Southern California Guitar builder James Trussart broke with convention back in the Eighties by crafting bodies out of steel, and giving them aged finishes that can resemble the rusty patina of old farm machinery or the aged chrome and nickel plating of vintage resonator guitars. The Trussart line consists of at least a dozen models (including one bass), and every one differs in how the metal is presented—including engraved, basket weave, perforated, faux-alligator patterns, and more. The long list of pro players who own Trussart guitars points to everything that makes these high-end guitars desirable, and that includes how they sound and feel.
Choosing which one to review out of eight different models that Trussart offered was difficult. I could have closed my eyes and simply pointed to one and I’m sure it would have been great. But, ultimately, it was a Steeldeville decked out with a Rust O Matic finish (a term coined by Billy Gibbons) and “Cajun Racing Series” stripes that emerged from the UPS truck.
The choice was a good one because this guitar is pretty darn special. The rusty color and alligator pattern of the steel, along with the worn-looking stripes, give a vibe that the metal was recycled from an old stock car found in some backwoods barn. The TV Jones T90s are nestled in aged metal surrounds and the barrel knobs, 3-way switch, tulip-style tuners, and bridge and stop tailpiece all have the patina of antique pewter. Despite being formed from two sections of sheet metal, the body reveals no obvious joining seams. The backside features a large area of perforated-steel, and the small steel pickguard and inset headstock plate both incorporate screened vents for visual flair.
The mahogany neck features a ’59 profile (a Sixties profile is also available) and its silky polish is so inviting. The medium-jumbo frets are beautifully worked, and there’s no detectable transition between the smoothly finished bone nut and the cream binding. The 10”-radius pao ferro ’board with its combination of a 24 ¾” scale and 24 frets strikes an interesting balance between vintage and modern; feel-wise, it’s like playing a 22-fret neck, but with higher notes right there when the inspiration hits. The factory setup provided low action without string buzz, and the intonation was satisfyingly tuneful.
We tested the Steeldeville with a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Dr. Z Z-Lux, a Two-Rock TS1, and a ’68 Marshall 100-watt, and it sounded great with all. The guitar has good sustain and a strong midrange presence, along with some resonator-like color courtesy of the hollow steel construction—all of which gave it a sound that was quite different from that of a sunburst Les Paul and a 1960 slab-board Strat that we were using for reference. The TV Jones T90s are fairly high output and can drive an amp into blistering distortion, yet they also deliver very pristine and detailed sounds when you back them off. They’re a great sonic match for this guitar (although I think they could be lowered just a bit), and coupled with dual Volume and Tone controls, there’s a wide reach of sounds available here for rock, blues, country, etc.
Standing out in equal measure for its artistry, tone, and feel, the Steeldeville is an intriguing guitar to add to any collection of standard solidbody and semi-hollow electrics. The price of admission is high, but, when it comes right down to it, there’s really nothing like a Trussart.
MODEL Steeldeville Rust O Matic “Cajun Racing Series”
PRICE $5,800 street, hard case included
NUT WIDTH 15/8"
NECK Mahogany, bolt on with recessed-steel head cap
FRETBOARD Pao ferro, 24 ¾" scale, 10" radius
FRETS 24 #6130 medium jumbo
BODY Hollow steel with perforated back
PICKUPS TV Jones T90 single-coils
CONTROLS Dual Volume and Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Dunlop .010-.046
WEIGHT 8.5 lbs
KUDOS Awesome look. Excellent playability. Unique tone.