Revere Model 80 8mm Film Projector

This is the Revere Model 80 Standard 8mm Film Projector.


This projector was manufactured by the Revere Camera Company, which was founded in 1939 in Chicago.  Unlike the GoldE Manufacturing company (which was also in Chicago) there is a bit more information available online about on this company (although I think all the different sites I found about it all pointed back to the same source, so here’s hoping they got it somewhere reliable).  It was originally created as a subsidiary company of a car radiator manufacturer, but eventually it was rolled back into the parent company and the overall focus was moved to the production of budget cameras and projectors throughout the 40s and 50s.  The company was purchased by 3M in 1960.

The Model 80 appears to have been their first 8mm projector and it was manufactured in the early to mid 1940s.  It was followed by Models 85 and 90 in the late 1940s and 50s.

My Story

My grandfather acquired this particular projector in the 90s in order to play all the old 8mm films he had from my mother’s childhood.  My father took the projector and the tin of films a few years later so he could move them onto DVD.  At the time he was still using an SD camcorder, and so I borrowed the film and projector in order to recapture the films in HD.

As each individual filmstrip was between three and ten minutes in length, at least half of the time it took to run through them all was the time it took to setup the projector.  After transferring over two hours of film, I found I really appreciated the Model 80s austere and simplistic design, as all the switches and levers are up front and easily accessible and usable.  If you know what you are doing, you can set it up, play the film, rewind and remove quite quickly.  As we will come to see in some later model projectors, in an attempt to make them automatic and user-friendly they hid some features and actually made them more difficult to use.

My Thoughts

This is my favorite of the many 8mm projectors in my collection.  It’s design is incredibly minimalistic–there is nothing included that is not functional.  It really speaks to what a ‘budget’ product meant in 1940.  It does not have any extra fancy features, but it is not at all ‘cheap’ in the modern usage of that word (ie. flimsy, disposable, poorly made).  ‘Budget’ spoke more to the price and less to the quality of the item.

There were quite a few things about using this projector that really stood out to me.  The first was that the actual size of the projected image is quite small compared to either a slide projector or a modern video projector.  At a throw distance of twenty feet, the projected video was about the size of a 36″ screen (three foot diagonal).  As a point of comparison, at that same distance the GoldE slide projector almost doubled the image size, and a modern HD video projector would create a 14-15 foot image.

These days ‘rewinding’ is all but completely divorced from it’s root word.  Nothing digital can be rewound–it can be reviewed and reversed, but as there is nothing to wind, there is nothing to rewind.  Most people when they think about rewinding in the ‘old sense’ would think about VHS or cassette tapes.  The 8mm projector brings a whole new level of meaning to re-winding.  At the end of watching a film, all of the filmstrip will have unspooled from the top and will now be on the bottom reel.  The problem is that it is now wound completely backwards, so in order to properly view it again, you have to re-wind it back on the original reel.  In order to do this, you can directly attach the film to the upper reel without having to spool it through the lamp/lens area, and then you release the clutch and set it to reverse and the film will re-wind itself around the top reel.  It’s a big enough leap from digital to remember a time when viewing a film left it in an unviewable state that you needed to reverse in order to view again.  This goes a step beyond that as both VHS and cassette tapes had the advantage of containing both reels within their cases, and so the machine could easily rewind back and forth between the reels.  With an 8mm projector, you have to do most of the work that those machines did.  As well, if you only have the reel with the film on it, and not a second empty take up reel, you cannot properly view your film!

The other thing that really stuck out to me in getting used to using this projector was how much I’m used to the idea of devices being intuitive and user friendly.  It’s possible that this projector was intuitive for a pre-digital age that was more accustomed to levers and switches and mechanical processes–I, however, found using it rather confusing at first.  It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t figure out, but it felt more like doing a puzzle than operating a device.  The language of design that we are used to with our devices is completely different to the language that this projector was created with.

I’ll end here with a video I put together out of several of the films from my mother’s childhood.  One of the neat features on this projector is that it has complete variable speed control, not just two or three preset speeds, but actual analog control over the full range of speed.  In the early scenes of this video you’ll notice there is a flicker effect, which was due to me running it at a too-slow speed.  That is corrected in the later scenes.


