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GTE 120 Automatic Electric Rotary Payphone

Started by allnumbedup, September 22, 2022, 03:44:12 PM

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I found this rotary GTE payphone at my usual local outdoor flea market for $35. It has a satin chrome/ black/ and grey finish. I've been reading the threads on this model and am thinking about how best to restore it with or without opening it so  thought best to ask some questions first:

1. How are the instruction cards installed? Is the chrome faceplate held from the back/inside and the cards applied first before reinstalling it or are they installed from the front like stickers?

2. The handset has the blue-now green grommet and looks like others on GTE 120 payphones I have seen. It lacks the typical back ridge of AE 80's and has no markings...but are the caps removable?

3. I do not have a T- key or BJ0004 key.  Can the housing and bottom be unlocked but closed with the t key alone? (wishful thinking)

thanks in advance, JC
Analog Phones for a Digital World


The dial on this set requires either the plastic fingerwheel with the number sticker or the chrome metal one with the locating punch marks. Older finger wheels will just spin around on the round hub .


I bought a T key and upper housing key and answered some of my own questions:

1. The instruction cards seem to be held in place by rimmed edges all around their windows in the chrome face. To get behind the face, I had to remove the upper housing, 12 pressed steel nut washers on the inside holding the chrome, 4 real nuts that hold the thick porcelain dial face on the front, and the coin return lever. Seems like there must be another trick.....

3. Both the t-key and the upper housing key need to be in locked position to remove the keys. So if you find a phone like this and it is locked with no keys in the locks, they are both locked. I was able to remove a post on the lock mechanism once opened that defeats the upper housing lock and allows the top to be opened and closed with only the T key. (photo 2). I rebolted this post to the inside the phone should someone one day want to reverse this 'fix'.

I was able to restore while leaving locked the lower lock and vault door--so never drilled it out.  The third photo shows how I reversibly disabled to coin dispenser so that coins no longer go into the vault. I removed a bolt and placed a upholstery tack through the hole to hold the doors toward the coin return, then hot glued over the tack so it is harder to wiggle loose.  I found about two bucks in the phone which is all that was down there I think anyway.

I used steel wool followed by black shoe polish to restore the paint, lettering, and brushed chrome. The cards and dial sticker I made and printed from posts here (DSK) and on TCI. I used the semi-post pay ones just because these seemed more interesting to me. The dial card sticker is a fantasy one embellished from a real dial card design. I purchased a NOS handset as the one that came with the phone was badly gnawed on and these can't be opened easily to remove the elements to allow it to be sanded and polished. It is on its way from ebay.

As suggested by rdelius, I used a dial card sticker over a center bolt fingerwheel. Maybe the worst idea AE ever had, but authentic.

So...This is a 1980 dated rotary 120b GTE payphone. I was surprised to see a rotary payphone made so late and took some photos of other labels and marks inside. These date up to 1989. I kept looking for something earlier but Oct 27 1980 is vermillion stamped on the floor of the upper housing. Although this phone is built like a tank, the dial is a sad plastic one. I have seen a post that this payphone should have a dial interchangeable with any period AE dial, but I am not sure how one would wire it up because this model payphone has a 6 wire dial for a second set of contacts whereas AE80 and A80E's usually have 4 wires. I don't really understand what the second set does but probably has something to do with cutting on and off the handset for payphone function.  The finger wheel looks a little different too and fits in a slot in the porcelain dial face.

I posted a request for help separately as I am getting only a fast low dial tone on testing this phone. I took the first picture before tearing it down again to troubleshoot.
Analog Phones for a Digital World


R&S was a refurbisher. You can take a dial from a type 80 set and move the contact pile ups from the newer plasticky dial to it. AE dial parts will interchange from the last ones back as far as the type 24