1961 Vega Solidbody

I'm a sucker for all things made by Vega - or, in their later years, at least all things that they made a substantial portion of instead of buying from Harmony. They made some solidbodies as far back as the Westerner in 1954 (one of the first and most blatant Les Paul ripoffs) but never made a dent in that market. After the Westerner, all their solidbody models were sold in such small numbers that they're basically unknown today. Of all the Vega literature I've collected, this ad is the only reference I can find to later solidbodies.

The guitar seems to have the same neck that was used on Vega archtops of the time; it has a medium C-shaped profile and a narrow nut. It's made of a single piece of mahogany, but the adjustable truss rod has kept it perfectly straight. The body is probably maple, but there's so little exposed wood grain that it's hard to tell. It's finished in an opaque cream-wine burst pattern that I regard as endearingly hideous. This seems to have been Vega's standard finish on solidbodies after the mid '50s. The pickguard is the same clear lucite back-painted in metallic gold that they used for archtop pickguards at the time, but it's somewhat crudely cut. The aluminum tailpiece is a surprise since it originated on Vega's console steels of the 1930s and then disappeared for about 15 years. The mismatch between the knobs and pickup selector is probably original, as I've seen it on other Vegas.

For all its quirks - and there are a lot of them - the guitar plays extremely well. The bridge is almost all the way down on the treble side, but the guitar doesn't need a neck reset. It sustains well, and the tone is somewhere in between a Les Paul Special and a Fender Mustang. The pickups aren’t perfectly balanced, so I have inserted a shim under the bridge unit. The pickups themselves were made by Franz, but are different from those used on other Vega models; the adjustable poles actually are the magnets, threaded to screw into the bobbins and slotted for height adjustment. There are damaged spots in the finish (mostly on the back, fortunately) and a good deal of finish checking, but no flaking and no structural damage at all. The frets are nearly perfect and the guitar stays in tune quite well.

Definitely not bad for a guitar that looks like a half-caramelized crème brûlée.

 

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