1958 Rickenbacker 335

When F. C. Hall purchased Rickenbacker in 1953, the company’s products consisted almost entirely of lap steels and amplifiers. Only one Spanish model was produced after World War II, an archtop that looked increasingly primitive and old-fashioned with each passing year. Hall quickly shifted the company’s focus to Spanish-style electrics, commissioning factory manager Paul Barth to develop the Combo line of solidbodies in 1953. In early 1958, Rickenbacker unveiled a new line of hollowbodies designed by Roger Rossmeisl: the Capri series. They have remained the classic Rickenbacker models to the present day.

In particular, Rickenbacker fans will be familiar with the modern model 330. Throughout the 1960s and later, the 6-string version was available with a vibrato tailpiece under the designation of model 335 (any Rick model ending with a 5 has a vibrato). This particular guitar is one of the first 335s ever made, and as such it differs from the modern 330 series in a few ways. The body is thicker, almost 1 7/8” deep, and the silhouette of the body is slightly different (especially the horns). The internal structure of the body is different; aside from the neck tenon, which extends almost to the bridge pickup, it’s totally hollow. The body would morph into the modern design around 1961. Rickenbacker initially applied the Capri name to their entire hollowbody line, but the name never caught on and it was dropped around 1960 – coincidentally, around the same time that the body style was changed. As a result, these early Ricks are known as Capris.

The pickups on this guitar are an unusual pair. The bridge is much like a modern toaster pickup, but the neck pickup has short magnets that don’t hang down below the cover and don’t require any routing into the body. The tone controls are wired in reverse, so rolling them counter-clockwise makes the sound brighter. The bridge pickup is noticeably weaker than the neck, partially due to normal reasons and partially because of a tone cap that removes much of the bridge’s low end. However, blending in a little of the neck pickup in the middle switch position adds some fullness back into the sound. Many players remove the tone cap to even out the pickups, but it remains intact on this guitar.

There are a few quirks that give this guitar a different feel from modern Rickenbackers. The neck is slightly chunkier than 1960s models, but still slim by the standards of the 1950s. While Rickenbacker tends to slather its fretboards with a thick coating of lacquer, the fretboard finish on this guitar is so thin as to be imperceptible while playing. The vibrato is a Kauffman Vib-Rola, a design that dates back to the 1930s. This is a subtle-sounding effect, even more so than a Bigsby, and it’s notable because the arm moves side-to-side rather than up and down. Rickenbacker replaced the Kauffman unit with their own “Ac’cent” vibrato in 1961 because it offered greater tuning stability. Aside from that vibrato arm, which is a modern replica, everything on this guitar is original; it has its original case and strap as well. Aside from a few dings and a crack in the lower pickguard, it's in remarkably good shape and plays perfectly.

 

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