The first Vibroplex model is often considered a separate model, although it’s basically the same as later Original models. Distinguishing features are an adjustment screw at the bottom of the damper assembly, the use of ordinary screws for dot and dash stop screws instead of the later knurled screws, and the first (4-line A-series) Vibroplex nameplate.
The Vibroplex pictured on this website’s main page has the number “7” stamped on the right edge, about an inch from the front. The first model Vibroplex pictured on Page 6 of Bill Holly’s book has the number “43” stamped in the same place. Although it may never be proven, it is likely that this is the seventh Vibroplex ever made.
Within a few years, the Original lost the adjustable damper and ordinary stop screws of the 1905 version and has remained essentially unchanged since then. The standard base finish was initially a smooth black Japanned finish with gold pinstriping. A nickel-plated base was optional at a slightly higher price.
The primary mechanical changes were a change in the pivot hinge mechanism from a “pinned-lever” mechanism to a much simpler “bent lug” design in 1923, and a move to more modern-looking rounded frame and damper castings late in WW2. Some Originals from about 1913 have a flat-topped damper casting, and for a while around 1920, a T-shaped damper was used on the Original, Model X and Dual Lever bugs.
For a while around the early Thirties the base was also available in red, green and blue, and in 1939 Vibroplex changed the base finish to black crackle, which they called a “crystal” finish. The standard base finish for all models was changed to gray crackle in the early Fifties, and that remained the standard base finish for forty years until it was recently changed to a black powder-coat finish after Vibroplex was moved to Alabama.
In about 1939, Vibroplex introduced the “Deluxe” version of the Original, Blue Racer and Lightning Bug, which included a chrome-plated base, jeweled bearings, and new-style red plastic fittings. However, chrome was scarce during WW2, and the chrome-plated base was temporarily replaced by a dark gray base, sometimes called “battleship gray.” These are referred to as “WW2 Deluxe” Vibroplexes. They can be identified by four characteristics: (1) dark “battleship gray” base paint, (2) jeweled bearings, (3) red fittings, and (4) a small copper braid from the lever to the frame.
At the end of WW2, Vibroplex modernized the frame and damper castings of the Original, and the Original has remained essentially unchanged since then. The standard base color was changed to gray in the early Fifties, and the gray Original version is the most common Vibroplex. The standard base color was recently changed back to black. For some reason, the black crackle base Original made from the early Forties to the early Fifties is not very common.
Shortly after Vibroplex moved to Maine in 1979, they made the existing models (the Original, Lightning Bug and Champion) in two other colors. One was a dusty reddish brown called Sienna brown, and the other was the same color of beige that was then used for the Vibrokeyer paddles.