You just never know what you’re going to find in the trunk of an old car.
This gorgeous 1942 D’Angelico Excel archtop was found in the back of an abandoned 1963 Cadillac. It's currently owned by Jerry Duncan of Guitars on George music store in York, Pennsylvania.
Somewhere in the rural backroads of Maryland several years ago, a salvage company was clearing out the property of deceased man. The final item to remove was a 1963 Cadillac that was rotting away in the back yard.
“All four tires were flat,” Duncan said, “and the wheels were sunk into the muddy ground at least 6 inches deep.” It was obvious the car had sat there for years, and possibly decades.
The salvage company hooked the car up to a flatbed tow truck and, just before hoisting it out of the ground, decided to check under the seats and the trunk before taking it to the scrapyard. They found roughly $12 in coins under the seat. When they checked the trunk, they found a guitar case. Inside was the D’Angelico.
The archtop guitar was handmade by John D’Angelico and completed May 26, 1942, in New York City. It bears the serial number 1562 and was originally sold to Earl Hutchins. The name, “Buddy Hutchins” is engraved in one of the inlay blocks.
Duncan has tried to track down any history of Buddy Hutchins but has been unsuccessful so far.
I asked Duncan about the guitar’s condition when first discovered: “The neck was detached from the body,” Duncan said. “Basically, the glue dried out. That’s it!” He added, “the biggest miracle is that the truck was sealed tight. The guitar stayed dry inside there for all those years.”
The salvage company took the guitar, along with the other contents of the house, to a country auction where the guitar sold to an uneducated crowd for a measly $147. The winner, knowing he had a score on his hands, sold it to Duncan and made a major profit.
Duncan then took the rare axe to local luthier legend, Jeff Hostetter. “Jeff told me he had to re-glue the entire guitar.” There were also minor cracks that were fixed and a new Excel logo placed on the headstock. “The salvage guys probably dropped the original logo in the trunk and never noticed it,” Duncan said.
Duncan has the D’Angelico Excel on eBay for a “buy it now" price of $15,500.
Duncan simply asks that the purchaser not put the guitar in their truck when they pick it up.
Shane Speal is the "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.