CONSUL portables        by Will Davis, with photos from Tilman Elster
The firm of Zbrojovka Brno, located in Prague, Czechoslovakia, began manufacturing typewriters (under license from REMINGTON) in 1932.  The name ZETA was adopted for standards, postwar.  The name CONSUL was first used in about 1953, and CONSUL portables were introduced about then.  Two sizes of portable typewriter were made; we'll look at the larger ones, which appeared earlier, first on this page.
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for CONSUL, pt. 2:  Small machines
At right is the simplest known variant of CONSUL portable.  It has 42 keys and no tabs.  (The picture is on the cover of the instructions that came with CONSUL serial ZP-121555 but does not match it.)  It could be assumed, then, that the variant pictured here is the earliest and simplest one, although I should point out that none has been found in the field.

These machines were some of the first basket shifted portables built in Europe.  They're not bad machines, either-- quality improved steadily over the years, and the later 1960's machines are excellent typewriters.
At left is a machine labeled PRESIDENT, serial ZP-111888.  The cases of early ZB desk model machines often contain a label, on which you can often make out a date.  The label in this machine's case reads "1958."  This is one of the lowest serial number machines of this type yet found, and is the only one bearing this name.  It matches most features of the drawing above, but adds two more keys.  Finish on this machine is a crinkle paint.
At right, ZP-121555 (missing its logo) and dated by case label to 1959.  It matches the PRESIDENT in all features.  A Czech webpage states that CONSUL production began in 1958, which contradicts the previously used date of 1950, and says annual production was about 40,000 machines.  If ZB began the series with ZP-100001, this would hold up, making the PRESIDENT the 11,888th unit built.  "Z" could be ZETA or ZBROJOVKA; "P" for "portable" or "Psaci stroj" which is the word for writing machine in Czech.

Note the features of this "genesis" Consul machine; square shape, with chrome strip running around the bottom edge of the ribbon cover, and crinkle paint.  Also notable on early ZB machines of all kinds is the use of white outer keys for shift, backspace and, where fitted, tabulator.
The instruction manual with ZP-121555 has two anomalies.  The first one has been mentioned; the cover illustration shows a machine with two fewer character keys.  The other is the fact that the diagram, shown here, with numbered arrows and key to parts does not match either the actual machine, or the list of indicated parts and functions.  We can thus safely assume that by the time ZP-121555 was built, that this newer style had entered production (or was about to.)  The style illustrated here has rounder lines, and a ribbon cover that extends down the front, well behind the upper row of keys.  Also has key-set tabulator and three position ribbon selector.  This is the top-end or 'deluxe' model.
At left is the earliest known machine that matches the second illustration showing new shaping of the top, or ribbon, cover..  It is labeled CONSUL and is serial ZP-157225.  The case label shows '1959.'  It has a front set tabulator, ribbon selector and a lever operated margin set system which functions much like ROYAL's 'Magic Margin' system.  Smooth enamel paint, and a totally different ribbon cover also set this variant apart.  This is referred to in some places as the Model 1511.
Above, the right carriage end of the top model from the same instruction manual referred to previously; 13 is carriage release, 5 paper release, 15 margin set, 28 tab all-clear.  4 is paper arm lacking on less expensive models.  Note holes in carriage side of ZP-121555 above; apparently the same piece was used, whether or not the tabulator equipment and levers were present.  We can thus be assured that the more complicated model was already in production when ZP-121555 was built.  Early machines did not have carriage locks; they used rubber platen knob protectors as seen with ZP-121255.
At left, a CONSUL SILENT.  It is serial number ZP-185678, and has no case label.  It is thought to date to 1960. 

This machine is odd in a number of ways.  First, the use of the SILENT name does not accompany any actual changes in the machine's mechanism or soundproofing; it's just like the machines seen at the top of this page.  Next, the fact that it has such a high serial number, but yet is in the old body -- but yet it has smooth, rather than crinkle, paint.  Finally, this machine actually has a much flimsier case style than any others; perhaps this was an attempt at a lower-priced desk model as compared with the models seen just above, or an effort to run down stocks.
At right and below, a CONSUL 221 portable from 1967.  By late 1960, ZB employed a new serial numbering system wherein the first digit is a year identifier, the next two or three the model number, followed by a six-digit serial number. 

This machine shows a style which skips a couple of generations of styles in the line of typewriters from Zbrojovka Brno; proceed to the next page for more details on these changes and how to spot them.
At right is another Consul; this machine is serial number ZP-164862.  It matches the machine seen above (in green) in all details, and the case label, like that of the machine above, reads 1959. 

