Somewhere along the line the Vibroplex model numbering system went haywire, maybe because they wanted to forget about the Midget. The #6, or Lightning Bug, was actually the seventh Vibroplex model. It was introduced in about 1926 or 1927 and was manufactured until Vibroplex moved to Maine in 1979.
The Lightning Bug was a significant departure from previous models. The frame was no longer cast, but was assembled from two triangular plates and two vertical cylinders. The damper asssembly was made from two vertical cylinders and a flat cross-plate with a damper wheel suspended from it. This damper is called the “M” damper. Lastly, the pendulum was a thin flat bar, and a cubical speed weight was used.
The first Lightning Bugs were available with black Japanned (standard) and nickel-plated (optional) bases. From about 1929 to 1936 the Lightning Bug, Blue Racer and Original were available with red, blue and green base finish. These colored bugs have been found with both smooth and crackle finish. Some of the smooth-finish bugs have the color only on the top of the base, and some have it on the sides. The color seems to have been applied on top of a standard black Japanned finish. These colored Vibroplexes are quite scarce, and there is currently no agreement about which finishes are authentic.
The standard finish of the Lightning Bug was changed to black crackle about 1940 and then to gray crackle in the mid-Fifties. The Deluxe version of the Lightning Bug was popular, and the WW2 Deluxe version can also be found. Just before the Lightning Bug was discontinued about 1980, some were made with Sienna Brown and beige crackle base finish.
The standard finish of the Lightning Bug was changed to black crackle about 1940 and then to gray crackle in the mid-Fifties. The Deluxe version of the Lightning Bug was popular, and the WW2 Deluxe version can also be found.
During WW2, the Lionel Corporation (the model train folks) made exact copies of the Lightning Bug for the Army Signal Corps, with a celluloid Lionel nameplate. Lionel was able to do this legally because all the Vibroplex patents on the Lighting Bug had expired by then. These had the designation “J-36”, which was the designation given to all bugs made for the Signal Corps. Vibroplex also made J-36 bugs for the Signal Corps. More information about the J-36 along with images of J-36 bugs made by other manufacturers can be found here.
Vibroplex discontinued the Lightning Bug shortly after the company was moved to Maine in 1979. Just before the Lightning Bug was discontinued, some were made with Sienna Brown and beige crackle bases.