Firebird III Guitars

1963 Gibson Firebird III

Color: Mahogany Sunburst, Rating: 9.00, Sold (ID# 01319)
Call to Inquire: (818) 222-4113


Carlos Santana's 1963 Firebird lll.


1963 Gibson Firebird III "Reverse" (ex Carlos Santana).


Carlos Santana's first year Firebird lll model. This incredible guitar weighs just 7.90 lbs. and has a nice, fat nut width of 1 11/16 inches, a wonderful medium-to-thick profile and a standard Gibson scale length of 24 3/4 inches. Solid mahogany body, mahogany, neck, and bound rosewood fretboard with 22 jumbo frets and inlaid pearl dot position markers. Headstock with gold-painted "Gibson" logo on black plastic truss-rod cover with three screws. Individual Gibson Banjo-style tuners with rearwards metal tulip-shaped buttons. Serial number "146005" stamped in black on back of headstock. Two "patent number" mini-humbuckers with outputs of 6.60k and 6.45k (the "Patent Number" rectangular black sticker on the neck pickup has partially disintegrated, the one on the bridge pickup has completely disintegrated). Three-layer (white over black) plastic pickguard with eight screws. The pickguard has been signed in silver marker "Carlos Santana". Four controls (two volume, two tone) plus three-way selector switch. Gold plastic bell-shaped knobs with metal tops. Combination bar bridge/tailpiece with pre-set ridges and factory Gibson short Vibrola tailpiece with walrus tooth tip. All parts nickel-plated. The pots are dated "137 63 36" (CTS Sept 1963). This is one of the very earliest examples with a two-piece full length neck and a convex heel which blends into the body. Also there is no 'Firebird' emblem on the three-layer plastic pickguard. A 100% original example with all of the solder joints totally untouched. There is some fine finish checking and a few small dents and dings mainly on the edges, but overall this amazing guitar is in exceptionally fine (9.00) condition. Housed in an *original four-latch rectangular black hardshell case with yellow plush lining (8.75).

This all original Firebird lll was owned and played by Carlos Santana who has signed the pickguard in silver marker pen "Carlos Santana". We originally purchased this guitar from **Drew Berlin at Guitar Center, Hollywood, CA in November 2007 and sold it to a private collector. We repurchased the guitar in January 2014 and decided to keep it in our own private collection.

In 2015 we loaned the guitar to HQ Gastropub in Woodland Hills, CA where it was exhibited in their 'private lounge' in a sealed display case. Unfortunately the case (which was in fact a later 70's example) somehow and unexplainably disappeared from HQ's storage - inside that case were the original certificate and also the later studs and bar bridge which Carlos had fitted to the guitar.

*After the original case was lost we purchased a correct 1963 Gibson Firebird case for the guitar.

Our original 2014 description stated: Included with the guitar is a color photograph of Carlos Santana in 2005 holding the guitar (before he signed the pickguard) and a letter of authenticity from Santana Management which states: "May 7th 2005. LETTER OF AUTHENTICITY. This certificate is your assurance that the 1963 Gibson Firebird lll Guitar, serial #146005 was owned, played & signed by Mr. Carlos Santana. The guitar is from Carlos Santana's private collection. [signature] Adam Fells. Personal Assistant to Mr. Carlos Santana."

When Carlos used this guitar he removed the original combination bar bridge/tailpiece, original studs and the factory Gibson short Vibrola tailpiece and replaced them with a later wrap-over stud-tailpiece and later studs. These 'Carlos' additional parts were originally included with the guitar. Mr. Santana also had the neck expertly re-fretted with the correct gauge fret-wire.

**Included now (together with a photographic copy of the original certificate and two photographs of Carlos with the guitar) is an original certificate signed by Drew Berlin (now Vintage Guitar Auction Inc.) which states:
"VINTAGE GUITAR AUCTION INC. / Certificate of Authenticity / 02/20/2023 / Year: 1963 / Make: Gibson / Model: Firebird / Color: Sunburst / Serial Number: 146005 / *Owned and Played by Carlos Santana / I, Drew Berlin certify that the information on this certificate is correct and authentic. I purchased this instrument from Carlos Santana and subsequently sold it to David Brass while I was running the Vintage Guitar department for the Guitar Center chain. / Please see attached photo of original certificate. / [signed] Drew Berlin / Drew Berlin / Vintage Guitar Auction, Inc."

"Announced in Spring 1963, the original Firebird series was conceived as an attempt to produce less conventional electrics likely to appeal to Fender players. Four different models, identified by odd Roman numerals, were marketed simultaneously...The four models produced between 1963 and 1965 (a.k.a. the 'reverse' Firebirds) share the same body specifications and differ only in fretboard style, electronics and hardware...The original Firebird electrics are primarily characterized by: a neck-through-body construction; a reverse body shape with extended lower horn; a reverse peghead with the treble E tuner nearest to the nut; banjo-style tuners with rearwards buttons; and they are all equipped with mini-humbuckers built without adjustable polepieces. According to factory records, the earliest production models were registered in October 1963 with serial numbers in the 131,000s… For all practical purposes, the Firebird III was the equivalent of the Special found in the SG/Les Paul family. Compared to the FB I, the model is characterized by: a bound rosewood fingerboard; two pickups; individual volume and tone controls for each pickup; a 3-way toggle switch for pickup selection; a (short) Vibrola tailpiece with flat metal lever. In spite of a Vibrola tailpiece, the FB III sports the same bar bridge with a pre-set ridge as the FB I. And because of its stud-anchoring this bridge cannot be replaced by a fully adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge...The original Firebird series remained in production for less than two years" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics -- The Classic Years, pp. 198-199).

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