The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

❌SOLD❌ Gibson Firebird V Through-Neck Electric Red, 1981


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This is a real treat! A fairly rare Gibson Firebird V in Red, one of very few made during 1981 at the Kalamazoo plant.

In the early 1960’s, Gibson was seeking new designs and one of the key influences was the automotive industry – for example, many custom colours on American guitars were actually car finishes. Detroit designer Ray Dietrich, responsible for many Cadillac and Packard designs, had retired to Kalamazoo, Michigan. and Ted McCarty attended a talk on auto design. McCarty asked Dietrich if he’d be interested in designing a guitar, and the result was the 1963 Firebird.

Unfortunately the design was not immediately popular, and production of the original design ended in 1965. At that point, it was basically flipped over to have a more conventional outline.

For many people, the Firebird evokes rock music, with Johnny Winter and Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd coming immediately to mind. But at first, it was adopted by studio players in the Blues, Funk and Pop genres. Many Motown hits backed by the Funk Brothers featured a Firebird. In the excellent documentary movie ‘The Howlin Wolf Story’, there is a studio scene with Wolf playing a Firebird and interacting with Son House.

The original Firebird design is fairly complex to produce. It is a neck-through design, so the center block runs the entire length of the instrument. With the fingerboard glued to this block, there is no possibility of neck angle adjustments, so it has to be built correctly! The body extensions are slightly thinner than the center, and fit into a v-shaped groove on the center block. At the headstock, there is a partial overlay, shaped to emphasise the contours of the headstock. Banjo tuners were installed to avoid having the tuner buttons interrupt the head’s outline. The whole guitar uses Mahogany for the body and neck, Indian Rosewood for the fingerboard, and small amounts of other materials like dyed veneer for the headstock overlay.

The original Firebird V had two pickups and a Maestro Vibrola tailpiece. By the time of these reissues, the Vibrola was dropped in favour of a traditional stop tailpiece.

This example is one of few Gibson Firebird V ‘s built during 1981. Its serial number points to production on February 23rd, 1981 at the Kalamazoo plant, and it features an unusual Red finish and Gold plated hardware. It has been refretted – necessary because it’s also been played as intended – but otherwise is in original condition. The refret was well done, and uses fairly large wire. There are some dings and scratches, and the finish is worn nearly through behind the 3rd fret. The plating is in pretty good shape for its age, with usual wear.

This Gibson Firebird V guitar plays well, and beyond our own bias for the design, it’s a very nice guitar.

The original case is included.

Price: $2,450.00 CAD
  • Model: Firebird V
  • Year: 1981
  • Finish Red
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: 80541028
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 04/10/2018

  • This instrument has been sold
  • Consignment Item

  • Required CITES documentation
  • Including original Hard case
  • Instrument Weight: 8.02lbs 3.66kg
  • Scale Length: 24.75in 628.6mm
  • Nut Width: 1.69in 43mm

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