First Impression: Epiphone Custom Historic 1962 Wilshire

Manufactured in Nashville, TN, by Epiphone’s Custom Historic division, in cooperation with Gibson Custom, the 1962 Wilshire Reissue ($4,832 retail/$2,899 street) brings this much-loved model back at a more palatable price than its current vintage value, although it’s still made in limited numbers, restricted to a run of 100 guitars. 
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The Custom Historic 1962 Reissue is a convincing rendition of the scant handful of early-’60s Wilshires I have encountered over the years. The edges of the one-piece Peruvian mahogany body are smoothly curved, with an appealing hand-finished look to the portions of the cutaways that run from flat to radiused, and the nitrocellulose finish, although buffed to a high gloss, is thin enough to have dimpled into the grain of the wood, giving the guitar the impression of an instrument that is aging gracefully. The slight dimpling in the finish on the upper edge of the unbound rosewood fingerboard is less appealing, though not a major turn off. The rest of the neck is smoothly executed, though, with a beefy rounded C profile that is full yet comfortable in the hand, and a headstock that’s back angled to a period-correct 17 degrees. The Wilshire’s solid neck joint is aided by a neck pickup that’s positioned further back into the body than on some of the Gibsons it’s related to, and which therefore encroaches less upon the neck tenon (and, as a result, neck stability overall). Partly as a result of these ingredients, this thing really rings out acoustically, with a bright snap to the notes that is underpinned by a rich, woody resonance. With all that mahogany, a 24 3/4" scale length, medium-jumbo frets, and the Gibson-derived ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece, it’s really an entirely un-Fender-ish instrument, yet has a pop and spank to it when played unplugged that conjures up early-’60s pop, surf, and garage rock as much as it does the heavier music that Specials and Juniors, both Les Paul and SG, were so often applied to later in the decade, and beyond. The pickups in this Custom Historic creation follow early-’60s P-90 specs with period-correct bases. Measurements of 8.11kΩ in the neck and 8kΩ in the bridge indicate that their selection is also period correct: Back in the day they just pulled two pickups from the stock shelf and mounted them into the guitar, but the random practice often resulted in an imbalance between the positions, with the switch set to “Rhythm” (neck) issuing a lot more volume than when set to “Treble”. In this instance, however, neck and bridge pickup have been thoughtfully set up with the latter lowered much further into the body to balance the outputs of the two. —Dave Hunter

The full review of the Epiphone Custom Historic 1962 Wilshire will be featured in the September 2009 issue of Guitar Player.