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Thread Number: 34138  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
1979 Kirby Tradition Restoration
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Post# 369916   4/3/2017 at 15:45 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

This is going to be a restoration thread of my Kirby Tradition. It is a later 1979 model, which was going to be sold with another one, an early 1979 model, but the other one got recycled, along with the power nozzle. I only got the Tradition, some attachments, the blue attachment case, and the Miracle Head Polisher and Floor Buffer. (Actually, this attachment was how I was able to know that the Kirby even works, as I didn't get the hose, and I don't really want to hold the safety switch, myself.) The bearings seem okay, as the motor spins freely with no effort. It does currently have a lexan fan in it, but it came with a metal fan when I ordered it. Somehow the fan arrived a whole two weeks before it did.

The story behind that: The vacuum was shipped to me from Nebraska, and arrived within 4 days to my town in Florida. However, when it arrived, UPS dropped it (now mind you, they didn't break it, but thought they did), and as a result, they shipped it BACK to the seller! He opened the package, but nothing was broken. So, he shipped it again, but this time it wound up at a CAR DEALERSHIP in Omaha, 200 miles away. Actually, the only reason I found this out was because the dealership called me. In a week from then, it arrives again to the seller, we talk about how how ridiculous UPS is, the weather in our individual states, the price of milk in Venezuela; it was a good time.......

So, about three weeks later almost, he sends the Kirby a THIRD time, and, wouldn't you know it, about a week later, guess what finally arrives at my doorstep, with a note attached, saying, "Do not return! Item is Salvage. Deliver BROKEN!" LOL!

Needless to say, worst UPS experience. Ever. Period. But onto greater things:
1. The Kirby, as aforementioned, lacks the rug nozzle and a hose, all stuff easy to acquire, but it does have the Miracle Head, which works just fine.
2. The handle fork locking pin is missing, and upon borrowing the one from my Heritage, the pin it goes into is dislocated inside the machine, as it inserts crooked, and hits the inside case.
3. It has style 1 bags...
4. It needs a polish.
5. I'll find out more things it needs as I tear it apart. Lol!

Enjoy a picture or two!


Also an unpacking video for your viewing pleasure! My kids were more excited than I was.


  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 2         View Full Size

Post# 369926 , Reply# 1   4/3/2017 at 20:09 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
Great start!

Now I can eat popcorn and sit back and watch, since I officially finished my Tradition.

I think I remember this aution too - there were two units, one with the headlight lid lock. I was very close to buying these myself as the price was right. If this is the same auction, why did you not get both machines?

If you are going to have them all apart I recommend you change the bearings, at very least the front one. That way there is no question on how long it will last. Bad bearings can allow easy shaft spin, but they could be noisy or loose. If the grease is dried up (it will be if they are original) they will fail soon due to lack of lube. Since they are only 6 bucks each, I would go for it. Then you will know you should have a good 20-30 years of service from them.

Do you have a local Kirby shop nearby? That could be a good source of parts.
The old shop close by me is loaded with Tradition parts - new, NOS, and used whole/parts units.

Your unpacking video was a hoot - those kids loved it, mainly the foam...
I see you had a hard time with the attachment box, too!

Post# 369931 , Reply# 2   4/3/2017 at 21:53 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        
The Older Tradition

I was wanting the old Tradition with the newer one too, especially since it was a headlight lock model, but the fellow evaluated that it would have been too much work for whatever reason (I didn't ask), and he -threw it away.- uugh. Finding that out was depressing, as he said, "That one will probably be melted down and be fused into your next new car." What a bummer. He did though at least mark the price down some because it lacked a whole machine. Also, the shipping was originally $80, but he marked the shipping down to $23, with both the remaining Kirby, and the attachment cache. So at least I saved money.

I will definitely be replacing the bearings, as yes, they will spin freely, but they are somewhat noisier than my Heritage. The Heritage is like brand new in nearly every way. It is my daily, so I keep it up well. Even polish it once a month. Lol.

