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Coleman 501 (May 1962)

Discussion in 'Coleman No:501' started by Knight84, Nov 18, 2010.

  1. Knight84 Canada

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    Here is my Coleman 501 made in May of 1962.

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    First off I want to say this stove is dangerous and should not be used. It should be used as a shelf queen and not used as a stove.

    It is the early 1960's. Kennedy is the president. The Beatles are about to become something huge. The space race is heating up and so is the Vietnam War. Coleman is making coolers and tents along with lanterns and stoves. Coleman is growing and expanding to become the worldwide company we know today.

    In the later months of 1961 Coleman designed and built the 501. I am not 100% sure when the first ones were made. Later months of 1961 from what I have been able to research. The 501 had several design flaws. A lack of testing and just poor design made the stove dangerous to use. The stove would be recalled as most of you know the story. We all know how well a recall worked in those days... it didn't. But Coleman tried to make things right.

    The 501 was Coleman's first single burner stove since the 500, 520, 530 days. That was the 40's (1939)(1941)(1946/47) I believe they lacked the designers that they once had or at least the testing department. Coleman was still making the 500 and the 501 would use some of the 500's designs. The generator and mixing chamber are different on the 501 than the 500. But the 501 has a lighting lever and the jet is cleaned when the control knob/valve is closed like the 500. The smaller size of the 501 made it much more of a campers stove. What made Coleman go with the round generator on the 501 is beyond me. I believe one of the factors besides smaller size was cost and weight.

    Below is the famous lighting lever. The lighting lever when pointed up allows/bleeds air from inside the top of the tank to mix with the fuel. This makes for a lean mixture. This therefore aids in starting a cold stove. Once the stove has heated up the lever is then pointed down and more fuel and far less air will flow. The lighting lever can't stop air or fuel.


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    The problem with the 501 isn't the lighting lever it is where the control valve is. The picture below shows the problem. The lighting lever would be on the other end of the generator. If there was a leak or the generator failed there would be no way to stop the flow of fuel. And in theory fire could make its was through the lighting lever and into the tank. That is were the 501 gets call a bomb.

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    From left to right. The 501 lighting lever next to the 501A and the 502 (1962)
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    The 501 lighting lever next to the 501A Not the lighting lever is built into the control valve of the 501A and the 502

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    From left to right 501, 501A, 502

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    The 501 next to the 501A. Evil twins... one is a little better.

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    The 501 next to the 505B
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    The 501A doing its thing.

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    The famous 2 piece fuel cap. Designed to reduce stress and wear and tear on the gasket while tightening and loosening the fuel cap.

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    The 502 next to the 501. Coleman made three stoves in those early 60's The third time was a charm. The 502 would lead Coleman into the 1980's.
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    Coleman would learn from their mistakes of the 501. I believe they came out of the whole mess a better company. Their intergrity and commitment to safety is maybe why they are still around today.

    Jeff
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2015
  2. ulysses

    ulysses United States Subscriber

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    Jeff:

    Nice article. I have a better understanding of the stoves, their evolution and the safety issues involved. How did a company like Coleman stumble like that. I wonder why a conservative organization like Coleman would market a product with insuffient field testing. Thanks for your research.

    Paul
     
  3. Knight84 Canada

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    Hi Paul how are you?

    Great question. While Coleman is conservative in their approach to most all products they also try out new things. This was a case of trying out new designs the hard way. It is not the first time Coleman has stumbled. The 1928/29 slant generators on the 220/228 lanterns are somewhat flawed.
    Though the 501 was a error the mixing chamber was something that wasn't. It is used on the new Coleman stoves.

    Cheers,
    Jeff
     
  4. idahostoveguy

    idahostoveguy Subscriber

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    Jeff,

    Very nice presentation and stoves. That 501 sure looks sweet when it's lit up.

    I'm wondering if anyone has ever attempted to rework or replace the lighting lever with one that was able to shut off. Seems like that could reduce the danger of flame and leak occurrence. Aren't there stove or lantern valves that act as both the lighting and main valve?

    Anyway, don't mean to digress into problem-solving mode. You have done a really nice article. Yours and Presscall's will help me in my 501's fettle.

    Thanks!

    sam
     
  5. flivver

    flivver United States Subscriber

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    Sam and all: I am sure lots of folks tried to re-engineer the 501. I did that very thing in the early 1970's. I bought one from a junk shop and failed to get it running right. In desperation I called Coleman and was emphatically told to smash it as their exchange/replacement program had ended years earlier. So I decided that I would redesign it. Using parts from other stoves I changed valve location among other things. I was never able to get it to run to my satisfaction. I returned it to it's original configuration. Brazed up vital components so it would never run but looked prefect cosmetically and gave it to a collector friend that still has it. Many years later I met an older gent with horrible burn scars on his face. He told me they were the result of a 501. After meeting him and others that met a similar but not as drastic a fate I am glad I survived the 501 without incident. If you have one please render it permanently inoperable and put it on display. Mike...
     
  6. usdan50 United States

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    I think most Coleman collectors have one in their collection. But we know it's flaws and don't light them. From what I was told by others in the hobby ,the stove had a nasty habit of flaring after it was in use. It was thought that the generator would go cold under certain conditions. So imagine happly stirring your beef stew and your arms become engulfed in flame,or you bent down for a quick sniff of that nice hot grub. Ouch!
     
  7. Knight84 Canada

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    Thanks Sam!

    Coleman did just that with the 501A now posted on this site. The generator still proved to pulse and the knob and lever becomes hot. But besides that the stove works. My 501A works but from time to time it will pulse and reminds me of a 111T I know.

    Jeff
     
  8. hikin_jim United States

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    Nice post, Jeff. I've heard the story of the 501 many times, but I don't think I've seen it spelled out this clearly anywhere.

    Coleman most certainly does try new things. Witness their foray into their "X" backpacking stoves (Xtreme, Xpert, and Xpedition). They made a radical departure from the standard 7/16th UNEF threaded connector canister and used a side laying canister instead. They're brilliant stoves and those in the know prize them for use as cold weather gas stoves. I've read postings where many write of the X stoves that they are the gold standard of cold weather gas stoves.

    Coleman's X stoves ultimately failed not because of any technical defect but because they were different and the public never really accepted them.

    Coleman continues to innovate today. The Coleman Fyrestorm is considered by many backpackers to be the best cold weather gas stove in production today.

    Anyway, I digress. This is a 501 thread. :oops:

    A very well done post, Jeff.

    Thanks,

    HJ
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2015
  9. idahostoveguy

    idahostoveguy Subscriber

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    Hi Jeff,

    Another question. Is your cook kit original to the stove as shown in the picture above? I was wondering about that. The 501 I acquired came in a cook kit and looks as aged as the stove itself. Just wondering if the kits came out at the same time to be part of the overall cooking kit OR were they an after-thought and later more formally paired up with the 502?

    As you know, the cook kit is number 501-960 cook kit. Is this a coincidence, or what?

    sam
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2015
  10. Knight84 Canada

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    Thanks Jim! I agree they are good cold weather stoves.

    Hi Sam,

    The cook kit was made for the 501. It is shown in the 501 manual I have. The heater drum was made for the 501 too. The heater drum would be changed for the 502 but the cook kit would stay the same.
    The 502 would be designed to fit into the cook kit.
    Another thing Coleman had to do was rewrite the manuals.

    Jeff.
     

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