The two levers on the front are, on the left side, the ribbon selector, and on the right, the tab stop set / clear lever. 

This machine was a gift from my sister in law, who has a Czech background and found it interesting that I was specifically collecting these Czech-made ZB machines!
The whole line seen on this page runs from decent in quality in the initial models, with improvements in fit and finish in the improved "1511" machines, to quite good with the 221.  This 221 was my regular machine for a short while after I displaced my Royal Standard 10, and before I began using my Royal KMM standard.  The basket shift is easy and light, and these can be described as clean, accurate and decently speedy.
Our first example, from the Tilman Elster collection, shows an actual ZETA portable.  This is the first time one of these machines has ever been shown on the internet.  This machine is serial number ZP20215 which is the lowest known.  Estimated date is 1950, although this may be a hazardous guess.

This machine is fitted with three-position ribbon selector and with tabulator.
At left, a very early CONSUL portable.  Serial number ZP68824.  Note that the emblem on the ZETA above is on the top of the ribbon cover, while that on this CONSUL is on the paper table.  The machine at left has changed to the "normal" early pattern wherein white keys are used for shift, shift lock, backspace, margin release and tabulator if fitted.  Tilman Elster collection.
This shot from Tilman Elster shows another CONSUL, with serial number ZP147502.  It is in the older "original" style with ribbon cover that is defined by the chromed edge seen clearly here.  This machine matches the PRESIDENT, and also matches ZP121255.
ZP201218 at right is the highest known serial number that still falls into the old "ZP" prefix numbering system.  This machine carries the name ADMIRAL on its ribbon cover, and can be considered analagous to the PRESIDENT in that a Western-sounding name is used for distribution outside Czechoslovakia.  Tilman Elster collection.

This ADMIRAL is mechanically analagous to the CONSUL SILENT seen above; old body style, smooth enamel paint, no tabulator, no paper guide on the paper table and no ribbon selector.

It is of interest that the very first two machines pictured on this page are well optioned, with tabulator and ribbon selector, but that later machines with these features use the "new" body style.  The old, original body style seems to have been used only for simpler machines (no tabs, no ribbon selector) after introduction of the "new" body.
Tilman Elster also owns a couple of these fine, later CONSUL 221 machines.  Here is his shot of one of these, from 1968.
At left, another Tilman Elster shot which shows one of the later variants.  These are not common machines.  This is a Model 222, and its serial number could indicate either 1969 or 1979 -- right now, with no good information, it's hard to tell.  The machine appears essentially similar to the 221 that preceded it.
Here is what appears to be an essentially similar machine to that shown above, except for the fact that the label has changed slightly.  The serial number is also a simple six-digit style with no embedded coding, and we may easily assume from this fact that this example is later than that seen immediately above.  The period of production of this machine is also not known with certainty.
ZETA / CONSUL standard typewriters
At right, a Consul 221.1 in steel gray and blue.

Serial number 0 221 115301.

Slide switch on the right side of keyboard sets and clears tab stops; the one on the left is a three-position ribbon selector.  TAB key above left side shift key.  Margin release just above right side shift key; back space is above that.  Keytops are large, comfortable and very easy on the fingers.  Action is smooth, not particularly short or particularly crisp but satisfying; the machine has a well-made feel to accompany its real well-made qualities.
The Consul 221.1 is a machine so well-made and workable that I would frequently recommend it for regular use were it more easily available here.  The machine incorporates automatic key-set margin placement, like that used by a number of other makers by this time.  It has tab stops set from the keyboard, a touch regulator, a pop-up paper arm and a number of other modern conveniences and features.  One particular feature is an included linkage which raises the paper bail when the paper release lever is operated, making operation easier and preventing any rollers from being flattened in storage.
The instructions for the 221.1 describe it as a "universal portable typewriter," which is as opposed to the small, travelling machines we'll see on the next page.  Weight of machine is given as 16 lbs; weight in case 22 lbs.  The 221 and in fact the whole line of larger Consul portables really deserve better than they've gotten, historically, since they're good machines.  Their tendency to remain either behind the old Iron Curtain or else in Germany reduces their impact as seen today, overall.  It's true that the Consul didn't make a big splash in the field, worldwide, then but it's also true that these are better machines than they've been given credit for being in the past.
all photos and illustrations this page Will Davis collection unless noted.
Rare Consul 224 with removable carriage assembly
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