Fisher and Paykel 300/400 Series Autowashers

These machines were a licensed UK design. The back panel of most has a plate affixed saying it is an AEI-Gala design. In later years, similar machines were sold in Britain under the Hotpoint brand (possible model numbers are 9600, 9604, 9605). In NZ, the last series of these machines were the 370, 380 and 400 models. The 370 was the budget series model which had, I think, no option switches at all. The 380 was the middle range model with adjustable wash and rinse temperature, water level, spin speed and number of rinses. The 400 was the high end model with the addition of a heating element over the 380. I believe this last series of models were produced from the late 1970s for about five-six years. Our family owned a 380 model for about 10 years, approx 1980-1990. The following photos give some idea of the appearance and layout.

General view of the machine. At left of the control panel is the timer with the option switches in the middle.
Closeup of the control panel, the timer and option switches.

Inside view of the machine with the detergent dispenser/lint filter on top of the agitator. During the wash cycle, water circulates through the machine and is pumped through the water spout seen just below the lid, passing through the “Filter Clean Dispenser” back into the bowl.

The machines had a fairly conventional (for its day) mechanical layout with just one motor driving the pump and gearbox off a V-belt. The pump always turned, circulating the water during wash and rinse cycles, and pumping water out during the spin cycle. When it came time to spin, the bowl was held stationary on the brakes while a slip clutch allowed the motor to turn the pump and drain the water, then the brakes were released and the spin speed gradually built up to 1000 rpm, which for its day was a very high figure compared to other brands. If the slow spin was selected the spin was only allowed to run for the last 30 seconds of the cycle time. The resulting wear in the clutch could become an annual repair item depending on how often the machine was used in this mode.

Apart from normal wear and tear the machines were very reliable. They were also very solid and heavy (88 kg), as with other dynamically balanced designs of the period, a concrete block balanced the motor weight in the chassis. They were sold under the Whiteway, Savaday, Kelvinator and possibly Frigidaire brands, the latter two being licensed by F&P in NZ at the time. So far as I recall the Frigidaire(?) variant of the 380 or 400 model differed in having an additional Gentle Agitate option. On models fitted with the heating element the machine would heat the wash water to 60 degrees C and then start the wash automatically when this was reached. In the warm wash mode the hot inlet valve was opened continuously during the fill while the cold water valve opened and closed cyclically using a simmerstat. The cycle was controlled by setting a knob rather than by actual water temperature.

Although it is now more than 20 years since these machines were built new in NZ, their reliability and longevity has resulted in there being a thriving refurbishment and servicing industry operating around the country and they can still be bought and sold quite commonly. I purchased the machine shown in these pictures approximately three years ago. It is used for about two loads a week and has been very reliable.