I have written about a lot of guitars that were made during the “lawsuit era”. These were 1970s Japanese copies of famous Fender, Gibson and Rickenbacker guitars. The guitar we are looking at today was made before any of the lawsuits were settled, but somehow does not copy anything terribly well.
This guitar was made by Aria, and the sticker on the back of the headstock identifies it as model 1532T, and I am going to say it is closest to a Fender Jaguar in style. But there are only similarities to the Fender as the shape of the headstock and body, and the layout of the electronics are all quite a bit different.
I found this guitar at a pawn shop in San Pedro about 10 years ago, and I think I paid about $200 for it at the time. It was probably made between 1968 and 1972, and was in original condition with no modifications that I could find.
The body is made of alder with a modernistic offset shape. The white finish yellowed nicely over the years. The vintage tremolo is kind of awful, but it never bothered me much because I do not use the whammy bar on my guitars anyway.
The bolt-on neck was very nice and did not show much wear for a 30+ year old guitar. It was straight and the trussrod still worked fine. Look at those tuners! Their base is cast as one piece, which is pretty strange in the electric guitar world. The 21 original frets were in good shape, and the rosewood fretboard showed no wear. By the way, the 1532T is a 24 ¾-inch scale guitar.
The electronics are a lot simpler than the Jaguar. The Aria just has two single coil pickups (big ones, aren’t they?), a three-way selector switch and volume and tone controls.
Don’t get me wrong -- just because this is a bizarre take on the original does not mean it is not a great guitar. It sounds good and is really lightweight and fun to play. You get a lot of guitar for the money with these older Japanese electrics.
While researching this I found that Aria has re-issued this guitar as model Retro-1532, with a list price of about $300. I have not had a chance to try them out, but they look right and come with a 1 year warranty. I am pretty sure they are no longer made in Japan, but the quality of Chinese and Jorean guitars can be surprisingly good.
I f you’ve had a chance to play one of the re-issues, why don’t you drop me a line and let me know what you think.