A friend of The Music Zoo from the Gibson Custom Shop took notice of our Cars and Guitars blog posts and called up to suggest we write about his rare Gibson Custom Les Paul Corvette Tribute guitar. Perhaps we could find an automotive mate, who knows?
The guitar is 2003 collaboration between Gibson and Chevrolet to celebrate the car’s 50th Anniversary. The instrument draws heavily from the ’03 Corvette, and it features a custom carve that recreates the ‘Vette’s side body vent while having a carved top that’s reminiscent of the famed car’s sexy curves. There’s a Corvette emblem at the 12th fret, a 50th anniversary badge (with the checkered flag on the upper bout, and a serial number that resembles the VIN (vehicle identification number). The guitar is finished in a metallic dark red (the 50th Anniversary Red finish) and has a tune-o-matic bridge and a unique string-through-body design that goes through a faux air vent. It’s powered by two vintage-appropriate P-90 pickups, and the ebony fretboard is stylishly inlaid with mother-of-pearl “CORVETTE” lettering. Appropriately, only 50 of these guitars were made, rendering them very rare.
And so, this very cool guitar rolled into The Music Zoo over the Summer and our team (Gary, Walter, and Mike) was determined to head out to some local vintage car shows in search of a Corvette car that we could photograph with the guitar, but it was a rainy summer and vintage car guys don’t bring their cars out in the rain. It was finally September when we made it to a neighboring town, Bayville, situated on the Long Island Sound. Friday nights at Ransome Beach is a gathering for the dudes who like to show off their antique cars while basking in Bayville’s carny atmosphere as doo-wop and R&B music permeates the Long Island Sound fog. Through the mist, Stamford Connecticut twilighted alongside a few lighthouses and pleasure boats. It was a feast for the senses, and a nice opportunity to enjoy some beautiful cars, made in simpler times before engines became computerized and complicated. As our luck turned out, no four-wheel Corvette showed up that night. Rather than give up and go home, however, we posed the Corvette guitar with a few vintage cars that stood apart from a crowd that included lots of late ‘50s Bel Aires, Mustangs from every era, a Lotus racer from the ‘70s, and other vehicles in time capsule condition.
Our first setup was with a ’56 Ford Thunderbird owned by Barbara (who preferred not to give her last name). “I always liked the ’56 T-bird, so I went on the internet and found one in Pennsylvania,” Barbara told us. “I grabbed my husband, we went out to see it, and I brought it home the next weekend.” Barbara had the car inspected, gave it a road test, and had her mechanic at home give it a look-over. Said mechanic gave the thumbs up and the rest is history. The car features an automatic transmission and added-on air conditioning. Another cool thing endemic to T-birds is the continental tire (a spare) on the trunk. Barbara’s car had its hard-top, although she regularly uses the soft-top in warmer weather. Yes, this car is a convertible through and through. It’s an eight cylinder, 289 horsepower engine that really moves. Although Barbara confessed that she once took the car on a local main drag on Long Island and opened up the throttle, she drives slow and safe due to congestion on the Long Island roads. Not that she doesn’t want to drive fast. The car was originally finished in an Antique White shade. One of its previous owners repainted it in its current metallic grey/pewter finish.
The next matchup was with a 1969 Chevy Camaro owned by John (no last name given). We admired this relatively compact—for its era, anyway—machine for being such a great example of the golden era of Detroit muscle cars.John informed us that the car has a 502cc, 502 horsepower “Big Block” engine, which translates as an eight-cylinder power train. “I’ve had it for six years. It came from Connecticut and one of its previous owners restored it in the mid ‘90s and gave it this Le Mans Blue finish. John added his own aftermarket air conditioner, which is a vast improvement insofar as power and cleanliness over the stock AC. He also wanted us to know that his car is regularly driven on errands, and it isn’t sitting in the garage.
By this time (6:30pm), daylight was turning from lipstick red to burnt sienna and our window for photographing the ‘Vette guitar and vintage cars was beginning to wane. We gave one last scout across a not-very-crowded parking lot for the elusive Corvette, and it turned out that the only thing that said Corvette was the fretboard of our Gibson. We were almost ready to go home when we noticed a very unusual turquoise and white coupe sitting pretty with its hood open, and without its owner present. Who could leave such an amazing car alone like that? Although nobody was available to answer our questions, such as ‘What is that?’, we did a little researched and found that the car turned out to be a heavily customized 1961 Buick LeSabre. The car was powered by a strong Buick 401 motor. The car also featured a set of mag wheels, a custom-built (painted to match) intake manifold cover that was routed from underneath the car, an Air Ride Tech suspension system with electronic management, and late-model Buick seats. Yes, sitting alone. All by its lonesome. Looking lonely and badass!
By 7 o’clock, we had given one last look for a Corvette, prepared to even flag one down if it had come chugging along the Bayville strip. Realizing we’d been stood up, it was time for some fish ‘n’ chips at the local tavern before heading home after what turned out to be a very fun evening—with or without a GM ‘Vette.
Written By Mike Bieber
Photography By Walter Bryant