Epiphone Custom Historic 1962 Wilshire Omaha NE
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Epiphone Custom Historic 1962 Wilshire
FOR YEARS THE EARLY-’60S EPIPHONE WILSHIRE (Model SB-432) held the honorable position of being a semi-undiscovered vintage gem, and was often sold as a “poor-man’s Les Paul Special”, but that description doesn’t fully capture the nuance of the Wilshire’s slightly altered design. By the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Wilshire was still a steal compared to the rapidly appreciating Special, though both emanated from the same Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, MI, and offered great appeal to anyone willing to take up the Epiphone badge in lieu of the more recognizable brand. This state of affairs didn’t last long, though, as the Kalamazoo factory turned out far fewer Wilshires (a mere 180 in1962) than it did either late-’50s Les Paul Specials or early-’60s SG Specials. Following the simple laws of supply and demand, this secret players’ bargain turned into a bona fide collectible, with prices for good original examples soaring upwards of $5,000 to as much as $10,000!
Enter the 1962 Wilshire Reissue ($4,832 retail/$2,899 street), manufactured in Nashville, Tennessee, by Epiphone’s Custom Historic division, in cooperation with Gibson Custom. The revival 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. (100 more Wilshires, in white, will be available by the time you read this.) The first Wilshire arrived in late 1959, designed as a rival of sorts to Fender’s Stratocaster, which its rounded double horns aped more than they did those of its sibling double-cutaway LP Special. The guitars from 1962 are often considered to be the pinnacle of the model, and mark the last Wilshires that followed the more Gibson-like design spec. The following year, the Wilshire went both more Stratty with a six-on-a-side headstock design and offset double-cutaway body with longer bass side horn, and less Stratty with two minihumbucking pickups.
The Custom Historic 1962 Reissue is a convincing rendition of the scant handful of early- ’60s Wilshires I have encountered over the years. Examining it with reference to my memory of these vintage Wilshires—and what written specs I have on hand—I find nothing that gives me pause in the accuracy stakes. The edges of the one-piece Peruvian mahogany body are smoothly curved, with an appealing handfinished look to the portions of the cutaways that run from flat to radiused. 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 fretboard 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 n...