There is indeed a Kirby store about 15 miles north of me! I haven't been there, but I will soon, especially if I can acquire a set of bearings from them. Also, do you think I could get a good deal on a Tradition hose there, or would I be better on Ebay?

That attachment box was a little beast! And yes, my kids seem to share my love for Kirbys. One in particular wants the Tradition "when he grows up," because it is his favorite color: Blue!

Post# 370047 , Reply# 3   4/4/2017 at 20:08 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

If this is the same auction I saw, then the seller most likely bent the truth a bit...
The original auction was 53 shipping and 21 starting bid. So total of 74 for two machines plus attachments.
There was a question asked by a buyer if he would just sell the one with the headlight lock. Seller responded that price was low enough that he wanted to sell both together.
So he removed a whole machine plus the most desired rug attachment. If he marked shipping down by half that would be around $25 minimum. With today's low recycling price on aluminum, he would not have come out better that way. Also, according to my Kirby service guy, recyclers would require the machine be broken down into pure aluminum, which means working for it and less weight. Therefore I seriously suspect he sold that other machine. I personally would have made him stand per the auction description as the original deal was pretty good.

But anyway, DO visit with that Kirby shop. You never know what they have and most likely they don't either! It would be better you walk in there with a list and get to know the shop owners. I had better luck that way then calling them. I got better deals and they were more motivated to start poking through boxes and bins of old stuff. They might have a treasure trove in the back, like mine does. It may be all obscured with layers of dust! Check on ebay to get prices (with shipping) before you go for comparison. Check Craiglist also. And if you do not have good results, let me know and I will put you in touch with my Kirby guy here who does have a hoard of Tradition parts and parts units. He is a very nice guy to deal with and they have been in business in the same place for 40+ years.
Traditions are quite common to find as their known faults made them into the 'ugly ducklings' that were quickly traded for new units. You could easily get some more, fix them up, and make them into graduation gifts for any of your kids who like them!

Post# 370090 , Reply# 4   4/5/2017 at 11:03 by gottahaveahoove (Pittston, Pennsylvania, 18640)        
I have both of those machines. (don't ask)

gottahaveahoove's profile picture
Actually, 2 of he blue ones and one of the red ones. They'll all be cleaned up and listed FOR SALE! Cellar Dwellers.

Post# 370138 , Reply# 5   4/6/2017 at 07:06 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        
Graduation Gifts...


Funny you would mention graduation gifts. I have a boy whose favorite color is blue, and he has already claimed that vacuum! I told him that when he is a grown-up and is getting his own place, that he can have the Tradition. You want to see some sparkle in someone's eye?

I appreciate the info about the Kirby shop! I plan to pay them a visit later next week. I have a bit of "Kirby money" just for the occasion.


What is the model of the red one you have?

Post# 370141 , Reply# 6   4/6/2017 at 10:36 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

My favorite color as a child was blue, also.

It's part of the reason why I have my 1985 Stark Deluxe (Royal) 880! I bought this for $25 via a Craigslist ad.


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Post# 370177 , Reply# 7   4/6/2017 at 19:37 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Having your son interested in the Kirby is a good thing! When old enough, show him everything about it - what it can do, what all the attachments are for, how to maintain it, and most of all, how to use it. You might just have yourself a long-term house keeper!
BTW, when scanning ebay I saw a VERY nice blue attachment set in the white box but it lacks the hose you need.
The red vac gottahaveahoover probably has is the Classic III, which was right before the Tradition. Much like the Tradition, but red. I almost want one myself, as that was my favorite color when I was a kid!

Post# 370178 , Reply# 8   4/6/2017 at 19:38 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Never heard of a Stark - any history on it? Looks similar to a Royal and Kirby - how does it compare?

Post# 370179 , Reply# 9   4/6/2017 at 19:52 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

Yes... it is just a Royal 880 that was branded for sale to Stark's Vacuum Cleaners which is based in my hometown of Portland, OR. Stark's was founded in 1932 by Jim Stark in the Sellwood neighborhood of SE Portland, but within a year he relocated his company HQs up north (at the SE corner of Grand Ave. & Burnside Rd.). The company assumed its present location at the NW corner of this intersection in 1966.

