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Flying V

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Flying V

Gibson Flying V
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1958—1959, 1967-present
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set-in
Scale 24.75"
Body Korina, Mahogany
Neck Korina, Mahogany[1]
Fretboard Rosewood, Ebony, Baked Maple
Bridge Tune-o-matic, and "Short Lyre Vibrola" used on some models
Pickup(s) H-H: 496R (neck), 500T (bridge)
Colors available
Classic White, Cherry, Ebony, Natural

The Gibson Flying V is an electric guitar model first released by Gibson in 1958. The Flying V offered a radical, "futuristic" body design, much like its siblings the Explorer which was released the same year and the Moderne which was designed in 1957 but not released until 1982.


Gibson first manufactured prototypes of the guitar in 1957. Production guitars were made of korina wood, a trademarked name for limba, a wood similar to but lighter in color than mahogany. This Flying V, along with the Futura (Explorer) and, initially, the Moderne, made up a line of modernist guitars designed by Gibson's then-president Ted McCarty.[2] These designs were meant to add a more futuristic aspect to Gibson's image, but they did not sell well. After the initial launch in 1958, the line was discontinued by 1959. Some instruments were assembled from leftover parts and shipped in 1963, with nickel- rather than gold-plated hardware.

McCarty started out with a mahogany guitar that was rounded in the back instead of being cut out. Gibson decided to change the back for weight reduction.

Blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack and blues guitarist Albert King started using the guitar almost immediately. Later, in the mid-late 1960s, such guitarists as Dave Davies and Jimi Hendrix, in search of a distinctive looking guitar with a powerful sound, also started using Flying Vs. The renewed interest created a demand for Gibson to reissue the model.

Gibson reissued the guitar in mahogany in 1967, updating its design with a bigger, more stylish pickguard, and ditching the original bridge, which had the strings inserted through the back, in favor of the stopbar tail piece more commonly associated with Gibson models. Some models were shipped with a short Vibrola Maestro Tremolo. This 1967 model is now the standard for the Flying V. Like other Gibson guitars the Flying V's headstock is angled at 17 degrees to increase string pressure on the nut to increase the amount of sustain.

The 1958-59 korina Flying V is one of the most valuable production-model guitars on the market, ranked at No. 5 on the 2011 Top 25 published by Vintage Guitar, and worth between $200,000 and $250,000.[3]

Both Gibson and Epiphone currently produce a 1958 style Flying V, designed to look like the original korina models.

Flying V2

Gibson Flying V2
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1979 - 1982
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set-in
Body 5 layer Walnut/Maple
Neck Walnut/Maple with brass nut
Fretboard Ebony
Bridge Tune-o-matic
Pickup(s) H-H: 1979-81 Boomerang(neck & Bridge), 1982 Dirty Fingers(neck & bridge)
Colors available
Natural initially, then custom colors: Pearl white, Blue sparkle, Blue sparkle metallic, Candy apple Red, Goldburst, Silverburst, Sunburst, Black and Black Sparkle. Candy Apple Red and White Finishes only for 1982 Dirty Finger models.

When Tim Shaw arrived at Gibson in 1978, one of his first assignments was to help with designing a companion Guitar to the newly designed E2 Explorer Guitar. This companion guitar would be the new Gibson V2. The general shape of previous Flying V's was retained by Gibson, but the new V2 would sport a new 5-layered sculptured walnut and maple body. Initially these guitars came in a natural finish to accentuate the layered effect, with either Maple or Walnut for the top & bottom layer. This layering was known at Gibson as the "Sandwich" and the sculpted body gave the layering a 3D effect. Knobs were moved off the pickguard, and a Pearl Gibson logo was inlayed into the black headstock, along with gold Gibson Tuners. Two solid brass 5/8 studs known as the "Sustain Sisters" were fitted into the body to anchor the "Tune-o-matic" Bridge along with a brass nut and brass "V" shaped tailpiece. Gibson felt this would provide the sustain and brilliance they wanted for the new V2.

