Gibson Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar (1967)

Gibson  Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1967)
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Item # 9554
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Gibson Firebird III Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1967), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Polaris White lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

For a long time one of Gibson's less heralded 1960s classics, the second-try "non-reverse" Firebird models were lower-priced, simplified versions of the earlier "reverse" body Firebird series guitars. Introduced in summer 1965, these new Firebirds were available through the late 1960s in dwindling quantities, but were never really considered a sales success.

This example of the midline-model Firebird III is finished in a superbly striking Polaris White, one of the custom colors advertised for the line but in practice not often ordered. Gibson lore holds that most dealers simply ignored the special Firebird color chart brochure Gibson 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.

This Firebird III has a body of sculpted mahogany with a standard glued-in neck, far simpler to build than the earlier laminate neck-through-body Firebird design. The non-reverse III is particularly distinguished by offering not two but three plastic-covered P-90 pickups, an unusual combination that Gibson had not used before on a solidbody instrument. They are wired in the typical Gibson 3-pickup layout, with the center switch position being the bridge and middle out of phase. With P-90's this gives a unique tone, sort of a "fat Strat" effect.

Typically for 1967 this 'bird mounts all chrome plated hardware, including Gibson's "short" Vibrola unit with a plastic-tipped handle and the stud-mounted bridge. This particular guitar uses an original Switchcraft toggle switch for pickup selection, not seen on most non-reverse Firebirds as they usually fitted a cheap slider switch. The original tuners are Japanese-made strips Gibson used only around 1967-8; they are not a top-quality part but offer one advantage in that they make the headstock lighter than usual.

The visible pot codes guitar date to the 26th week of 1966 and the serial number starting with two zeros indicates shipment in 1967. The knobs are the "amp style" with a metal cap that first appeared in 1966-7, sometimes referred to as the "Witch Hat". The one-piece neck has a dot inlaid rosewood fingerboard The nut width is the post-1965 1 5/8", narrower than earlier reverse Firebird necks but not quite as insubstantial-feeling as many super-skinny period SG necks.

This is a great-sounding guitar, with powerful P-90 pickups that really growl when cranked. While the "non-reverse" Firebirds often used to be discounted in Gibson history, they have found a growing cadre of enthusiasts in the 21st century, enough for Gibson to re-issue the model recently. They remain distinctive guitars unlike any other in look or feel and excellent players instruments. Extremely light, fast, and super stylish, this rare striking custom-color Firebird III is a fine example of an oft-underappreciated Gibson model, a standout in any crowd and an unrepentant rocker's guitar.
 
Overall length is 43 3/8 in. (110.2 cm.), 13 7/16 in. (34.1 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This is a well-preserved 'bird overall, all original showing some maintenance work but no major damage or repair. There have never been any headstock or control cavity cracks as are common with these instruments. The finish shows small dings and finish rubs in a number of spots, with a few light touch-ups. Overall the striking white finish is very well-preserved with no major loss and is also not heavily yellowed or checked.

The frets show some light wear but still have plenty of meat to them, and the guitar plays extremely well. The pickguard shows a couple of small repairs to shrinkage cracks by the screws, and the bird emblem has been repainted in by hand -- neatly, but visibly on close inspection. Overall a GREAT looking and sounding Firebird, resplendent in its Polaris White livery complete in its original yellow-lined HSC. Excellent Condition.