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Jimi Hendrix's custom-made 1969 Flying V guitar
|Period||1958–1959, 1963, 1967–present|
|Scale||24.75 in (629 mm)|
|Fretboard||Rosewood, ebony, baked maple|
|Bridge||Tune-o-matic, and "Short Lyre Vibrola" used on some models|
|Pickup(s)||H-H: 496R (neck), 500T (bridge)|
|"Classic White", cherry, ebony, natural|
The Gibson Flying V is an electric guitar model introduced by Gibson in 1958. The Flying V offered a radical, "futuristic" body design, much like its siblings: the Explorer, which was released the same year and the Moderne, which was designed in 1957 but not released until 1982.
Gibson manufactured prototypes of the guitar in 1957. Production guitars were made of korina wood, a trademarked name for limba, a wood similar to but lighter in color than mahogany. This Flying V, along with the Futura (Explorer) and, initially, the Moderne, made up a line of modernist guitars designed by Gibson's then-president Ted McCarty. These designs were meant to add a more futuristic aspect to Gibson's image, but they did not sell well. After the initial launch in 1958, the line was discontinued by 1959. Some instruments were assembled from leftover parts and shipped in 1963, with nickel- rather than gold-plated hardware.
McCarty started out with a mahogany guitar that was rounded in the back instead of being cut out. Gibson decided to change the back for weight reduction.
Pioneering blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack and famed blues guitarist Albert King started using the guitar almost immediately. Mack used his 1958 Flying V almost exclusively during his long career. As it was seventh off the inaugural year's assembly line, he named it "Number 7". King used his original 1958 instrument into the mid-70s and later replaced it with various custom Flying Vs. Later, in the mid-late 1960s, such guitarists as Dave Davies, in search of a distinctive looking guitar with a powerful sound, also started using Flying Vs. The renewed interest created a demand for Gibson to reissue the model.
Gibson reissued the guitar in mahogany in 1967, updating its design with a bigger pickguard, and replacing the original bridge, which had the strings inserted through the back, with the stopbar tail piece more commonly associated with Gibson models. Some models were shipped with a short Vibrola Maestro Tremolo. This 1967 model is now the standard for the Flying V although the earlier design is periodically reissued. Like other Gibson guitars the Flying V's headstock is angled at 17 degrees to increase string pressure on the nut to increase the amount of sustain. The design of the V places the pickups near the center of mass of the entire guitar, further enhancing sustain.
Flying Vs later became a popular heavy metal guitar due to their aggressive appearance and were used by guitarists Rudolf Schenker, Andy Powell, Michael Schenker, K. K. Downing, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Dave Mustaine.
The 1958–59 korina Flying V is one of the most valuable production-model guitars on the market, ranked at No. 5 on the 2011 Top 25 published by Vintage Guitar magazine, and worth between US$200,000 and US$250,000.
Both Gibson and Epiphone currently produce a 1958-style Flying V, designed to look like the original korina models.
Although a staple in the Gibson lineup, the guitar has been discontinued on-and-off again in the 2010s, along with the Gibson Explorer. In 2016, Gibson produced the Flying V Pro which (similar to the Explorer Pro) had a slightly smaller body and had cream binding on the neck and body. Since the 2017 models have been released however, Gibson have changed its name to the Flying V 2016. As of 2017, Gibson USA manufacture only the Flying V 2017 which has a 'half' pick guard and is available in both Ebony and Alpine White, as well as Traditional spec and High performance models. Gibson Custom continues to produce the Flying V Standard and Custom.
|Neck||Walnut/Maple, with brass nut|
|Pickup(s)||H-H: 1979–81 Boomerang(neck & Bridge), 1982 Dirty Fingers(neck & bridge)|
|Natural initially, then custom colors: Pearl white, Blue sparkle, Blue sparkle metallic, Candy apple Red, Goldburst, Silverburst, Sunburst, Black and Black Sparkle. Candy Apple Red and White Finishes only for 1982 Dirty Finger models.|
When Tim Shaw arrived at Gibson in 1978, one of his first assignments was to help with designing a companion Guitar to the newly designed E2 Explorer Guitar. This companion guitar would be the new Gibson V2. The general shape of previous Flying V's was retained by Gibson, but the new V2 sported a new 5-layered sculptured walnut and maple body. Initially these guitars came in a natural finish to accentuate the layered effect, with either Maple or Walnut for the top & bottom layer. This layering was known at Gibson as the "Sandwich" and the sculpted body gave the layering a 3D effect. Knobs were moved off the pickguard, and a Pearl Gibson logo was inlaid into the black headstock, along with gold Gibson Tuners. Two solid brass 5/8 studs known as the "Sustain Sisters" were fitted into the body to anchor the "Tune-o-matic" Bridge along with a brass nut and brass "V" shaped tailpiece. Gibson felt this would provide the sustain and brilliance they wanted for the new V2.
The 1979 through 1981 models used the "boomerang" humbucker pickups that were designed to sound like single coils with lower noise. Beginning in 1982, the pickups were changed to the "Dirty finger" pickups that were available on only a few models in the early 1980s, including the Explorer, ES-347, ES-335S and the Flying V. The V2 with case retailed for US$1,199 in 1979, Gibson's 3rd most expensive guitar. Only 157 V2's were shipped in 1979. Besides the high price, some players complained about the non-traditional sounding humbucker pickups and the weight of the guitar. Sales were poor for the first 2 years of the V2's availability, and Gibson was scrambling to find ways to increase demand for these guitars from the dealers. It became apparent by the early 1980s that the maple top version wasn't selling as well as the walnut top guitars. To move the maple-top inventory, Gibson began to offer various color finishes to supplement the initial offering of natural finishes. Custom colors included Pearl white, Blue sparkle, Blue sparkle metallic, Candy Apple Red, Sunburst, Goldburst, Silverburst, Black, and Black Sparkle. The Majority of these finishes were applied to maple-top inventory between September 1980 and April 1981.
