Gibson Firebird VII Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965)

Gibson  Firebird VII Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1965)
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Item # 10750
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Gibson Firebird VII Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 501512, Polaris White lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

This supremely striking solidbody is an almost unbelievably clean example of THE rarest variant of Gibson's 1960s Firebird family...a Custom-Color "non-reverse" Firebird VII. This model was the top of the line of second series of Firebirds that replaced the earlier "reverse" body guitars starting in summer 1965, made in only VERY limited quantities. As the bodies were made with the opposite offset pattern in a more conventional layout they were dubbed "non-reverse" in the 1970's, which has confused novices ever since! These second-try Firebird models were lower-priced, easier-to-build instruments than the earlier "reverse" body Firebird series guitars. They were available through the late 1960s in dwindling quantities, but never really considered a sales success.

This simply stunning example of the top-line Firebird VII is finished in a superbly preserved Polaris White lacquer, one of the custom colors advertised for the Firebird line but in practice seldom ordered. Gibson lore holds that most dealers simply ignored the special Firebird color chart brochure the company helpfully provided, as they were more interested in selling stock models off the wall. "If you've got a red one, they want a blue one" was the complaint, and whatever the truth, the solid color guitars are exponentially rarer than the standard sunburst models. ESPECIALLY the VII models which are scarce to begin with. All of which is a shame really, as they certainly are way more dramatic looking than their sunburst sisters.

While still carrying three mini-humbucking pickups and gold-plated hardware, this second edition Firebird VII was not fitted with other deluxe appointments like the bound, block-inlaid ebony fingerboard of the earlier version. Still the top of the Firebird line, the VII was a less fancy-looking guitar than the earlier rendition -- or the top-line SG Custom -- despite a fairly hefty price tag. As usual the plainer models were the better sellers, but in the case of these later Firebirds the difference is even greater than other Gibson lines.

The Custom finish puts this one in a whole other category, although the model was ordered in miniscule quantities in ANY finish. Only 79 Firebird VII's shipped after 1965 and the listed total is 110 for that year, at least half of which were likely the earlier reverse version. The non-reverse VII was actually made in much smaller quantity than other oft-quoted Firebird rarities like the reverse VII (around 250), non-reverse XII (272), and reverse I (over 1,000). All FB VII's are rare in ANY finish, so custom color examples of this model are almost never encountered today.

Under the creamy white lacquer this Firebird VII has a one-piece mahogany body with a glued-in mahogany neck, a design far simpler to build than the earlier laminate neck-through-body Firebird design. The pickups are mounted directly to the pickguard, making it quicker and easier to assemble as well. The hardware is all gold plated and includes Gibson's "long" Vibrola unit with a plastic-tipped handle and a Tune-O-Matic bridge. Gold-plated Kluson Deluxe strip tuners adorn the headstock, a seldom-seen fitting.

The Firebird VII is distinguished by mounting not two but three gold-plated mini-humbucking pickups, an unusual combination only otherwise available on the Gibson-made 1960s Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe and hollowbody Emperor, both also extremely rare models. Besides its killer looks this is a great-sounding guitar; the bright but powerful mini-humbucking pickups have plenty of clarity at lower volumes but really growl when cranked. The three-position slider switch has settings typical for three-pickup Gibsons, offering neck and bridge alone and a bridge/middle selection in the center position. This has an almost "Stratty" phased snap with Firebird pickups, a tonality virtually unique to this model.

Visible pot codes on this particular guitar date to the 39th week of 1965 and the serial number suggests shipment was late in the same year. This makes it an early example of the new model, and indeed it appears more carefully built then the sometimes slapdash-feeling later 60's 'birds. The knobs are older the style with a metal cap used mostly from 1961-67, not the later "Witch Hat" type more often seen later on. The neck is narrower at the nut than earlier reverse Firebird necks, but still has a nice feel not quite as insubstantial-feeling as some period SG necks.

While the "non-reverse" Firebirds used to be discounted in Gibson history, they have risen in status as time marches on and are now regarded as something of a lost classic. Taken on their own merits these are very distinctive guitars quite unlike any other and excellent instruments with their own sound and feel. Extremely light, fast, and very stylish, this super-striking custom-color Firebird VII is a stunning example of this exceptionally rare and oft-underappreciated Gibson model, an unrepentant rocker's guitar with a classy white-and-gold hot-rod look not unlike a sportier version of the Gretsch White Falcon.
 
Overall length is 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm.), 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 9/16 in. (40 mm.).

This is a truly beautiful 'bird overall, in nearly pristine condition for its age showing hardly any play wear and no notable finish loss, damage or repair. There are NO headstock or control cavity cracks, which unfortunately are very common with these instruments. There is virtually no checking to the Polaris White finish, with only a few tiny dings, chips and rubs. The white has yellowed just a bit over 55+ years but remains truer to the original hue than many with a sort of vanilla ice cream look but no smoky patina; as these Custom color Gibsons go this is an exceptionally well-preserved instrument.

The gold plating is also in far better condition than most; it has worn down to the nickel undercoat only on a few of the commonly-handled surfaces, notably the tops of the bridge saddles and top edges of the pickup covers. All hardware remains original, unaltered and in really excellent condition. The only oddity we note is one of the knobs has a silver colored insert while the others are gold; they are otherwise a perfect match and appear to have been fitted that way at the factory.

The original pickguard is the only component really showing its age with some lifting at the edges the typical shrinkage cracks by the screws, with several spots completely popped through. The painted bird emblem remains nicely intact. The original frets show hardly any wear and the guitar plays very well. Overall this is simply a GREAT looking and sounding Firebird VII, resplendent in its fantastic white and gold livery in its original red-lined second-generation HSC, a fairly rare find in itself. Excellent + Condition.