Torpedo 18a

A 1954 Torpedo 18a typewriter with an AZERTY keyboard.

Pictured above is my 1954 Torpedo 18a typewriter. The difference between the 18a and the 18b being that the latter came equipped with a tabulator, while the former did not. I bought this one in December ‘17 from an ebay seller somewhere in Devon or Somerset. It was a pre-Christmas impulse-buy that cost me something like £35, postage included. As I recall it arrived packaged in an old Fortnum & Mason box.

For obvious reasons, a German company using ‘Torpedo’ as their brand would have raised more eyebrows than profits in mid-20th Century Britain, hence for the UK market these machines went by the name ‘Blue Bird’. This one is a ‘Torpedo’ having been destined for France: it has a French AZERTY keyboard-layout, which is likely the main reason I was able to buy it relatively cheaply. Despite years of use, I still frequently mqke the sqme old mistqkes when typing on it. Also, its platen is rather hard, with the type-bars consequently liable to try to stamp holes in one’s paper.

On the plus side, out of all the portable typewriters I’ve used, this one has my favourite typing action: very responsive & sweetly snappy. The type itself is an appealing ‘Congress’-style one. I have a blue ribbon installed in the 18a, obtained from FJA Products in the U.S., which has served me well. I’d order more from them if the postage rates weren’t so prohibitive. When not in use, the machine resides in its smart metal carrying case. When I bought it, all that remained of the case’s handle was a steel strip. I later re-upholstered this with a section of a dog collar I’d found in a vaguely similar shade of grey.

A metal carrying case for a '50s Torpedo-brand typewriter.