Firebird I (PAF reissue conversion) Guitars

1964 Gibson Firebird I (PAF reissue conversion)

Color: Polaris White (refin), Rating: 8.50, Sold (ID# 02257)
Call to Inquire: (818) 222-4113


A Rare and Interesting Bird


1964 Gibson Firebird I (PAF reissue conversion)


This 1964 'reverse body' Firebird I 'Humbucker conversion' weighs just 8.20 lbs. Neck-through-body construction with nine-piece laminated mahogany center section and two glued-on wings. Five-piece mahogany and walnut neck with a nice, fat nut width of just under 1 11/16 inches, a standard Gibson scale length of 24 3/4 inches and a wonderful medium-to-thick profile rising gently from 0.85 inches behind the 1st fret to 0.90 behind the 3rd, 0.98 behind the 9th and 1.04 behind the 12th fret. Brazilian rosewood fretboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets and inlaid pearl dot position markers. Headstock with original 'reverse' gold-painted "Gibson" logo on black plastic truss-rod cover secured by three screws. 'Reverse' peghead with individual Kluson Banjo-style tuners with rearwards metal tulip-shaped buttons. Serial number "173017" impressed into the back of the headstock. Two reissue "patent applied for" humbuckers with adjustable pole-pieces and strong outputs of 7.36k and 8.01k, both pickups with a black rectangular label on the underside. Three-layer, white over black plastic pickguard with eight screws and "Firebird" emblem in red. Four controls (two volume, two tone) plus later three-way pickup selector switch. The two original potentiometers are stamped "137 6336" (CTS, September 1963). The two later potentiometers are stamped "137 7335" (CTS, September 1973). Black plastic bell-shaped knobs with metal tops. Late sixties Gibson ABR-1 'retainer' bridge with metal saddles. Later 'stud' tailpiece. (CONDITION REPORT BELOW) Housed in it's original Gibson three-latch rectangular black hardshell case with orange plush lining and replaced leather handle (8.75).

This is an original 1964 Firebird I which was refinished in Polaris White ca. 1973. It would appear the conversion was carried out at the same time as the refin and that two pickups and the three-way pickup selector switch were fitted ca. 1973 and then replaced with Gibson '57 Classic PAF reissue with black plastic surround around 2007. Two of the potentiometers are original to the guitar "137 6336" (CTS, September 1963) and two matching later potentiometers "137 7335" (CTS, September 1973). Both of the pickups have the rectangular 'reissue' black PAF labels and also small white stickers with "BB #1  7.55 (Wound by PS) 11/21/07  0167" and "BB #2  8.07 (Wound by PS) 11/21/07  0078". The bridge is a later sixties ABR-1 and the stud-tail is also later. The pickgaurd appears to be original other than having a small hole drilled to accommodate the three-way pickup selector switch. The banjo-style tuners and the control cavity cover are also original. There is an additional hole on the treble-side of the body just by the controls where it would appear that a jack input was there at sometime -  (I cannot explain that !!!!). The serial number is impressed on the back of the headstock and is difficult to read due to the refin - but it would appear to be "173017" which would correspond with late 1964. There is some finish checking on the body and neck and there is some noticeable playing wear on the treble-side of the neck from the 1st to the 9th fret, and also some arm wear to the bass top -edge of the body. Various dings and dents on the body but this guitar shows remarkably well. The really good news is that there are no breaks, cracks or repairs to the neck and body. The guitar plays and sounds very well and has the additional benefit of the tremendous 'tone' versatility that the two humbuckers give.

A wonderful opportunity for a player to have that oh so perfect 1964 Firebird neck with the sound of two 'full-size' humbuckers.

Interestingly none of the original Firebird guitars were fitted with full-size humbuckers - the Firebird I, III, V & VII were all fitted with mini humbuckers with no pole adjustment.

"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. The early samples are characterized by a 2-piece full length neck and a convex heel where the neck blends into the body. By late 1963, production models were released with a stronger 9-piece lamination and a smaller squared-off heel. A painted-on red Firebird emblem was also added on the white pickguard...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 between Fall 1963 and mid-65" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics -- The Classic Years, pp. 198-199).

"New automobile designs out of Detroit had caught McCarty's eye, and he hired the man responsible, Ray Dietrich, to draw up some guitars. Dietrich sketched a series of models, and one was chosen. The new guitar bucked tradition with a treble-side horn longer than the bass horn -- the reverse of conventional style. The headstock, too, was reversed, with all the tuners on the treble side. To avoid an awkward tuning procedure, banjo-style tuners went straight out the back of the headstock. The neck went all the way through the body. The pickups were unique: mini-humbuckers with no visible polepieces. The new creations were dubbed Firebirds, and a flock of four models debuted in 1963. A new set of custom color finishes was introduced just for them" (Walter Carter, Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon, p. 237).


Check out our sister company

David Brass Rare Books.  1-818-222-4103.  Finest Copies.