1964 Gibson ES-175, Sunburst

By Gibson

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Lovely 1964 Gibson ES-175D in a wonderfully aged Tobacco Sunburst finish, a great feeling ’64 neck and two great sounding and excellently balanced pickups. The ES-175 is one of the great Gibson designs with its combination of sharp Florentine cut-away, split-parallelogram pearl inlays and Zig-Zag tailpiece it is an instantly recognisable classic. Despite the popularity of the model only 437 Sunburst ES-175D shipped in 1964 highlighting quite how rare these vintage examples can be.

One of our favourite Golden-Era Gibson models the ES 175 debuted in 1949 as an ES (electro-spanish) version of the established L-4 model. The 175 in the title representing the models original price of $175. An immediately popular guitar, the ES-175 was initially only offered with a single neck position P-90 pickup with a dual pickup option offered from 1953 onwards. Measuring just 16 1/4" wide and with a shorter scale compared to the full scale 17” and 18” inch instruments the ES-175 also featured a fully laminate body. Not only did this reduced the list price significantly in comparison to the larger solid tone wood Super 400 and L-5 it also had the the desirable effect of helping to suppress feedback.

By 1957 the ES-175 tailpiece had changed to a new ‘zig-zag’ design and in the February of that year the model received the addition of Gibson's newly designed Humbucking pickup. Still offered in single and double pickup configurations the ES-175 would remain essentially unchanged until the early 1970’s when the single pickup model was discontinued. Gibson produced the ES-175 from 1949 to 2017, when it held the title of the longest production electric guitar.

This guitar has a lovely played in feel and naturally aged appearance. According to the previous owner the guitar was imported from Florida where it spent its past life as a working guitar and as such has had some changes to the originality. The serial number - 232938 is clearly visible on the headstock and the guitar's orange label. The label is the Union Made variety, a feature that appears on the internal labels between 1964 and 1969. The guitar has been oversprayed at some point and shows heavy checking to the ambered top coat. The checking pattern is wide and irregular and the lacquer is a little thicker than expected. Regarding the guitar's hardware, the tuners have been changed for modern reproduction parts. The tuners are like for like replacements and there are no additional holes drilled. The Nickel hardware is all correct for the guitar comprising the ‘zig-zag’ design tailpiece and nylon saddled ABR-1 with foundry mark. The plastics are all correct with Gold reflector knobs and wide-bevel pickguard all in good condition. The guitar pickups have seen some work and changes over the years, the neck pickup is a Gibson Patent Stamp example likely dating to the 1970’s and the bridge pickup has no markings but its traits are that of what you would expect of a 1964 patent sticker pickup. Both pickups have had the covers removed and re-soldered and have at some point been lacquer or wax dipped. The pots are still in their protective cans. The switch tip has been changed for a black part and the rubber toggle switch surround has been modified. Pickups measure 8.1K in the neck and 7.41 in the bridge.

The guitar plays well with a lively acoustic voice, these early ES-175’s were built much lighter than later examples and that really comes through. The aforementioned pickups sound excellent with a strong, smooth tone from the bridge pickup, the neck pickup sounds dry, warm and woody. The neck is a slim to medium C profile, not as deep as some examples from ’64 but equally as comfortable. Measurements are 19.94mm at the 1st fret and 24.09 at the 10th. The nut is the traditional Gibson 1&11/16th width. The nut has been replaced but has been well cut and the guitar has been refretted well. This is without doubt a charming golden era Gibson that sounds great, is full of character and feels and plays wonderfully. 
Currently set up with medium gauge flatwound strings, the guitar has a good low action and plays well with adjustment available. The guitar comes with a period case that is worn and has been heavily used.