Here was a very unusual Prototype Ludwig Acrolite I got in to rebuild! The previous owner had bought it secondhand from Manny's Music store in Midtown New York, in 1973.

1962 Prototype Ludwig Acrolite Snare Drum

Above: The drum after a careful rebuild.

As the story goes (although I can't verify the quantity for sure), there were around 200 prototype acrolite drums built sometime in 1962 - 1963 that were sent out to dealers for approval / sale. The original acrolite prototypes had the eight classic lugs made out of aluminium and both hoops were aluminium as well. The weight is said to be around 5.5 lbs in the all aluminium configuration. Many were sent back to the factory because a good rim shot could bend the top hoop. Following the production of these original 200 Ludwig always used regular production parts with their aluminium shells - a lesson learned with the failure of the aluminium rims and lugs.

Since the shell of this drum was absolutely identical to the original prototype shell, it is clearly one of the prototype drums, but the hoops and lugs are different to the aluminium parts usually fitted. There are two theories that I could think of at the time:

1. The drum was sent back to the factory when the aluminium hoops and lugs were damaged whilst the drum was being evaluated. At that point the factory put on the chrome over brass rims it has and their top of the line chrome plated imperial lugs it has now to satisfy the client and / or the dealer.

2. Alternatively it's possible that it was built as is, since nobody is certain what was fitted to all the prototypes and I've inspected the shell and found no evidence of marks left by the outline of any other lugs. The fact that the imperial lug castings fitted are pre-'63 production (see pic for casting differences) makes a good case for the lugs being the original parts fitted in 1962. A very recent event which supports this theory was when I was contacted by a drummer in America who had one of these drums which had also been fitted with the older style pre-1963 Imperials. The hoops were aluminium and a round knob muffler (rather than the red felt BB type) was fitted underlining Ludwig's tendancy to raid various parts bins. Thanks for the info Mark!

Needless to say, this particular prototype is very playable thanks to the decent hoops and lugs!

As received the drum had seen 40 years of use, the heads were shot, the muffler was half missing, the strainer, butt plate and tension rods were covered in rust. I stripped the drum to a shell first, throughly cleaned it up, and put the cleaned up lugs back on. Over a couple of months I sourced a red felt muffler from an incomplete '63 Supra which is what they were originally fitted with, a decent P83 strainer plus 60's butt plate, a set of nice 60's tension rods and to get it as near to how they left the factory as possible I found a pair of good used 1960's Ludwig original heads and fitted those.

Welded Plate and Red Muffler Can Be Seen

Above: The bulky welded plate can be clearly be seen at the back of the drum.

The production acrolites had a machine spun shell with flanged edges, no seam and certainly no welded plates attached! However, neatness isn't a concern on prototypes, it's all about durability and sonic testing.

Pre serial Badge Early Imperial Lug

Above: Pre serial keystone badge, and imperial lug comparison (left as fitted to the drum now, right as per 1963 production lug fitted to a Supra keystone S/N 1809).

You can see how much thinner and hollow the later lug was and the profile is slightly different as well. Note the shell finish which is inside and out on all surfaces, apparently this was known as "Brushed Aluminium". The drum has found it's way to a good home and is now residing in a private collection!

After I wrote this page I had a few people get in touch regarding these drums so I decided to expand on this and include every piece of knowledge I know and include pictures sent to me by other enthusiasts to try to produce as best a reference source as I can. Let's look at what appears to be the most common configuration:

All original aluminium version

Above: all aluminium version which was for sale on Ebay recently. Note the nickel plated lugs rather than chrome and the solid aluminium hoops.

Next I'll add another example:

All original aluminium version

Above: Mark's one has pre '63 Imperial lugs, aluminium hoops and the round knob muffler instead of the red felt Baseball Bat one.

Let's take a closer look at the shell itself since this is the biggest departure from the production item. They all have the welded internal plate, the welding does vary slightly:

Welded Plates

Above: Left: spot welded on my one, right: slightly seamed on Chas's.

The welded plate is unpatterned steel on Chas's. We know the shells were a rolled sheet of patterned aluminium, but there was also more than one pattern... the mystery continues!

Shell Pattern

Above: The shell pattern on the left is my old one and on the right is Chas's.

Now let's look at the shell construction itself in more detail:

Shell Construction

Above: Here's the inside of my old Acrolite:

1. Welded plate.

2. Verticle unfinished seam.

3. Folded re-inforced edge.

4.Centre Bead (smaller than the production one).

5. Anchor weld holding the shell body together to the plate.

6. Welds to secure folded flat edges and anchor to plate.

Unfinished Vertical Seam

Above: The seam line spans the entire depth of the shell. To tidy it up a bit you'll find a lug placed over it as shown.

The snare beds are crimped into the shell:

Snare Bed

Above:By crimping in the shell you end up with a snare bed around 3mm deep.

As for value, I've seen good orginal drums run upto $400+, so happy hunting!

Finally, thanks to Mark and Chas for supplying extra info and pictures.