4/29/2017

1965 Epiphone Olympic Special Electric Guitar





This guitar turned-out sleazy-cool -- in a good way. When its owner brought this Gibson-made Epiphone in, its body was sprayed with a couple coats of hideously-done orange spray paint which was, presumably, meant to match the awesomeness of the original "California Coral" paint job that's still evident on the back of the neck. It'd also been heavily modified and had a "rout" the size of a California Corral in front of the bridge to accommodate an aftermarket humbucker (an Ibanez Super 70, which sounds "rad"). Said "rout" was covered with what looked like orange cardboard from a tissue box! The frets needed work, too, but the owner had thankfully located a replacement original whammy unit and compensated bridge, which lightened the load.

Anyhow, I gave this thing a refinish on the body to a simple natural, satin coat -- and that brought out the bling. The mahogany body on this looks more like koa and has excellent bits of figure here and there. The body (and its finish) is in no way perfect as there's plenty of evidence of past abuses here and there, but I do think I did it justice. It also feels nice and soft, too.

To this body I applied some effort and hid the humbucker pickup under a P90 cover and pickup-riser and then added a 3-way switch and wired-in one of those 1966 DeArmond/Rowe gold foil pickups. A rout was added for the wire from the neck pickup and the already-hacked-up original pickguard was hacked a bit more to get everything a bit more tidy. After that I leveled/dressed the frets, installed some antiqued Gibson-style strap buttons, and gave it a thorough setup. The owner has 9s on it (with which I'm very clumsy), but I think in the clip you can hear just how tres cool the whole thing came out!

The neck has that bigger, round 50s Gibson shape but with the narrow, mid/late-60s nut width (1 5/8") and the mix gives it a fast, satisfying feel without being tiny-tiny-tiny.


For a "partser special," this thing has vibe. I'm kinda jealous of the owner, to be honest.

When I was sanding off all of the old paint I was terrified about what I'd find under it!

As a side-note, the guitar is quite lightweight and thus a lot of fun to play -- and that's probably part of why it feels so responsive and "open" up and down the neck.


Someone replaced the original tuners with Rotomatics at some point. They do work, however, and one can't complain too much. The nut is original, too.


The fret level/dress on the original jumbo frets managed to remove some ski-jump frustrations going on near the neck joint.


The gold foil (rated at 10.7k ohms!) in the neck position just says "mustached villain from a B-movie" to me.



I was also pretty happy with the way the "cover-up" of the bad "rout" (hack job) turned-out. There's disturbance below the cover on the bridge side and some old screw holes on the neck side of it, but overall it worked a lot better than I'd hoped and looks "believable."

I made sure the adjustment screws for the humbucker were visible, though, for tonal adjustments.


The whammy is just an anchor mounted to a spring-steel plate. It works surprisingly-well, but one has to be aware of how much abuse one delivers to it. It's best for a Bigsby-like wiggle. If you dive it you have to make sure you "hear" where you return the strings to to make it go back in tune 100%.


It's too bad the depth of the curly figure doesn't show-up too well in the pics.




The back of the headstock has respray, too. Also -- note the Gibson serial number blocked-out from the spray job. Fair enough! It reads 527XXX and while serial lists place this at 1968, I have a feeling it may be linked to another possible run in the same range in 1965. In '68 the model type changed to a Fender-ish batwing headstock shape and an entirely different pickguard/body shape. It's possible that this is a late '67 or oddball '68, though. Serial numbers from this time are a bit hazy.


Imagine how cool this thing would've been entirely finished in California Coral? It looks great on the back of the neck.



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