The “500 Series” Kirby Vacuum Cleaners

 Page Three






  Model 516 - 1956

First totally new, dramatically redesigned Kirby in over 20 years!!

Called the "50th Anniversary Kirby" in company literature (although that seems to be stretching the point a little -- granted, Jim Kirby made his first mechanically operated sweeper in 1906, but the first machine to bear the "Kirby" name did not come out until 1935.)

New streamlined motor housing -- motor body, switch, cord connector, axle, all integrated into one smooth unit of polished aluminum instead of early, unsightly, primitive-looking arrangement of motor with switch and cord bulging out from the side. Motor is now encased in housing, concealing the carbon brush screws, etc. Really a beautiful new design in every regard, which I say a bit begrudgingly as I do definitely have a very soft spot for the older, "cruder-looking" 505-515s!

Intake louvres for armature cooling fan blades moved from underneath front-area of motor up to the side next to the Sani-emptor. (Less likelihood of carpet nap getting sucked into motor commutator as before) Additional louvres added at rear area between wheels. (Note that these side and rear louvres were somewhat irregularly shaped --- appeared to have been machined out by some type of router or grinder.)

Fan-case opening now has a recessed rubber gasket for better suction seal. Nozzle lock redesigned and enlarged. Light housing larger and less angled in shape. Easier to change light bulbs.

Newly designed motor safety switch, positioned at center instead of to the side. Rug nozzle "feet" now attach to connecting bar in an easier manner.

Handle fork widened considerably, and spring mechanism completely redesigned and simplified.

Completely new, less-complicated tilt-latch mechanism with metal switch on top of motor housing.

All-new color scheme. Handle grip, rug nozzle bumper, light housing bumper all red vinyl (no more rubber at all). New, longer (32 ft.) gray cord with slimmer motor-end plug and cord-end. Both plug-ends dark red in color.

Same wheels of smooth, gray Dupont "alathon" plastic as introduced with 515. Front wheels set an inch wider apart than earlier to give more stability. Sani-emptor bottom still gray, as it was for all 5## models.

(Note: Any machines from the 500 series that have red sani-emptor bottoms or red wheels do have after-market replacements.)

Very festive, new red plastic attachments, incl optional long rug nozzle & swivel connector (was not part of standard tool kit, you had to buy it extra).

Red ribbed RUBBER hose (made by Dayton Rubber Co.).

New red plastic foot power switch. Motor does not turn on until you release switch.

Red, round plastic belt lifter, Kirby in red lettering against a metallic silver circle.

Same gray bag with same logo as introduced on 515.

Red plastic bag guard at bottom of bag.

Now, there are two clips on the handle - one for the cord, and one for the bag.

Boxes/cartons dark "patterned" gray with red & silver lettering.

Instruction booklet totally updated (finally!! But, again, many of the same photos and text were then pretty much recycled even as late as the 562 booklet.)

Completely redesigned Handi-Butler with new flexible shaft.

Sweet-Aire liquid now packaged in a metal tin can (similar to sewing machine oil can) instead of glass bottle.



Model 517 - 1957
Model 518 - 1958
Model 519 - 1959

Some changes occurred gradually and not with distinct model updates. The following details changed, but I don't know exactly when.

Back end of motor housing (the axle part between the rear wheels) made more angular, with a slight inward "dip" in the downward curvature, and the louvres were more evenly and cleanly made; similarly, side louvres also cleaner and more uniform in appearance -- like they were dye-stamped out instead of ground or machined out.

Same gray Dupont "alathon" plastic wheels introduced with latter run of 515, but now with RIBBED outer sides instead of smooth. First one like this had ribbed lines spaced about 3/8" apart, then on later versions of ribbed wheels the ribbed lines were very close together. The latter type was used for the most number of models (even up through the green D-80) and is much easier to find than either the plain wheels or the ones with the wider-spaced lines.

Red RUBBER hose originally introduced w/ 516 was at some point changed to vinyl, maybe as early as 517 or even some time within 516 production as I have only seen a couple of these rubber hoses. (I have a mint 517 attachment set that has a vinyl not rubber hose.)

Middle (longest) section of handle became ribbed, not plain, metal tube. First rib design had the ribbing spaced about 1/8" apart and rather fine -- not very deep. Later, the ribbing becomes deeper and spaced much, much closer together -- (and that same style was used until the hideous-green Sanitronic D-80 came out, when a new plastic handle was introduced).

Gray bag with simple Kirby logo in red & silver silkscreen overprint. All bags 516...561 same DESIGN except that at some point a bag with a silvery specked pattern, instead of plain gray cloth, was introduced. The first time the speckled bag appears in updated instruction booklet photos is in the 519 booklet, where it is CLEARLY depicted in some half-dozen new photos, so I assume that's probably when the update was made.

