Introduced in mid 1963, the Gibson Firebird line consisted of models I, III, V, and VII, with matching Thunderbird bass styles II and IV. The bodies of these instruments were drawn by automotive designer Ray Dietrich, and they feature the so-called “reverse body” shape (with the treble horn larger than the bass horn), a raised middle section, neck-through-body construction (with the side wings glued on), special design Firebird humbuckers with metal covers, a three-ply white/black/white pickguard with beveled edges, large Kluson-style banjo tuners on the treble side of the peghead, an extended truss rod cover, and a standard sunburst finish. A variety of custom color options were available, but are quite rare. In mid 1965, the line was revised to the “non-reverse” styles. These guitars feature much simplified construction, but they are nearly as sought after as the earlier reverse models.
The Firebird VII was the top of the line, and it features three pickups, a deluxe Maestro vibrola, an ebony fretboard with white binding and pearl block inlays, and gold-plated hardware. As with the triple pickup Les Paul Custom, the wiring system on the Firebird VII has a three-position toggle switch that delivers standard rhythm and lead sounds, as well as a middle position where the lead and middle pickups are out of phase to produce some twang.
The Firebird VII is sufficiently rare as to not have a clearly established “going market rate,” but it’s my opinion that a clean original example should bring $10,000.
—George Gruhn, gruhn.com
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