Gibson Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965)

Gibson  Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1965)

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Item # 7751
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Gibson Firebird III Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 501585, Cardinal Red lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, tweed hard shell case.

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 striking Cardinal Red, one of the special custom colors advertised as available on the line but in practice not often ordered by customers. 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 one-piece mahogany with a standard glued-in neck, which was 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.

Typical for the second half of 1965, this 'bird mounts all chrome-plated hardware, including Gibson's "short" Vibrola unit with a plastic-tipped handle and the stud-mounted bridge. This guitar has a slider switch for pickup selection, as used on most non-reverse Firebirds. The settings are the same as three-pickup Les Paul or SG models: neck pickup, bridge pickup, or in the center position bridge/middle in an out-of-phase combination. Gibson rarely used P-90s in this way and it's a cool and unusually quirky tone specific to the '65-'69 Firebird III.

The visible pot codes on this particular guitar date to the 39th week of 1965 and the serial number tithe same year, so this is a fairly early example of this style 'bird. The knobs are the cooler back-painted amber style with a metal cap that disappeared in 1966-7. The neck is narrower than earlier reverse Firebird necks, but not quite as insubstantial-feeling as period SG necks.

This is a great-sounding guitar, with powerful P-90 pickups that really growl when cranked. While the "non-reverse" Firebirds have often been discounted in Gibson history, they are very distinctive guitars unlike any other and are often excellent instruments. Extremely light, fast, and very stylish, this super-striking custom-color Firebird III is a fine example of an oft-underappreciated Gibson model, 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 guitar is well-preserved overall, showing some light finish wear and a few minor restorations. All the hardware is original except for the screw and grommet securing the trem arm. The tuners have been restored to the original Kluson Deluxe single strip; there are small filled screw holes just visible beside the edge, but otherwise this is inconspicuous. There is a typical repaired crack at the jack area where the wood is very thin, running to the back edge of the body. This is cleanly sealed with a bit of visible touch up; there are a few other small color touchups visible as well.

The body lacquer shows loss to the top edge and a belt buckle spot on the back. There is a bit of flaking along the fingerboard edge where the neck meets the body, and there are chips to the headstock edges with other small dings scattered about. The pickguard is remarkably free of the typical shrinkage cracks at the screw holes and remained completely intact, which is fairly rare for this style 'bird. The original frets have been taken down a bit but still play well. This is still a fine example of a custom color Firebird, one of Gibson's most striking instruments and a real showstopper wherever it appears. Excellent - Condition.