519 is also the first time the new swivel connector and large plastic "surface" nozzle are depicted in the instr booklet, even though these were introduced with the 516.

Somewhere along the way the Handi-Butler was given a model designation of "Mark-VII." Various modifications were made to the Handi-Butler between 516...561.

Spray paint jar semi-transluscent PLASTIC (formerly glass); straw inside also plastic (formerly metal).

Spray painter updated with large plastic handle and squeeze-trigger (and plastic jar).

"Fuzzy" clip-tip accessory added to crevice tool.

Toggle-switch added to front of bare surface nozzle to bring up or down the brush strip inside.

New "Handi-Waxer" attachment introduced 518 or 519.

Handi Butler protective cap CLEAR red plastic instead of solid color.

Floor polisher nozzle - round end bumpers: red PLASTIC instead of red rubber.

Small (portable) handle red PLASTIC instead of red-painted metal.

Collar of hose that attaches to suction coupler RED PLASTIC instead of plain metal.

Blower coupler RED PLASTIC instead of plain metal.

Light housing bumper red PLASTIC instead of rubber.

Handle lock push-switch: RED PLASTIC instead of plain metal.

On-off switch red plastic, motor TURNS ON WHEN YOU PRESS DOWN ON SWITCH instead of when you release switch.

Ends of brush roller where screw-adjustments are : are PLASTIC instead of metal.

Other box colors / designs were used, but I am not exactly sure which go with which models (again, probably some overlapping), but I think this is the right order:

Light tan with small gold Kirby circles and red larger Kirby logo & imprinting (definitely 517)

Light tan w/ small red Kirby circles (518 &/or 519??)

Light green/aqua w/ small red Kirby circles (560 &/or 561??)

There may have been other colors that I have not seen



Model 560 - 1960
Model 561 -1961

The single major aesthetic change to 560 (& 561), that I can think of, was a lovely new metal, triangular-shaped belt lifter, with the Kirby logo floating over a gorgeous metallic-gold sunburst. Very dramatic! Other than that, I believe the 560 was identical to the 519.



Model 562 - 1962

The 562's color scheme was unique, different from any other model. All the plastic and rubber trim (except for the wheels*) was a metallic copper color including the handle grip, bag top, switch cover, handle lock button, bumper trim and headlight trim.

The cord was white with tan ends, the only Kirby model ever to have a white cord.

*The wheels were the tan color that Kirby named "sirroco" when the Sanitronic VII came out.

btw, thr 562 and all tan Sanitronic bags had Kirby logo in closely-spaced OVALS, not CIRCLES. Tan bags with CIRCLES are after-market replacements, as are tan bags where the ovals are spaced about an inch or so apart -- on the original bags, the ovals are very close together.

The "Sani-Pocket" and "Sani-Scraper" appeared on the 562 (a zippered pocket on back side of bag where you put your hand inside to dislodge trapped dirt with a cardboard scraper. Yuk.)



Post-562 models

Here is a list of post-562 models, with corresponding manufacture dates and trim color. Thanks to various fellow collectors for this information.

1963/64Sanitronic VII (Sirocco)
1965-67Dual Sanitronic 50 (Sirocco)
1967-70 Dual Sanitronic 80 (Avocado green)
1970-73Classic 1CR (Medium brown, gold bag)
1973-76Classic Omega 1CB (Dark brown, dark brown pinstriped bag)
1976-79Classic III 2CB (Candy-apple red, plaid bag)
1979-81Tradition (Dark blue; intro of paper bag)
1981-84Heritage (Gray/orange)
1984-89Heritage II Legend (Charcoal/gray/red)
1989-90Legend II (Dark rose-pink)
1990-93Generation 3 (Alabaster)
1993-96Generation 4 (Medium gray)
1996-99Generation 5 (Maroon)
1999-01Generation 6 (Black/Yellow)
2000G 2000 (Charcoal Gray/Yellow)
2001G 2001 (Charcoal Gray/Yellow)
2001-05Ultimate G
2005-06Ultimate G Diamond (Light Gray/Yellow)
2007-12Sentria (Gray/Orange)
2012-13Sentria II (Light Brown/Turquoise)





Page One

Page Two

(Page Three)

My Website “Home Page”


Please note that this entire Website (, and all text and some images* therein, are copyright © 1995-2006 by Charles Richard Lester. You are welcome to disseminate information or graphics from this site for non-commercial use only but only after requesting — and receiving — permission by its author (me). Please apply to Charles Richard Lester: (change "at" to the "@" symbol). Thank you for appreciating the value of creativity.

(*If you’re not sure whether or not a given image is in public domain, just send an email and ask.)

THIS APPLIES WITH SPECIFICITY AND, IN PARTICULAR, TO EBAY AUCTIONS. Under NO circumstances is anyone EVER permitted to use text, photos or images from my web site — or to put links to my site — on their ebay listings, or on any other similar auction web sites.