12 Feb 2015

Torpedo 18: '56 v. '59

1956 Torpedo 18b 873763

1959 Torpedo 18a 1078677

There are a lot of little differences between my '56 and '59 Torpedo 18s. I'll be focusing on the changes made due to different year of production (most were made around serial number 1050000), but there are also other differences I'll point out. My 1956 Torpedo is a model 18b and was sold in the US, while my 1959 is an 18a and was sold in the Netherlands. This isn't an exhaustive list of differences, but I have tried to be fairly complete.

The 1956 18b comes first in each image pair, followed by the 1959 18a.

First, the location of the Torpedo logo changes in 1959 from the paper table to the ribbon cover. Also seen in these photos, the card holders (both metal and plastic) are slightly altered in 1959.

The Torpedo Werke emblem is removed in 1959. You can also see that the exposed metal pieces are black on the 1956 model, while they are silvery on the 1959 (and corroded in this particular example; not an uncommon problem with the 1959-1962 Torpedoes)

The 1956 model has a matte-finish segment center, while in 1959 it is chromed.

The ribbon cover is hinged on the 1956 model and can be removed with considerable force, while it pops right out on the 1959 model. You can see the empty screw holes where the hinge was removed.

The US-imported model has an American-size ribbon spool pin, while the Dutch one has a larger DIN center pin.

The location of the rubber pads under the ribbon cover changes from 1956 to 1959, as does the serial number paint color.

The end of the paper arm is more rounded on the older Torpedo.

The ribbon color selector plate is body color on the 1956 model and chromed in 1959.

The difference here is unrelated to the year of production. The addition of a tab key on the 18b and a tab set/clear lever beside it that is lacking on the 18a.

The same goes for this. The extra lever on the 1956 model is the tab stop all-clear.

The "Made in Western Germany" decal is often found on Torpedoes imported into the US, but not always. In this case it is present, while lacking on the Dutch Torpedo.

The older Torpedo has a less-rounded case and a different handle.

It can't be shown in pictures, but the feel changes a bit between the two years. It's subtly refined in the 1959 model, though the two are comparable in touch.

My original blog posts on the 1956 Torpedo 18b and on the 1959 Torpedo 18a.


  1. Looks like tiny bits of cost savings sperad over many machines probably saved the company quite a bit. Just by not black oxide finishing all the key levers makes a big difference. I guess they moved the name to the front so people could see it when there was a paper in the typewriter. I think it would have been neat had they put the logo on one side and the name on the other side of the ribbon/typebar cover. Example, the name on the left and kept the logo on the right.

    1. I don't know for sure, but I think they quickly altered the finish on the metal parts because all my 1959-early 1961 Torpedoes have had some amount of corrosion, while all my late 1961-1963 ones haven't.

      I've thought of that before myself—the emblem is quite nice. But it might have disrupted the simple styling more than they wanted.

    2. New to the party here, but is is possible the earlier 59 models aren galvanized steel? I have a 60 18a which appears 'corroded' but it also looks like the finish you find on galvanized pipes. My 61 18b appears to be stainless - so no need for galvanizing.

      Just a theory.

      Again, just a theory. I haven't tried to clean or polish off any of the 'corrosion' for fear it might remove the zinc layer and expose the raw steel underneath.

  2. At least some Torpedo 18's have an extra pair of screw holes in front of the front feet, so that it's possible to move the front feet forward. I don't know whether this is the intended purpose of those holes. Do both these Torpedos have the holes?

    1. Yes, both of them have places for front feet. The boxy style body 18s had the feet there near the front corners; I think that was changed with the new streamlined styling.

  3. I am finding the Typewriter Database very hard to wrangle... am trying to figure out the date of manufacture on my Torpedo, and am getting wildly different numbers from different areas of that site... and what does the "b" in 18b stand for?