Return to Retro 51


Maker: Retro 51.

The Tornado is, if my scanty sources are to be believed, the first model specifically designed for Retro 51; prior to its introduction, the company only imported existing models from an Asian manufacturer.  As befits the first of the crowd, the Tornado has what might be now called stereotype Retro 51 design elements; the knurled derby and flat, almost skeletal clip.  It is otherwise not substantially different from a lot of modern fountain pens of conservative design, including a slight sense of acromegaly in the point.

However, “conservative design” should be understood to mainly apply to the silhouette of the pen.  The Tornado has had nearly as many variations in trim as the Sheaffer Targa, and all but a few of them have been quite striking.

An element of the Tornado which I will definitely praise is the price.  While never quite dipping low enough to draw the descriptor cheap, whether in the good or bad sense, it is definitely an inexpensive pen.

The writing performance is also a bit of a matter of dispute.  As with most modern pens, there are some complaints about out-of-box set-up.  My own example was extremely good (probably because I am equipped to make adjustments; Fate has a very active sense of humour).  Current points are stock Schmidt units, but earlier production had in-house branding on them.  When the pen is in tune, it has the smooth, firm feel common to most modern steel points; I would not say that it is a springy pen, but there is sufficient give in the point that it does not offer too much feedback from the paper.

There is a fair amount of weight in the top of the cap, which can make for balance problems depending on the size of one’s hands and one’s stance on posting the cap. One’s stance on posting should probably be flexible with this pen anyway, as the cap does not cling very firmly to the back to the pen.  For my part, I don’t find the posted balance a problem, nor do I feel that the overall weight is oppressive, and I am not a fan of heavy pens.  Some find the section material to be problematic in terms of grip; this may be down to differing suppliers, as I have seen a couple of different finishes on the section.

Production Run: 1997 – present.

Cost When New: 2017 MSRP is $45.00 for plainer models, $55.00 for fancy metal.  There are some retailer-specific special editions selling for $69.00 as well.

Size: 13.9 cm long capped, 16.1 cm posted, 12.6 cm uncapped.

Point: Steel.

Body: Metal, in various finishes including acrylic overlays.

FillerCartridge, capacity approx. 0.6 ml or 1.4 ml (international pattern).  Ships with converter (0.8 ml).

Retro 51 in what was at the time a prototype finish offered to Massdrop buyers.

Retro 51 Tornado in what was at the time a prototype herringbone finish offered to Massdrop buyers; it is still not available in regular production fountain pens, but is one of the “Vintage Metalsmith” rollerballs, although the trim is different in those.

The Apollo 11 fiftieth anniversary commemorative limited edition, which you may call me silly for having got. It’s #38, for those who wonder where all the others might be.



If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.

Permanent link to this article: