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The DIY Musician: Freak of the Week — 1996 Musicvox Spaceranger Prototype

The DIY Musician: Freak of the Week — 1996 Musicvox Spaceranger Prototype

This Freak of the Week is one of the very first Musicvox Spacerangers ever produced.

The seafoam green model was part of the original 10 prototypes designed and commissioned by Musicvox CEO, Matt Eichen.

The New Jersey-based Musicvox was the first modern company in the Nineties to embrace freakish retro designs of Wandre, Teisco Del Rey and countless no-name brands that graced the walls of music stores in the Sixties.

Let me just say this seafoam green Spaceranger prototype is a real freak!

All Musicvox Spacerangers sorta look like a single cutaway guitar that was designed by the Toxic Avenger and mutated by nuclear waste. The cutaway horn and headstock are shaped like amoebic globules. I own several modern Spacerangers and love the way the weird body fits into my lap when sitting down. They’re the most comfortable guitars I own.

This seafoam green prototype, however, takes those aesthetics and adds several freakish designs. First off, all electronics are housed in a bizarre top-mounted compartment that doubles as a pickguard.

The compartment also serves as an attachment to the floating jazz pickups. In other words, the body of the guitar is one big slab of un-routed mahogany and the pickups and electronics are placed on top. Eichen told me the inspiration for the design was from an old Supro Ozark electric guitar from the late Forties.

Musicvox was one of the first guitar companies to spur the retro guitar design movement in the Nineties. In 1996, Eichen designed the Spaceranger as his flagship model and took the sketchings to Jim Jameson of Exotic Woods/Musikraft in Buena, New Jerset. Jameson digitized the drawing and made the first 10 maple necks and mahogany bodies on a CNC machine. The parts were then delivered to a Philadelphia-based guitar tech who installed the pickups, tailpieces and electronics.

The trapeze tailpieces used were 1967 new-old-stock parts from the defunct Kay guitar factory in Chicago. Pickups are Bill Lawrence floating jazz types that you would see on an archtop guitar.

Note: These pickups float 3/8th of an inch above the body! (Lawrence became good friends with Eichen after seeing his pickups in the prototypes. He got a kick out of them!) Each of the 10 prototypes were finished in a vintage relic style nitro lacquer. With the raised pickguard/electronics compartment, the entire thing has the appearance of a prop from an Ed Wood movie.

So let’s talk tone. The Spaceranger prototype is the jazziest-sounding guitar I’ve ever owned. It has the sound of a fine archtop jazzer because of the floating pickups. The light coated mahogany body sings with a purr and the maple neck adds the right amount of snap to pull it together.

Alas, the top-mounted electronics and floating pickup design were abandoned after the first 10 prototypes in order to facilitate a bigger production. Musicvox Spacerangers are still produced today and can be seen in the hands of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Mark Pirro of Tripping Daisy/Polyphonic Spree, Matthew Sweet and Keith Urban. Find out more about Musicvox at Musicvox.com.

One extra note: In addition to my ever-growing Musicvox guitar collection, I crank my electric cigar box guitars through Musicvox amplifiers in my band, Shane Speal’s Snake Oil Band. The volume knobs are printed so they go to 12!

Shane Speal is "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.

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