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article about vintage 1976 - 1985 Navigator LPs

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:02 pm    Post subject: article about vintage 1976 - 1985 Navigator LPs Reply with quote

To those who have an interest in this subject - I know I do.
I just got this up and running yesterday. There are a few typos and little things I still need to correct, but at least it's up and visible now...
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Joined: 25 Feb 2010
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Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi VP,

That?s a great write-up you did, thank you for sharing. A good starting point to gather more info about the Navigator brand imo. It must have been very time consuming. I hope a lot of people will share what they know to help you further develop early Navigator knowledge.

I do have some comments for you to consider:

First of all I think it?s very important that you gather a large database of pictures from Navigators of this era to back up the ideas you have.
I say this because I know from the research I did on Burny?s that they used the same pictures over and over again (up to 6 years) in the catalogs. During this period far more changes occurred than pictured in those catalogs. I see the same thing happening with ESP. Still, catalogs are a good base to start from.

And I say this because I have come to some quite different conclusions than you have regarding early Navigators with almost the same information.
Now this is not about who is wrong or right but my concern is that this is the internet and people tend to believe what they read. So I would urge you to do more research to a point that you have more certainty about the important aspects and then post the info on your website.

Ok, what did I find that made me lead to different conclusions?

1976 & 1977:
The first 2 ESP Catalogs are not dated, the third is dated april 1978. April is a quite common month for releasing new catalogs in vintage MIJ world btw.
As the first Navigator I have catalog?d has june 1976 coded pickups, I would also guess the first and second edition catalogs are resp. from 1976 & 1977.

The ES-12 = a standard and the ES-13= a custom.
There is also a difference between ES-12 & ES-13 pictured in the 1976 & 77 catalog: ES-12 has higher positioned control knobs and different toggle switch position, like the ones you point out later to be Kasuga made.
To follow your idea this would mean that the standard would have been outsourced to Kasuga and the custom was build in house. If that?s the case the first and only LP made by ESP in 1976 was build by Kasuga. Highly likely the custom order was build there too then.
Or, which is my opinion, does this mean that there is a transition in Kasuga construction method visible in the 1976 & 1977 catalogs and both were build by Kasuga?
Custom orders were quite common back then btw. Kanda Shokai did this as early as 1973 with their Greco?s. These were build in the same factory as their production models and were also significantly more expensive than production models. So most likely Kasuga did the custom orders for Navigator too.

The known and documented Navigator models from the 70s are ALL made by Kasuga (because they have exact the same construction as the Kasuga made Heerby?s).
So by the absence of ANY documented in house ESP made Navigator LP from that era, at this point, you can only come to the conclusion that ALL were made by Kasuga.
So, in my opinion, you need cavity & routing pictures from both the custom ordered and production models to say anything conclusive about this subject and during these specific years.

Now about the headstock shapes.
Kasuga stopped producing Kasuga branded LPs in 1977 and changed to
the Heerby brand. In 1977 you see Heerby change from wider headstock to normal headstock, exactly like you can see in the 1977 & 1978 ESP catalogs.
I say the normal width headstock Navigator LPs were also made by Kasuga.
Why? Because of the few LP-100 models I have documented that have normal width headstock AND Kasuga routing/short tenon. One of those also has 1978 coded pickups, so that?s quite compelling evidence.

It is also evidence that the mid level Navigators were made by Kasuga and not ESP (which was your conclusion).
This is logical for the 1981-1985 Kasuga made Burny LPs ranged from 50.000 to 150.000 yen.

Also: it is known that Kasuga had a custom shop during the 1981-1985 period. One of the custom order LPCs had documented honduran maho body & neck and a Braz board.
Now, if we look at the 1981 catalog. You see in the 'order made' section unfinished guitars. There is a lefty Kasuga LP and a Kasuga ES-335. So Kasuga did produce order made Navigators!
We all know that lefties are a specialty, certainly during that period. This could point to Kasuga being the producer of all Navigators up to late 1980 (as the 1981 catalog is from jan. 1981).
This order made section also shows FOR THE FIRST TIME ESP made Navigators, with the typical ESP long tenon. I agree with you that ESP probably modelled this after a real burst, as you can see in the last past of the 1981 catalog they also sell vintage guitar, amongst them a 1959 burst.

So this is the earliest evidence of ESP producing guitars in house.
This matches the Kasuga timeline as the first Kasuga Burny?s have july 1981 pot codes. The reason Kasuga stopped producing for ESP is probably because they got the Burny contract. ESP did not open their second factory in Nagoya (take a guess where the Kasuga factory was, indeed) in 1982, so that would be a logical explanation.

By the absence of any other evidence, my conclusions are that all Navigators up to late 1980 were made by Kasuga.
Late 1980 ESP started producing in house, probably with a short overlap into early 1981 with Kasuga production for ESP.

Some quotes from your website:

'It seems clear that ESP was following their own rules during this pre-Nagoya era. In addition to being the first to use long tenon style construction (again, as far back as mid-1980, if not earlier), ESP was also seeking to replicate other vintage correct, 1958-1960 LP type details. For example, there is a superb Lifton style brown hard shell case with pink lining that can be seen in the January 1981 catalog.'

'Significantly, as of October 1980 (and probably even earlier than that), ESP would have been the only known LP builder in the world, literally since Gibson in 1968, to make a LP with such a tenon style. For example, Greco did not use long tenon construction until 1982, and Tokai never used a long tenon during the "golden era.? ?

I think you are over-romanticizing ESP?s position back then with these remarks.
It is well known that Tokai scanned a 1958 burst and used this as a template for their Reborn models from 1978.
In 1980 the mid and higher end Aria ProII guitars also featured long tenons.
An American Tokai catalog from 1979 states they used south-american mahogany for the back & neck. Or Aria ProIIs with catalog?d American sourced woods or Greco with catalog?d brazilian rosewood fretboards.
Also the Lifton style cases from Tokai & Greco are just as nice as Navigator cases from the same year.
My point: ESP was not ahead of their Japanese competitors at that time.
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