Classic Sapphire Radios

1960 to 1967


Classic VW Radios as I know it

I contributed to an article in the VW Trends (RIP) magazine about the radios installed in classic Volkswagens.  My main contribution lies with the ‘60s and ‘70s radio models from Bendix and Motorola commonly referred to as Sapphires.  I do not have any information regarding the very early models from Telefunken and others from the very early 1950s.  If you have this information I would welcome it and publish it here with credits.  Much of my information has been obtained through working with the radios and speaking to those in the VW community with knowledge of the early days.  I frequently hear the phrase “It was purchased from the dealer with a Sapphire ?? installed so it must be the only correct model for that year”.  While this radio may have been installed when the Bug was purchased, it may have a radio from a prior year or later depending on the dealership’s stock.  It would not be unheard of for a dealership to use a radio kit on the shelf for a new model if the features are the same.


The 1950s VW owner who wanted a radio was limited to aftermarket radios such as Blaupunkt, Automatic, Motorola and others available on the market.  Some of these manufacturers made kits for the VW which included antenna, knobs and faceplates made especially for the car.  The earliest radios had vibrator-driven power supplies that were sometimes in a separate chassis to be mounted in the trunk area.  Others such as the Automatic and Motorola had them mounted in the same chassis.  The purpose of a vibrator is to take the 6 volts supply voltage, change it mechanically to a pulsating 6 volts so it can be increased through a transformer to provide the high (~230 volts) plate voltage the tubes require.  The progress of technology led to transistor power supplies and then to all-transistor radios.  Blaupunkt used the same names e.g. Frankfurt, Bremen etc. throughout the changes so sometimes it’s confusing as to the type of radio.  ALL the Sapphire-series, Bendix and later Motorola radios are all-transistor - NO tubes.

The Sapphire Part Number Scheme:

Through the 1960s both Bendix and later Motorola used the same scheme with the first digit signifying the year and added FM to signify an AM/FM radio.  The B appears to stand for Bendix and the final letter was for the application; V= sedan, T=transporter, G=Ghia, 3=T3 although only the V was stamped on the radio.  When Motorola started in 1964, an M was added to differentiate it from its Bendix cousin.  Up until the Sapphire XVIII, all the even number Sapphires, e.g. II, IV, VI etc. with the exception of the VIII 8-track, was an AM/FM radio. 

1960-61 Sapphire (0BV,1BV)

by Bendix

The VWoA dealer-installed radios started with the 1960 Bendix Sapphire I AM radio.  I’ve been told that it actually happened in 1959 because of model year changes but the radios are stamped 0BV for 1960.  The Bendix-supplied Sapphire I radios for 1960 and 1961 are distinctive in a number of ways.  They have a large tuning window face and have the keystone shaped pushbuttons as well as unique inner tone and dummy knobs.  There is a slight difference in the 1960 and 1961 radios in the location of the audio output transistor visible on the back of the case, the 1960 is in the center while the 1961 is closer to the side.  These radio also had a 3-pronged speaker plug common to other radios of that era.  I’ve seen the same plug on a 1955 Ford radio.

1962-1965 Sapphire I (2BV, 3BV, 4TBV, 4TMV, 5BV)

by Bendix and Motorola

These radios all look very similar although all say Sapphire I on the tuning window, there are some differences.  The 1963 Sapphire brought a narrower tuning window and smaller pushbuttons as well as larger, metal chrome inner knobs.  In 1964 the federal government requirement for the CONELRAD triangles at 640 and 1240KHz was dropped because of the implementation of the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) in 1963.  This was also the first year of the Motorola Sapphire I radios.  The case and part number are different but they look similar to the Bendix model (without the “by Bendix” script) all I’ve seen have grey pushbuttons.  I suspect that Motorola made radios for 1964 (4TMV) but not 1965 because I’ve never seen a 1965 Motorola Sapphire, only Bendix (5BV) and those all have grey pushbuttons as well.

1962 and 1964 Sapphire II (2FMBV, 4FMBV)

by Bendix

This was the introduction of the first AM/FM radio as a dealer-installed option for the VW.  If you know about the era, FM was not the popular band as AM top 40 ruled the airwaves, I know WLS and Larry Lujack was on my radio.  What this means is that there were not many who ponied up the extra money for the dual band radios which are in high demand today.

1965 Sapphire II (5FMBV)

by Bendix

This was a redesign of the printed circuit card from the earlier Sapphire II radios and all I’ve seen have grey pushbuttons.

1966 Sapphire III (6BV, 6TMV)

by Bendix and Motorola

This was a change in the look of the VW Sapphire radio.  Both Bendix and Motorola made Sapphire III radios but they now had a black tuning face with chrome knobs and a chrome and black faceplate.    The Bendix model has the output transistor above the on/off shaft while the Motorola has it below the tuning shaft. I appears the metal chrome plated inner knobs are now plastic, chrome-plated but look the same as the 1962-1965 radios.

1966 Sapphire IV (6FMBV)

by Bendix

The Sapphire IV was the AM/FM model only by Bendix with the bands changed with a chrome slider in the center of the radio.  Beside the chrome Sapphire IV slider in the center, there are output transistors above both the shafts.  This picture was taken of one installed in a notch.

1967 Sapphire V (7BV, 7TMV)

by Bendix  and Motorola (top)

As with many things on the 1967 Bug, this is a one-year-only item and highly sought-after.  It is essentially a 12-volt Sapphire III so it will fit without any modification in a 6-12 volt converted vehicle.  The difference with the Sapphire III models is with the center chrome strip and they came with rubber knobs to match the dash knobs.  The bottom picture shows the radios sans faceplate with the Motorola model on top of the Bendix.

1967 Sapphire VI (7FMBV, 7FMBVX)

by Bendix

This is probably the most sought-after of all the the Sapphire models.  It’s a one-year-only, 12 volt, AM/FM mono radio making it desirable for many VW years.  As far as I can tell it was made only by Bendix but there were two models, one with a pair of output transistors above the shafts like the IV (7FMBV) and a later version with a combined pair above the on/off shaft. (7FMBVX)  To get technical, the change was from NPN to PNP transistors and because the combined transistor pair is NLA I’ve been able to repair a 7FMBVX with separate NPN transistors.  This model also used the black and chrome faceplate and the rubber knobs.

1967 Sapphire VIII (A7SMV)

by Motorola

The symbol of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the 8-track tape player.  I’ve seen both the in-dash and under dash , each with an AM radio made by Motorola for the VW, rubber knobs and all.

1967/8? Sapphire VII

A unique radio with a 6-12 volt switch and no pushbuttons.  I’ve only seen this one and don’t have a faceplate.

Bendix Sapphire I

2BV, 3BV

Motorola Sapphire I