Both Kirby and Royal, by the way, had originated in Cleveland, OH, and both also had a connection to HMI (Health-Mor Industries).


Post# 370181 , Reply# 10   4/6/2017 at 20:45 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


That Stark Royal is a fine looking machine! I have not acquired a Royal, yet. It's on my to do list... eventually. Baby Blue looks good on that vacuum.


Yes, the Kirby Classic III and the Legend II are my favorite Second Gen machines. I have neither, though. I have my hands full restoring the Tradition and the 517 right now, so I don't think I could convince my wife that those are needed here, yet. Yet. Yet...

I did see the Ebay ad you mentioned. In the cardboard case? Hose aside, it looks like a complete set, and they're in good shape too, it seems. I actually have my eyes on a genuine Tradition hose right now. Hopefully it lasts for the next two weeks, because by then I'll have the $$ for it. Unless I can find a jewel in the Kirby shop in town. I'll get there eventually. A hose and a Crevice Tool would be nice. I'm not going to concern myself with the Handi-Butler or the Rug Renovator for it, even though they would make a handsome set.

My kids have growing interest in vacuums. Since getting the Tradition and one of my boys claiming it because it's his favorite color, all the other kids have chimed in as well, all saying they want a vacuum, too. A DS50, DS80 and a Classic III would suit them individually, so long as they retain their favorite colors through the years.


Post# 370183 , Reply# 11   4/6/2017 at 20:51 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

BTW, I ordered a handle fork pin, a Power Head, original brush roll, and a headlight for both the Tradition and the 517. As soon as I get the Power Head, I will then commence taking the Tradition apart and start the restoration process inside the machine. Besides bearings and brushes, anything else I should look out for? Should I check anything on the field or armature?

Post# 370186 , Reply# 12   4/6/2017 at 21:43 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

You know I looked at that attachment set again but I did not see a crevice tool. Is it behind a wand or missing? May want to check if you get it. It should not go anywhere fast especially at that price.
Looks like you will be busy restoring vacuums - one for each kid perhaps! Do them right and they will last and last.
I am doing a 505 now and will do two DS50s this fall.

Make sure you get a new belt - the soft one for the older machines. The belt lifter dial on the Tradition is plastic and the newer belts are thicker and so stiff the lifter dial could break.
Can you do an AC current test before tearing it down? Those kill-a-watt testers can work well. This will indicate motor condition as of now.
Check for excess sparking at the brushes before teardown also. They should be very small on both speeds. Large sparks can indicate excess current draw or contaminated brushes/commutator.
Check the commutator bars for excessive wear as well. A small grove is okay, just not too deep.
Brush the armature and field coil with a soft toothbrush without cleaners.

Post# 370188 , Reply# 13   4/6/2017 at 22:13 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
Your new Classic III...

Oh - there is a brand new listing for a Classic III on ebay now that has your name on it! Complete set - original box, shampooer, handi butler, hose, most if not all tools, and a shag-king!
Get it so I don't, as I am about out of room here!

Post# 370191 , Reply# 14   4/6/2017 at 23:47 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


Thanks for the advice! And shhh!! Don't tell me about that Classic! They've actually got a good price on it! You know you want it, because I do! My wallet is telling me otherwise, though!

There's a fair priced Legend II on there right now too. No attachments, but the machine looks to be in good shape.


Post# 370213 , Reply# 15   4/7/2017 at 12:16 by sptyks (Woburn, MA)        

sptyks's profile picture



 You may want to consider getting the newer style 4 row ball bearing brushroll instead of the original 2 row brush sleeve bearing brushroll for your Tradition. There are two advantages to the new style brushroll.


1.  The new style brushroll cleans much better.


2, Since it has ball bearings, you can use the new style knurled belt which lasts much longer.



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