MITCHELL SYMMETRY 302N/386/B50
Building on their very successful "egg shape" configuration, Mitchell, in 1969, enhanced its base design resulting in a very successful adaptation of their original concept for their new line of saltwater reels. This newly enhanced modification became the main stay for all future 300 and 400 series of saltwater reels. Of the many different models produced with this new design, the 302N, 386, and B50 share a unique relationship; they happen to be the same reel! Why would Mitchell make the same reel with three different model numbers over a 12-year period? If this was not confusing enough, Mitchell decided to add a second instalment with the introduction of a 2nd version of each. It would appear Mitchell was hoping the 386 would be the staple of their new saltwater offerings enjoying the same success as its predecessor, the 302. Realising this was not the case, Mitchell maintained the same design but opted to renumber the reel to 302N, hoping the mystique of the number 302 would appease the old 302 loyalists. Never really knowing which model would be more successful, the 302N or the 386, Mitchell went back and forth between both, and never settled on one that would represent that particular line of saltwater reels. Enter into the equation the European market, which added greatly to Mitchell’s dilemma because the 386 at the time was semi-successful. Lastly, the possibility of Mitchell not offering a manual pick-up version on one of these models may have had something to do with their nominal popularity. We guess we may never know for sure why Mitchell did not stay with one model for both sides of the Atlantic.
As a side note to this topic, Collectors have questioned Mitchell’s decision not to produce a 402N. Was this reel on the drawing board? Perhaps, but was never really in consideration for production. If the 302N was successful, we're sure the 402N would have followed.
In 1969, Mitchell introduced the Model 386 (engraved lettering version), for both the US and European markets. This model was originally going to be the replacement reel for the old 302. Unfortunately, after a few short years, its was determined that the 386 was not as successful as Mitchell had hoped, therefore, Mitchell discontinued the 386 in 1974. The 386-body style was a new concept that was derived in part from the original 300. From this point forward in Mitchell’s manufacturing, all 300 and 400 series of heavy-duty salt-water models utilised this new design. During the last two years of production, 1973 & 1974, the design of the reel was slightly modified. The anti-reverse system was enhanced which created a "U Shape" impression on the face of the body adjacent to the impression for the gearing system. Early models did not incorporate this modification.
When the first version of the 386 was discontinued in 1974, Mitchell wanted to replace it with a product that would be as successful as the original 302. After considering numerous options, the marketing gurus at Garcia came up with the brilliant idea of keeping the original design of the 386 and renumbering the reel. In essence, the 386 and the 302N are the identical reel except for the number change and a slight modification to the handle. The concept was to capitalise on the brand success of the original number 302 and to utilise the 386-body style that was engineered using improved and advanced technology for the time. This version was marketed only in the US and Canada through Garcia. The 302N is a great collectors’ piece but unfortunately, was never as successful as the original 302. The "N" suffix represents "new" or "new issue" and not the year of manufacture. Only in production for 4 years before being shelved in 1977. Remaining inventories were sold for a year or two after production ended in 1977.
Even though the original 386 was not a hit in the US, in 1978 Mitchell decided to reintroduce the reel for the European market after a four-year hiatus. This new externally enhanced version of the 386 has raised lettering, a new spool design, and a new chrome handle. It appears that this version of the 386 was more successful in Europe prompting Mitchell to maintain production of this reel until Browning discontinued the line. The second version was not offered in the US and was sold in Europe through Garcia UK and other European distributors. In 1981, the 386 was discontinued permanently from Mitchell’s catalogued selections. During the next two years, the remaining inventories were sold until supplies were exhausted.
When Mitchell decided to reintroduce the 302N in 1978, the decision was made to offer the reel in the US and Canada only. The reason for this was Europe already had the 386-second version, so there was no need to have two of the same reel! The 302N 2nd version was aesthetically enhanced from the first offering, having raised lettering, grey spool, and a chrome handle. Why Mitchell opted to reintroduce the 302N one-year after the first version was discontinued is uncertain. Speculation is that the 302N second version was eventually going to replace the 386 in the European market and was being tested in the US for commercial acceptance. It is also opinionated that Mitchell wanted to maintain both different models as is because each was having success in their respective regions.
When Garcia USA separated from Mitchell in 1979, there was an excessive inventory of reels held by Mitchell of France that were destined for the US. To eliminate this inventory, Mitchell provided secondary vendors and discount houses the option to buy the surplus reels and rename/renumber them to vendor request. There were very tight restrictions on what could be placed on these surplus reels. One discount chain store in France purchased a number of the 386 bodies and relabelled the reel B50 (licensed under Mitchell). This was accomplished on a limited basis thereby enhancing value for this and other similar reels. We are not sure but the possibility may exist that additional vendors purchased this model and reconfigured the logo to accommodate their own brand name licensed under Mitchell. This design was and is still used today by Mitchell to build their 498 Special Edition saltwater series.
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