The wonderful thing about sewing machines is that the industry is full of history. Most of the different brands have unique stories about the men who created those machines and what they went through trying to be a success. Unfortunately, not everyone did make it in this industry as business is not always easy or kind.
At the time of this writing, there was no record of a separate Bel Air Sewing Machine company. Instead, it was a sewing machine that copied the Singer 15 model and made in postwar Japan. Then the brand was badged and imported by the Consolidated Sewing Machine company during those years.
To learn more about this unique brand of sewing machines, just continue to read our article. It explores the topic so you know the history and details of this machine and not overpay for it. They are found in thrift stores today with some in excellent condition.
If you know the story about post-war Japan then you will know the history of this nice sewing machine. It is a product of those occupation years where America was helping to rebuild the nation the military destroyed with those atomic bombs.
The machine, at least one of the models, was a clone of the Singer 15-91 and it will be threaded in the same manner. There is no real exciting tidbit of information concerning its history except what will follow in the next section.
Other models were also clones of the singer products with the Bel Air Bantam being a copy of the Singer 99k10. In other words, while the brand name is unique, the machine itself is not.
If you find one at a cheap price and it is in good condition, then you should buy it. They are still top quality machines even 70 years after their first production.
There never was a Bel Air sewing machine company. As near as can be found out, the Consolidated Sewing Machine Company commissioned their production and had them built in postwar Japan. Then they put their own badge on the machines and marketed them in the United States.
The most interesting fact about Consolidated is that not only is it still in business today, but it was also founded in 1898 per their website. You can view their products and website information at this link.
They sell their sewing machines under the brand Consew and according to their contact information they are now based in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the company does not say much about their history, who founded the company and we cannot find it on the comprehensive list of sewing machine companies found at this link.
Bel Air is not listed there either. This link shows a 1958 ad for the Bel Air and confirms it was made/imported/sold by Consolidated at that time.
Some people are having a hard time selling their vintage Bel Air sewing machine for $100 even though it is in fairly good condition. You will find a range of prices, especially if you check eBay.
Some are priced as low as $88 while others with the cabinet are over $200. You are not going to get a lot of money for them and if you try to sell to a collector or antique dealer then you can expect to earn even less.
There are some models listed as antiques but there has been no confirmation as to if they truly are antiques or not. A separate search ha snot produced a Bel Air sewing machine company. Their value, if you stumble across one will be how much you are willing to pay for it.
Two reasons why the value is so low. One, these machines were clones, and two, many machines of each model were made. lowering their value in the long run.
For most machines made under this label, their badge should read made in occupied Japan. Like other Bel Air models, it too is a Singer clone but it comes with a different bobbin position than the Singer 15-91, the machine that was used as a model for this rendition.
What makes this machine more valuable than items marked made in Japan, is the word occupied. That era does have its worth and that term helps boost the value of any sewing machine made in that era if it carries that information on its badge.
If you know what a singer 15-91 threads and operates like, then you have a very good idea of how this model will work. It was still made from metal parts so it should still be a good machine and should sew well if it has not been rusted or damaged.
This model was most likely cloned from the Singer 66 sewing machine and its generic build allows for a variety of parts to fit inside. The good news is that there may still be parts available for this sewing machine. You just have to contact the right person or company.
The problem with this machine is that many different sewing machine companies at that time went to Japan and all their models are basically the same. The Sewmor 404 is a clone of the same Singer sewing machine. As is the White equivalent and you will find even more ‘brand names’ that are the same.
As it stands, what you are getting is a Singer model and made with top quality parts just like the Imperial. If treated well over the years it should perform as you would expect a 70-year machine to perform.
This model seems to be the color version of all the Bel airs produced during those post-war occupation years. It comes in red & white, pink, green, red & yellow, and many other colors.
It seems to be a Singer 15 clone but maybe a 90 or a 66 as well. It takes a class 15 bobbin with what is called a one o’clock finger. Parts are still available for this model and you can find those stores in the section about parts coming up.
Most people are more fascinated by the colors than anything else about this sewing machine. It runs through a footswitch and it is heavy so you want to be careful when you pick it up.
There are still models for sale and one listing mentions that it is rare. So if you come across one you might want to pick it up right away.
If the sewing machine industry was not so keen on rebuilding Japan through Singer clones, this might have been a very valuable sewing machine to have. But as it stands, the Singer 15 was used to make this option and it has many counterparts modeled after the same sewing machine.
It is well built though and does come in more muted colors than the 620 does. if you find one that was accompanied by a cabinet, you might get a little more money out of it when you go to resell it.
The metal parts inside make it a good workhorse of a sewing machine and it should still sew with ease. When it comes to metal sewing machines and metal parts, those machines seem to last for a very long time. You may be able to pass it on down to your grandchildren.
Not very valuable at this time. It seems that more than enough of this Singer 90k10 clone were sold to keep the value low. Singer parts may fit into this machine and if that is so you can save a little money and find those parts just about anywhere.
The bad news is that you will find this exact model badged as a Sewmor 303. In other words, expect to find many more of these listed under the myriad of ‘brands’ that were used during those post-war years.
As you also know by now, value is subjective and if you find the right buyer you should be able to get the best money for your old Bantam. It shouldn’t be that hard to find one of these sewing machines and looking on Craigslist or classified ads, etc., you should be able to pick one up cheap.
Finding the manual is going to be a piece of cake. Those manuals are still in print and if you want you can try to contact Consolidated Sewing machine company and see if they have any they can send you. Here is their contact information and they have 3 locations, one in New Jersey, one in Miami, and one in Los Angeles.
Or you can go to this website, and see what they have to offer. The link takes you to the 620 manual but type in Bel Air to find more. Next is this link and so far they only have 2 manuals available and one is for the Imperial model.
With a good search engine, you will find more locations that have downloadable and other types of manual formats. This is one brand where you won’t be hurting for information.
Like the manuals, there are lots of places to go to online and find parts for your Bel Air sewing machine. The first link is for our UK readers. It has been in business for about 15 years now and has all sorts of parts available.
Next is a company that deals with lots of sewing machine belts. You never know when yours will break and having a good source is always handy. Also, you can try your local sewing machine repair companies or little shops. They have a host of parts that they never know if they will need or not.
Check your local listings to find one near you. Then you can try Craigslist as, like Amazon, it seems to sell almost everything. Finding a parts machine is like finding gold as you can save buying one of those over the individual parts.
The following instructions are for a Bel Air 990 and they may not be as specific as some people like. It is very difficult to find specific information on those occupied Japan machines and the best advice is to use Singer owner manuals that the Bel Air was cloned from.
First, put the thread spool on the spool pin and pull the thread out a little way. Second, follow the tension disks in order and go down first before heading up to the tension spring. Go through that and then over to the take up lever and back down to the needle.
The needle threads left to right and you may have to go around the red knob to help the zig-zag function operate correctly. A photo is at this link and you have to scroll down a little.
The one manual we could access on the internet did not have instructions for threading the machine. Whether those pages were lost or not doesn’t matter, the information is not there.
History does cloud a lot of information and facts. While the Consolidated Sewing Machine company is still in business, it remains to be seen if they have their historical records available or not.
The machines are still good despite this lack of information and many are still sewing like a champ. There should be enough spare parts around to keep your Bel Air in top shape and sewing for many more years. Metal machines and metal parts are the best.