1965 Hagstrom II "The Clash Special" Electric Guitar

Weird stuff walks through my door. As soon as I saw the case for this (destroyed and stenciled with "I fought the law"), I knew whatever was inside would be pretty amazing. It turned-out to be this excellent Hagstrom which, despite its more rocky image and body shape, seems ideally suited to surf and sounds/plays a lot like a Jaguar crossed with a Mosrite. It has the twang, sizzled, and Jazzmaster-style whammy of the Jaguar but the slightly-longer Gibson-style 24 3/4" scale, skinny neck, and body curvature of a Mosrite. It's weird and lovely.

Anyhow, I bought this right-away. It was totally disgusting and covered in grime, stickers, and tape residue. It was in mostly-original condition, however, despite the added paint. The nut was missing, the volume knob was replaced, and the original bridge was missing one of its adjustable saddles -- but otherwise it was all there -- which is surprising for a "punk" guitar find.

Work included a fret level/dress, new bone nut, modding to the bridge setup, some retooling and adjusting of the whammy to get it working beautifully, and a lot of clean-up and grounding additions to the original wiring. I was surprised to find the whole body cavity shielded from the factory, however! It's now playing perfectly with a straight neck, 1/16" action overall at the 12th fret, and intonates on-the-dot. The whammy (now) works as well as a genuine vintage Fender Jazzmaster unit, though it's more "halting" in the Strat way as you set it back to "zero." Strings are a mix of medium (11s) wound strings and light (10s) plain.

The black paint is original but does show plenty of wear and tear and discoloration. The body appears to be made from many pieces of some sort of hardwood, though the paint obscures what.

I don't know how Hagstrom got away with these Fender rip-off headstocks... and neck construction, for that matter! It looks great and has a very practical "string tree" bar. The nut is 1 5/8" and the neck profile is utterly modern -- a very slim C profile to the rear and a light radius of 14" or so.

The neck itself is maple and has a worn-in '60s Fender-style finish and feels awesome. It's not the later, thick poly-style finish.

The board is rosewood with faux-pearl dots and the frets are the original, low, smallish units. They've got some life left, however.

The pickups themselves look "rad" and have about the same output as a Fender single coil. They have metal baseplates and housings which give nice shielding. The "on/off" switch near the neck appears to engage a mild high-cut cap in the "off" position. I keep it "on."

Here's the bridge pickup (with one replacement height-adjustment screw) and also my modification of the original bridge. These Hagstrom bridges were also used on Guild guitars and you can see one in "original condition" via this post about a Polara.

Because this was missing some of the adjustable saddle units, I decided to simply turn the bridge base into the bridge itself and set-about relocating the mounting holes for its bottom plate to put it at a compensated angle. After that I cut slots for the strings and compensated the plain strings further. It plays beautifully and, like the original intent (and also like Bigsby bridges), rocks slightly when the whammy is in use.

This Hagstrom whammy unit works in reverse compared to a Jazzmaster type, but has much of the same feel and vibe.

The painted honky-tonk dancers are super-cool.

Controls here are (from top to bottom) neck pickup on/off, bridge pickup on/off, mud switch, treble/mud switch. The knob is just for volume and I replaced a Teisco-style replacement switch with this dice knob from my parts-bin.

The back references The Clash like mad.

I know, right? Check out all the wear and tear on the neck -- this sucker was played.

The 3-bolt neck joint is interesting as Hagstrom made the first screw/bolt socket a proper bolt -- it's got a threaded insert. The lower ones then just help for added stability.

It's a shabby paint job, but it's fun just the same.

Here's that crazy case I mentioned.


Unknown said…
that thing just SCREAMS punkness attitude...