“A truly inspired work of playable art”: Meet the El Bonneville, a guitar inspired by a vintage “hot rod masterpiece” from 1934

V8 Custom Guitars El Bonneville
(Image credit: V8 Custom Guitars)

V8 Custom Guitars (aka the purveyor of some of the market’s most out-there car-inspired electric guitar designs) has just unveiled its latest gem – the El Bonneville Special Edition.

The worlds of guitars and cars have always been intrinsically linked. Jeff Beck, for example, once pioneered an entirely new Graffiti Yellow Stratocaster finish inspired by his 1932 Ford. Likewise, Eric Clapton was recently honored with a Blu Scozia-finished guitar that paid homage to his favorite Ferrari.

V8 Custom Guitars El Bonneville

(Image credit: V8 Custom Guitars)

For more extreme cases, see Dusty Hill’s Hot Rod car bass (recently put up for auction) built by Wayne Charvel, which is quite literally a bass guitar with the body of a red Ford coupe that shot smoke out the tailpipe.

V8 Custom Guitars, of course, is no stranger to the automotive theme as evidenced by its previous works – the Pete Chapouris Tribute guitar is a strong example – with the brand almost always going above and beyond with its hot-rodded builds. With that in mind, the El Bonneville looks to be no exception.

Inspired by a bare metal 1934 Ford pickup owned by “legendary hot rod fabricator” Jimmy Shine of California’s Shine Speedshop Repairs, this beast boasts (we imagine) all the aesthetic touches and visual nods a hot rod fanatic could ever want.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though the guitar has actually been built yet, and V8 Custom Guitars has only released what look to be digitally constructed images of its latest project. Still, it gives a pretty clear indication of what the final product will look like.

That means an aged metallic lacquer finish mirrored after Shine’s ‘34 Ford takes pride of place on the body, which makes its retro car theme quite clear from the get-go thanks to the 1934 Ford grill aluminum pickguard.

The latter is joined by V8CG aluminum sound ports, which are effectively f-holes for car enthusiasts, modeled after the air vents (cooling vents? Excuse our poor car terminology) found on the original build.

As for its core components, the El Bonneville is pieced together not from actual car parts, but from a maple-topped chambered mahogany body, C-shape quartersawn torrefied flame maple and wenge neck, and 12”-radius ebony fingerboard.

Other more conventional specs include a trio of TV Jones pickups – V8TV “Flattie” humbuckers in the neck and bridge, V8TV “Radiator” P-90 in the middle – which are wired to a volume control styled after a 1940 Ford steering wheel and a three-way pickup selector, also inspired by a car’s ball shifter.

Hardware-wise, there is a Vibr-8-o tailpiece, a wraparound Schroeder bridge and Hipshot open gear locking tuners.

It’s an impressive marriage of genuinely robust specs and all-out hot rod aesthetics – and that’s probably why it’s been listed with a pre-order price of $8,000.

For more information, head over to V8 Custom Guitars.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.