1956 Thrift Model 

In 1956, Electrolux introduced the “Thrift” or “T” model. Electrolux basically cleaned off the factory shelves to make this very humble economy model: The body was simply a piece of rolled-up sheet metal that took an XXX-style cloth dirt bag; it had a riveted-on handle from LX; and a switch & rear wheels (no front wheel!) from the Model E.

The very basic attachment set consisted of a Model-AE-type woven vinyl hose (with no suction relief vent), a pair of chrome wands, E-type combination floor tool (attachment neck has no spring clamp), and the E/AE combination dusting tool. There was no crevice tool, but, of course, the customer could have purchased one as well as the polisher, paint sprayer, etc.

I remember a lady named Ida Lankford who had one when I was a little boy -- she kept it in the front closet across from the front door. One day Mama and I drove over there to pick her up to take her to choir rehearsal -- Mama was the choir director and Mrs. Lankford was the organist. I wanted to go in to see her "sweeper" but it was pouring-down rain and Mama wouldn't let me get out of the car. I had a tantrum and then pouted all day!!

The first time I saw a Model T as an adult, I could not believe it was actually an Electrolux product! (The last time I saw one I was four years old and I didn't realize how cheaply made it was.) I truly thought it was something that one of the guys in the factory made up as a little side project, or as a joke; or maybe it was some kind of prototype or something. It just did not have the look of a mass-produced item nor did it have the kind of design and quality that you’’d expect from an Electrolux. But I did learn, in time, that it was “for real”!

It was a bit of a mystery as to why they introduced such a homely looking thing. The only thing I could figure out is that perhaps the 1954 Model E, which became a lower-tier model in 1956, looked — to the average person — too much like the more-expensive Automatic E introduced in 1956. So perhaps they came up with this “Plain Jane” model and offered it at the economic price of $49.75 (in comparison to the Model E-Automatic which went for $79.75 and the Model E which cost $69.75).

A few years later, I met an Electrolux oldtimer who had sold Electroluxes from the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s and told him about it. He said it was a real product, that the company came out with it as a last-gasp offer to stubborn customers. It came out in 1956 when the Model E and E-Automatic were being sold. The Model E cost $69.75, the E-Automatic cost $79.75, and the Model T cost $49.75.

I will say, while it’s a pretty cheesy looking machine, it does have powerful suction (and is noisier than other Electroluxes of that era as it has no rear filter), due to its very simple design — it’s just a hammertone blue can with a motor in it.


I just received a very interesting email from a guy whose family ran a vac shop in New Jersey until he recently retired. He offers some insight into the “raison d’être” for the Model T:

“The years from 1950-55 were Post WW 11 recession years. Our family vacuum business started in March 1949 but by 1955 both the secretary and the other partner left. The vacuum business went solo until my brother and I joined our Father in business in 56 and 57 and took in the new HOOVER line. In fact during this time, my Father sought outside work part time in addition to the vacuum store to make ends meet. I remember one year selling a train car load of live Christmas trees in front of the vacuum store and making $5000. That was big money then.

“In the early and mid 50’s several vacuum makers produced and marketed brand new vacuums in the USA (designed much like the Lux T with no frills) for $14.95. Vacuum stores advertised these as a come on to get people in the store. We used the Lux 12 and Hoover Old Style in ads up through 1957 as a come on. We priced them at $14.95 in the ads with a one year guarantee. We always stepped the customers up to a Lux 30 for $34.95 and/or a Hoover 27 or 28 for $34.95.”

Well, whatever the reasons for it coming into being, the Model T was a huge flop and a lousy seller, so it was quickly discontinued, not being sold for even six months according to an Electrolux old-timer. Today it is one of the rarest of all models and you just hardly ever run across one. But find one I did, in beautiful condition! (Now, if I can only find an original box and the instruction manual for it!)

Here are some photos of this homely little girl!




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