Guild S-200 Thunderbird Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965)

Guild  S-200 Thunderbird Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1965)

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Item # 8140
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Guild S-200 Thunderbird Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965), made in Hoboken, NJ, serial # 42962, sunburst lacquer finish, alder body, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, original grey tolex hard shell case.

Guild's top-drawer entry in the 1960s solid body sweepstakes was the utterly distinctive S-200 Thunderbird, an all-time "love it or hate it" design. Its unique body has been described as "melted" or "misshapen," but is actually perfectly functional and more ergonomic than many, the distinctive concave upper bass bout giving its "shark fin" look. The shape is a Fender offset body with two "feet" added for a perhaps ill-advised addition: a built-in stand (Patent pending). This cheerfully optimistic device (offered "at no extra cost!") is a metal bar hinged out from the back; extended, it supports the guitar upright at a rakish angle!

Another eccentricity is that the body wood varied with the finish...cherry S-200s were mahogany, but sunburst models like this one are alder like a Fender. The neck is always mahogany with a bound, block-inlaid rosewood fingerboard. It is topped with an oddball fluted headstock originally designed for a stillborn Merle Travis model, here adorned with an inset pearloid bird in flight under the Guild logo.

The elaborate wiring scheme was certainly "inspired" by the Fender Jaguar. The large knobs are tone and volume for the "lead" circuit, with double-pickup selection controlled by the bank of switches near the cutaway. The single switch under the lead pickup selects that set of controls OR a separate "rhythm circuit": the neck pickup, controlled by two smaller knobs above the first set. The 3 switches on the lower panel are color-coded with the Jaguar-inspired "strangle" switch a different color than the pickup selectors. Early S-200s had Guild humbucking pickups but this early 1965 model has more Fender-like "Mickey Mouse" units with white plastic covers, giving the guitar a crisper tone. The S-200 also carries a Hagstrom-made vibrato and "Adjusto-Matic" bridge.

Thunderbirds are rather rare guitars. It's impossible to say how many were produced prior to Guild's mid-1965 change-over to model-specific serial numbers, but there are not many of them! After that point, 52 were sold in 1966, another 13 in 1966, and the final 25 shipped in 1968.

The Thunderbird saw some high-profile use in the 1960s, the most visible being Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin' Spoonful. During the band's 1965-6 heyday he was nearly always seen with a sunburst '64, bought new at Manny's on New York's 48th Street. A Guild endorsement deal resulted in one other high-visibility gig for the Thunderbird: the Muddy Waters band. Muddy himself showcased an S-200 that appears to be a 1965 model like this one but in cherry finish, with the "Mickey Mouse" pickups and "Travis" style headstock.

The Thunderbird has lately expanded from its devoted cult following; Peter Holsapple of the DBs and Jeff McDonald of Red Kross gave the guitar solid indie cred in the past decades, but Dan Auerbach's more recent use was influential enough that guild actually re-issued the model. This original 1965 S-200 has some battle scars but still sounds and plays excellent, and as always is an unmistakable looking six-string statement!
Overall length is 39 1/2 in. (100.3 cm.), 13 in. (33 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm.) deep. Scale length is 24 1/2 in. (622 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This is still an original and very attractive example of this rare bird, but it does show some finish wear in a number of places. There are dings, dents, and scrapes to the finish overall, most notably to the back, and there is a deeply scraped area on the lower body edge below the jack area down into the wood. There are chips to the finish under the bridge adjustment wheels, and the screw mounting holes for the vibrato have been patched with some visible clear touch-up to the area all around the tailpiece baseplate. It looks like the vibrato unit pulled loose at some point, and was solidly but rather sloppily re-mounted.

The headstock veneer has some typical minor shrinkage, and center back of the neck shows finish worn down to the wood. The frets are in good shape; the guitar may have been refretted long ago, but if so, there is little telltale evidence. This is a great playing and sounding example of the '65 transitional Thunderbird, the original style guitar with the cooler features but with the brighter sounding single-coil pickups. The only alteration is a small resistor has been removed from the base of the lead pickup, which opens up the sound a little; it is still in the case.

This is a rare Thunderbird variation, and with the "Mickey Mouse" pickups in a sunburst finished alder body is as close to a Fender in sound as the S-200 gets. The original grey hardshell case has a crack in the shell on the lid but is still perfectly functional. Overall Very Good + Condition.