The V2 did not meet sales expectations. In 1982, several hardware changes were made to reduce the cost of producing the guitar and to use up the remaining inventory. The most important change was replacing the "boomerang" pickup and pickguard with the more conventional "Dirty Fingers" Pickup found on many E2 Explorers. The boomerang pickups were more expensive to produce and required more costly routing to the guitar body, and a "V" groove to the fretboard. Also, the standard conventional humbucker rout allowed players to swap out pickups easily. Gibson covered the laminated bodies (usually Maple top) of the second variant V2 "Dirty Finger" humbucker versions with Candy Apple Red or White finishes.
A final cost-cutting measure eliminated the inlaid Pearl Gibson headstock logo with a gold decal. Once the majority of the remaining inventory stockpile was used up, Gibson officially discontinued the V2 model in 1982. The Explorer version E2 lasted a year longer, but it too was discontinued by 1983.
Reverse Flying V
|Fretboard||Rosewood (2007), ebony (2008)|
|Pickup(s)||H-H: '57 Classic (neck), '57 Classic (bridge)|
|1st release: Trans Amber. 2nd release: Natural. Classic White, Ebony Black|
The Gibson Reverse Flying V was first released as part of Gibson's Guitar of the Week promotion in 2007. It was released as Guitar of the week (week 29) with a Limited run of only 400. To achieve the "reverse" style, the body of the guitar is rotated 180 degrees relative to the original Flying V. It features a single color, a vivid Trans Amber finish with gold-plated hardware, and a string-through tailpiece. The guitar features a solid Mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboard, a pair of hand-wound '57 Classic pickups, and a single volume knob. The headstock was borrowed from the 1958 Gibson Futura/Explorer patent dated January 7, 1958.
Several months later due to the success of the first release of the Reverse Flying V, Gibson decide to re-release the Reverse Flying V as a limited-edition guitar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original Flying V. The 2008 release was a limited run of 900 guitars, in three new colors, Natural, Classic White and Ebony Black. 300 of each color were produced, with Natural being very similar in appearance to the first release's Trans Amber. The specifications are practically the same between the 2007 and 2008 release with a few notable differences. The second release (2008) now had a gold-colored metal Truss cover, and an Ebony fretboard, replacing the plastic truss-cover and Rosewood fretboard of the first release (2007). Serial numbers dates of the first release fall generally around the end of July or early August 2007. Serials for the second release fall 3–4 months later, usually December or January.
In 1981, Gibson produced a four-string bass version of the Flying V. Only 375 were produced, most of them black but a few in alpine white, silverburst, or transparent blue. Epiphone also made V-shaped basses. In late 2011, Gibson re-released the Flying V bass under the Gibson name; it was discontinued again in late 2012.
Notable Gibson Flying V players
- In the anime series FLCL, the character Naota Nandaba uses a Flying V as a weapon.
- In the animated series Regular Show, Rigby uses a Flying V every time "Mordecai and The Rigbys" appear.
- Toki Wartooth of the animated series Metalocalypse typically played a Flying V as rhythm guitarist in Dethklok, but switched to the Gibson Brendon Small "Snow Falcon" V for the fourth season.
- In the fourth season of House, M.D., Dr. House is repeatedly shown playing a white 1967 Flying V.
- Azuma Genkaku from the anime Deadman Wonderland plays two Flying V's that have been modified to also act as compressed air machine guns.
- In the horror franchise Five Nights at Freddy's, the animatronic Bonnie the Bunny holds a red guitar with a design identical to the Flying V.
- At the ending credits of Yowamushi Pedal season 4, Sohoku Cycling Team starts a rock band, and Naruko Shoukichi holds a red guitar with a design identical to the Flying V, while Imaizumi Shunsuke holds a black and white Fender Stratocaster.
- Valhallen, the Viking God of Rock superhero from the Justice Friends segment of Dexter's Laboratory, plays a pink Flying V.
- Eddie Riggs, the protagonist of the video game Brütal Legend, plays a Flying V he calls "Clementine," which he uses to cast spells by playing guitar riffs.
- In the video game series Phantasy Star Online, the player is able find a weapon named "CRAZY TUNE" which is a two-handed sword that resembles a red Flying V. 
- Fjestad, Zachary R.; Meiners, Larry (11 February 2018). "Gibson Flying V". Alfred Music Publishing. Retrieved 11 February 2018 – via Google Books.
- invention.smithsonian.org Archived 2010-08-06 at the Wayback Machine
- Greenwood, Alan; Gil Hembree (April 2011). "25 Most Valuable Guitars". Vintage Guitar magazine. pp. 38–40.
- Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter (May 1999). Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars: An Identification Guide for American Fretted Instruments (2nd ed.). Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-422-5.
- Bacon, Tony (1997-10-15). The Ultimate Guitar Book. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-375-70090-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gibson Flying V.|
- Gibson Flying V official website, from the Gibson website
- Gibson's Failed Modernist Experiment, February 2018 article from Reverb by Tony Bacon
- Steven Seagal's Flying V Collection, an unlikely collector
- History of the Incomparable Gibson Flying V Blog post from Disc Makers
- Get Your Wings: The History of Gibson's Iconic Flying V Guitar, article from Guitar Player Magazine, updated January 2018