The 1979 through 1981 models used the "boomerang" humbucker pickups that were designed to sound like single coils with lower noise. Beginning in 1982, the pickups were changed to the "Dirty finger" pickups that were available on just a select few models in the early 1980s including the Explorer, ES-347, ES-335S and the Flying V. The V2 with case retailed for $1199 in 1979, Gibson's 3rd most expensive guitar. Only 157 V2's were shipped in 1979. Besides the high price, some players complained about the non-traditional sounding humbucker pickups and the weight of the guitar. Sales were poor for the first 2 years of the V2's availability, and Gibson was scrambling to find ways to increase demand for these guitars from the dealers. It became apparent by the early 1980s that the maple top version wasn't selling as well as the walnut top guitars. To move the maple-top inventory, Gibson began to offer fancy colors to supplement the initial offering of natural finishes. Custom colors included: Pearl white, Blue sparkle, Blue sparkle metallic, Candy apple Red, Sunburst, Goldburst, Silverburst, Black, and Black Sparkle. The Majority of these finishes were applied to maple-top inventory between September 1980 and April 1981.

It soon also became apparent to Gibson that the V2 wasn't meeting sale expectations and production would soon have to be discontinued. In 1982, several hardware changes were made to reduce the cost of producing the guitar and to use up the remaining available inventory. The most important change was replacing the relatively unpopular "boomerang" pickup and pickguard, with the more conventional "Dirty Fingers" Pickup found on many E2 Explorers. The boomerang pickups were more expensive to produce and required more costly routing to the guitar body and a "V" groove to the fretboard. More importantly, boomerang pickups with their single coil-like sound (despite being humbuckers) never really "caught on" with the public. Also, the standard conventional humbucker rout allowed players to swap out pickups easily. Gibson covered the laminated bodies (usually Maple top) of the second variant V2 "Dirty Finger" humbucker versions with Candy Apple Red or White finishes.

A final cost-cutting variation eliminated the inlayed Pearl Gibson headstock logo with a gold decal. Once the majority of the remaining inventory stockpile was used up, Gibson officially discontinued the V2 model in 1982. The Explorer version E2 lasted a year longer, but it too was discontinued by 1983.

Reverse Flying V

Gibson Reverse Flying V
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Manufacturer Gibson
Period 2007 — 2008
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set-in
Body Mahogany
Neck Mahogany
Fretboard rosewood 2007 ebony 2008
Bridge Tune-o-matic
Pickup(s) H-H: '57 Classic (neck), '57 Classic (bridge)
Colors available
1st release: Trans Amber. 2nd release: Natural. Classic White, Ebony Black

The "Gibson Reverse Flying V" was first released as part of Gibson's Guitar of the Week promotion in 2007. It was released as Guitar of the week (week 29) with a Limited run of only 400. To achieve the "reverse" style, the body of the guitar is rotated 180 degrees relative to the original Flying V. It features a single color, a vivid Trans Amber finish with gold-plated hardware, and a string-through tailpiece. The guitar features a solid Mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboard, a pair of hand-wound '57 Classic pickups, and a single volume knob. The headstock was borrowed from the 1958 Gibson Futura/Explorer patent dated January 7, 1958.

Several months later due to the success of the first release of the Reverse Flying V, Gibson decide to re-release the Reverse Flying V as a limited-edition guitar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original Flying V. The 2008 release was a limited run of 900 guitars, in three new colors, Natural, Classic White and Ebony Black. 300 of each color was produced, with Natural being very similar in appearance to the first release's Trans Amber. The specifications are practically the same between the 2007 and 2008 release with a few notable differences. The second release (2008) now had a gold-colored metal Truss cover, and an Ebony fretboard, replacing the plastic truss-cover and Rosewood fretboard of the first release (2007). Serial numbers dates of the first release fall generally around the end of July or early August 2007. Serials for the second release fall 3 – 4 months later usually December or January

V Bass

In 1981, Gibson produced a four-string bass version of the Flying V. Only 375 were produced, most of them black but a few in alpine white, silverburst, or transparent blue. Epiphone also currently makes V-shaped basses. In late 2011, Gibson re-released the Flying V bass under the Gibson name and was discontinued again in late 2012.

Notable Gibson Flying V players

Jimi Hendrix, Albert King, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lonnie Mack, Michael Denner, Hank Sherman, Michael Schenker, Rudolf Schenker, Randy Rhoads, Paul Stanley, Wolf Hoffman, K.K. Downing, Robert Flynn

See also


External links

  • Flying V Limited edition, from the Gibson website
  • Gibson's Historic Korina Flying V, a June 2001 article from Guitar Collector magazine
  • Gibson Flying V Site, a tribute site that lists all models and re-issues and most notable players
  • Flying V Model DataBase
  • Epiphone Flying V Bass
  • Guitar of the week 29
  • The Flying V Turns 50
  • Guitar Planet Magazine - The Gibson Flying V
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