1950s Vega E-202 Hollowbody Electric Guitar

Alan (see headstock) must have been a smart cookie. This guitar is lovely. Vega necks from the '40s and '50s are always really nice and this particular instrument -- kitted-out with a fully-suspended pickup system and amazing looks -- both feels great and sounds great.

The intention behind a lot of Vega's thinking on their electric archtops was probably a bit outdated at the time. They tended to build as an acoustic first and then figure-out how to get the pickups and electronics suspended above the top so as not to damp the acoustic sound. It's a great system if you're going back-and-forth between acoustic and electric settings, but by this point Gibson was already sticking big old humbuckers into the tops of their guitars and chuckling to see competitors' pickups feeding-back on stages all night long.

That's not to say this doesn't work -- it does! It actually has quite a healthy acoustic sound, even with the 48w-10 D'Addario Chromes that are on it. It's got punch and clarity and with roundwound nickel 12s I imagine it would be quite loud and throaty. Still, the party is plugged-in with this guy and you can tell that I like it because I bummed-around on it for 5 minutes in the video clip rather than the usual 3 or 4 for an electric.

The pickups are roughly the shape of humbuckers but are thinner. The coil size is about like a P90 but it has a bar magnet in the center of it as a polepiece. This gives them a sound like several pickups merged together -- a P90-style, those Harmony-used DeArmond gold foils from the '50s and '60s, and and a Jazzmaster-style. They're clean and clear when using a padded input (the "low" on your amp) but are ballsy and up-front in the normal one. They react a lot like P90s but the sound is more balanced and hi-fi, basically. They're fun.

Another interesting thing about the guitar is its body. Vega purchased this (and a lot of their guitar bodies at the time) from Harmony and then fitted their own necks, hardware, and electronics. Most of the Vegas used solid-wood bodies but this one is ply, press-arched on the top and back, and unbraced. I've only seen this a few times on Harmony "acoustic-oriented" products -- most notably the venerable H50 -- and the brace-less design can sometimes collapse. In this case it's held-up perfectly and is nice and stable. All the geometry of the guitar was "right" even after it was stowed-away for decades strung-up and not used.

The wiring harness was shot, though, and needed everything but the switch replaced. It's an ingenious system, though, and has a compact footprint underneath the pickguard. The original harness used a higher-value capacitor on the tone for the bridge and a lower-value one for the neck pickup and I replicated that, too. There are pictures of the innards down the post.

Repairs included: fret level/dress, replacement wiring harness (mostly), compensation added at the bridge, cleaning, and setup.

Top wood: ply spruce

Back & sides wood: ply flamed maple

Bracing type: none

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: mahogany

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on & adjustable)
String gauges: 48w-10 flatwounds (D'Addario Chromes)

Neck shape: slim-medium C

Board radius: ~10"

Truss rod: adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium

Scale length: 25"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 16 1/8"

Body depth: 3 1/2" +arching

Condition notes: it's very clean throughout. The finish shows weather-check as you'd expect but the whole guitar was babied and kept very well. The wiring harness is replaced but otherwise everything is original. Note that there's an "Alan" decal on the headstock. Funny, but there...

It comes with: its original, brown hard case in excellent shape as well.


Brad Smith said…
Great job Jake. Those are Franz pickups manufactured in Queens, NY and used by both Vega and Guild in the 50s and 60s. To my ear they have a unique "thick" sound and are highly versatile. And nothing beats those Vega necks!
McComber said…
I agree. Very thunky and nice pickups. Nice work on the harness. That's a serious pick guard and the knobs are catchy, too.
Brad Smith said…
"Thunky"...that's the word i was looking for. Perfect!