24 thoughts on “Revere Model 80 8mm Film Projector

  1. I just purchased one of these on Amazon to view old family 8mm films. Seems like it works fine, but came with no bulb. Can you tell me what type/size of bulb and where to get one? Thanks!

    • I’ve had the good fortune of not having any burnt out bulbs yet so I haven’t started down the path of finding out where to get any replacements. Google is probably your best bet.

    • I haven’t yet had to replace any bulbs so I haven’t started down that road yet. In researching some of these projectors, however, I have run across a few specialty sites that still seem to provide accessories for them. If I find one again I’ll add it to the comments.

  2. Excellent post!
    Was wondering if you had a digital copy of the manual to share – maybe scanned photos or a PDF?
    I have my grandfathers original projector same as yours and am trying to figure out how to run it.
    Thanks for bringing back classic home movies – I love it!

    • Unfortunately I don’t have a manual for this one. I’ve only been lucky with a couple of my old machines to also find the documentation.
      The good thing is that this projector is one of the simpler ones to run once you get down some basics. If you’re interested let me know and I can do up a how-to article with pictures.

    • I recently bought a model 85. Looking at your pictures, they appear to be almost identical (with only one additional placard attached to the top of mine). I can’t see that there is a difference so I’m curious if any changes were made internally. In your research did you hear of any changes made between the models?
      Also as for a manual, I was able to Google my 85 and find a PDF that was both viewable and download-able. Just FYI for anyone looking.

      • That`s great that there are PDF manuals out available there for these. I only have a couple surviving manuals for any of my pieces, but I hope to scan them in at some point as they`re fascinating reads.

        I haven`t read anything on any of the differences between models, but what I`ve seen in a few cases is that a model number change may signify a design change, but it also can be a marketing change either to put out a `new model` in the next year or to support a new sales market (I live in Canada and I`ve seen a few cases where the identical item has a completely different Canadian model number, but it`s otherwise identical to the American version.)

      • @ michaelsmith. I have the model 80 and used a Model 85 manual. Looks the same and the manual listed all the same features/buttons. Maybe the 80 was in a very short product before they switch to call it the “85”
        Not sure how to get the manual to you.

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  5. Good article! Your thoughts section brought to life the aspect of a real persons adventure into the past, and some of the great qualities of vintage items. Thanks.

  6. I have an 85. I had the same thoughts as you when I tried to operate it. It’s not intuitive but once you do it you realize it is logical. Fortunately I have the original manual for backup. I figured it was from the 50’s based on the style and text of the manual. With the deco look I can see the projector didn’t change much from the early 40’s.

  7. I just received this projector as a gift and want to know how i find out which version of this i have. i can send you a picture or give you all the info on the plate…the front plate says Revere with either 2 letters above the name and below the name but split in half or 4 separate came with 3 reels but the cord is missing which is fine since i’m displaying right now anyway….can you advise me how to find more info on the projector. I did find the following number on the the machine: B142557. thank you

    • All the research I’ve ever done on this had just been online and depending on your goal it will depend on how you will want to search. If you want to find a replacement cord at some point it might be simpler to try to search for the power requirements for the projector and see if you can find a generic cord that could work instead of trying to track down an original. Sometimes I’ve had luck finding message boards of other collectors who will post those tips. Usually power cords are easier items to replace. Good luck!

  8. I purchased my first Revere projector at a thrift store, only paying $2 for it and 3 films. I bought it strictly for display purposes so I was not interested if it worked or not. But when I got it home, and began to examine it I was struck by how well made it was. So after a quick cleaning, I decided to plug it in and see what happened, figuring the worst thing that could happen would be it didn’t work, or I’d blow a breaker… So I plugged it in. It fired right up, and after some figuring, it was working like it was new. I was amazed at the simple set up considering id never operated one before. Since then I’ve purchased 3 Revere projectors (model 80, 85 and 90) and 2 Bell and Howell projectors. I continue to be amazed at the quality of these projectors. I’ve also purchased some projectors from the late 50’s-early 60’s and find the early Revere models to be the absolute best in quality and simple operation.

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