another Londoner, draughtsman Arthur Basham was previously employed by a British firm of radio manufacturers.

Howard Dixon’s job of chief designer is backed by London experience in television design. Among his achievements since joining the Supersonic team four years ago is the design of their D9 nine-band car radio. He is an A.I.E.E.

Anthony Scanlan, the engineer, took his B.Sc. (Eng.) degree through Derby Technical College and Nottingham University before going into radio development with a British firm. He has to his credit the design of the Supersonic D28 push-button car receiver.


Geoff Mountain, development engineer, has during his six years with the firm been responsible for design development of a variety of highly successful Supersonic radios. He too, is a Londoner.

Radio manufacture in the heart of Africa poses problems not shared by older countries. The long lines of supply of components necessitate unusually long forward planning and keener anticipation of market requirements and overseas competitors’ developments. The smaller local market dictates smaller runs per model and higher tooling costs. Despite these handicaps, the Supersonic team has made striking progress. Quality is the only consideration governing their purchasing policy albeit this necessity importing components from supplies spread across the United Kingdom, the Continent, and the United States of America.

The company’s oldest employee is Wright Sutcliffe, works manager, who made up the first jigs and dies and established the toolroom and first production line in 1951. He had 34 years experience in production engineering and, during the war, managed on the manufacturer of radar.

Isolation from their main sources of supply has bred self-sufficiency in many items not normally produced by a radio manufacturer. It comes as a surprise to many visitors that the factory produces many diecast and molded components, that it compression-molds all its own plastic cabinets, makes its own telescopic aerials, and manufactures its complete requirements of wooden radiograms and other cabinets. Other departments handle metal-pressing, transformers, coil winding, and electro-plating.

The Tool Room

The modernly equipped toolroom featured above makes in its entirety, all its own jigs, fixtures, press tools, and molding dies.


Ken Bowen, South African born is toolroom foreman. He has served the company for seven years.

Section of the main assembly shop with the inspectors in the foreground.

To meet the demand for the thousands of coils used daily, the coil and transformer winding department winds assemble and tests their requirements.

An operator removing a plastic radio cabinet from the 350-ton compression molding press which produces cabinets at the rate of one every two minutes. The plastics department is also equipped with injection molding machines.

The unit has a normal output capacity of 300 sets a day, with a maximum of 350 on a simple radio.

On an average day’s production, eight different models pass along the assembly lines.

A marketing advantage of the smaller run per model is that new ones are constantly being introduced, keeping the range abreast of overseas developments. The low-margin-profit policy of the Company makes the product competitive with imported radios. Although, when the factory was established, African workers could be entrusted only with the simplest operations many are now able to handle the complete assembly and wiring of a radio. Africans accepted for employment attend a training school for thorough training and aptitude testing.

Components from dozens of addresses in Britain, America, France, Italy, Holland, and Denmark are fed to the assembly line through stores. This department also controls the issue of raw materials for the manufacture of further components in the factory. It is the policy of the company to buy locally wherever possible. In particular, it gives support to those Rhodesian industries manufacturing types of articles which it requires. These range from Rhodesian-made steel and paints to protective clothing and packaging containers.

Staff welfare services include a provident fund controlled by a joint committee of management and employees, a medical and society group life insurance under which all European employees are covered at no cost to themselves. African workers occupy municipal houses for which the Company pays the rent. They are issued with free protective clothing and a doctor attends the factory daily to administer to their needs. Medicines are provided free.

Two African football teams, equipped by the company, play in the local African league.

Throughout its lifetime the Company has followed a policy of promoting harmonious race relations and of offering the African every encouragement for advancing themselves in the industry. This successful partnership has achieved a standard of excellence that has done much to enhance the prestige of Rhodesian industry at home and abroad,

A Supersonic radio wears its Rhodesian-made label proudly and deservedly so.

This brings to an end the tour of the factory and it remains to introduce the product and the South African selling organisation













Supersonic (Chassay Bros), Bulawayo, SR
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