“Fully Engineered!” – 1966 Conrad Bison Four Pickup 1233 Guitar

Ahh, for short while these Conrad Bisons were my bread and butter guitars, I just friggin’ loved these things and there was a time when they seemed to be everywhere.  I just always appreciated the familiar stratocaster look, combined with that sharper, meaner Japanese flair.  David Wexler & Co. was the Chicago based importer who owned the Conrad name and imported these from the Japanese Matsumoku factory.  1966 is the year these Bison models started to appear, and they lasted until the early 70s, which may explain why I was able to find so many of these back in the day!These guitars came in a few variations, starting with the single pickup 1244 ($60.00), the double pickup 1245 with tremolo ($85.00), the triple pickup 1247 ($99.50), and this 1233 clocked in a $127.00 in 1966 money.  The four pickup 1233 was described like this:

Four Pick-Up Bison Cutaway with Tremolo- This deluxe professionally styled guitar includes the full complement of pick-up variations.  Each pick-up has independent post adjusters, and carefully wound coils insure proper amplification.  Fully engineered adjustable bridge.  Individual Whisper Touch ON/OFF switches, and individual fast action volume and tone controls.  Shell colored, beveled control panel. Newest design patent head as on other models. The body is made from the finest hardwood and has a hand-rubbed and polished finish. All edges are contoured for player’s comfort.  Warp-proof, adjustable neck with inlaid rosewood oval fingerboard and nickel silver frets.

Yo, talk about laying it on thick!  The copy writers of the time were excellent at describing rocks as jewels!These Conrad guitars did have some nice features like solid wood bodies and necks, and an overall good build quality.  The truss rods worked well, and the necks do tend to stay relatively straight over the years.  But there were some drawbacks that includes switches prone to failure, and the tremolo system that seemed to knock the guitar out of tune rather easily.These guitars also featured an extra long scale, like 27″.  Since I’ve been studying these old Japanese guitars I’ve been seeing a pattern with four pickup Matsumoku made electric guitars.  Around 1965, they used these 27″ scales and I often wonder if they realized these scales were in the baritone range?  It didn’t happen again after 1967 so I’m leaning towards the designers making an error.  Also, in none of the catalogs and literature have I seen a reference to baritone scales, so it just strengthens my stance.  In the end, who knows…The sunburst finish was a real Matsumoku staple, and most of the Conrad guitars had sunburst finishes.  I always thought the finishes were done very well and I think they stand the test of time.  Often, I don’t see finish checking, peeling, or cracking on Matsumoku guitars.  The factory really understood woodwork.Even though these guitars feature that long scale, they don’t feel very long.  The pickups are really nice alnico models with adjustable pole-peices and I really view this guitar as an example of how some of the Japanese guitar makers were improving their product and honing their craft.  All of the pickups in this guitar read in the 6k range and sound really huge with some fuzz, GOOD GRIEF!!!  Seriously!  Dave down at Happy Guitar Repair brought this guitar back to life and rebuilt those original switches.  And Mike Dugan plays a little Beatles on this model.

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6 thoughts on ““Fully Engineered!” – 1966 Conrad Bison Four Pickup 1233 Guitar

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just bought one for my collection of old 60s and 70s, waiting on it now, can’t wait, this is a really koooool guitar!!!!!!!

  2. Km says:

    Well…. That is not a Matsumoku. That is a Kawai built guitar. Kawai factory guitars are basically high end Teisco guitars.. No Matsumoku guitar had that 1 piece japan wood type…

    I also had one with that Matsumoku looking neckplate….. Its like they were trying to copy them…

    Quality is bar none on Matsumoku..

    Not the same on these… The construction wnd woods are not even close to matsumoku…..

    Great slide pickups tho

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Sorry Km, but you’re wrong on every point you make here. Where did you pull this information? The guy who designed this guitar is named Hayashi Nobuaki and he worked at Matsumoku for many years. I personally met him several times (he’s still making guitars) and even got to see his personal photographs and design drawings for this guitar and others. If you ever get my book, check out page 82.

  3. Marshall says:

    I own this model which was stripped by a former owner. This has revealed something to me that owners of more original condition instruments may not know. The construction may surprise you. The body is (what I refer to as ) butcher block style, small sections of parallel dark mahogany glued together, a total of 6 pieces I believe. And, over the front and back is a veneer of wood to give the sunburst finish a nice appearance. I appears to me that the veneer is spruce, like the body of what an acoustic guitar top usually is. Without the black, amber and yellow finish sprayed over it the contrast of the two body woods is very distinctive where the beveling of the contour on the front and back occur.
    This construction seems to be the same as a 1972 Aria telecaster copy I have, which also arrived in my possession stripped of its finish. Interesting to note, the Harmony Bobcat, the diminutive solid body Jazzmaster-syled guitar, which was usually in a sunburst like finish, was similarly constructed. It is made of pine or poplar or some such very light soft wood but there is a thin veneer of maple is on the front and back so it looks substantial when it is finished.
    I used to own a Conrad 1247 (3 pickup) guitar when the model was only 3 years old, and it might interest people to know it came with Flatwound Strings as original equipment. Another interesting note was that the body was routed out only for the 3 pickups, not for 4 pickups, or entirely routed out “pan style”. The designers were trying to leave as much wood as possible or reduce manufacturing time possibly.
    I do appreciate your web site but I would like to express my viewpoint which differs from what everyone else, it seems, thinks of these Conrad guitars styling cue. People refer to them as Bisons. I have see a Bison by Burns and the horns are very long and stick outward, like the horns of the animal, an american bison (buffalo), and are not necessary or beneficial to the playing of the instrument. I had the impression the Bison horns were sort of like, perhaps, the British attempt to do something outrageous like the Gibson Flying Vee or Explorer, or the La Baye 2 by 4, etc. However I do believe the Conrad 1247 guitar quite closely modeled itself on the Burns ( and Baldwin Burns) Jazz model and Double Six (12 string) guitars. Look for yourself. The shape of the guitar and the functionality of the horns is much more like the other Burns and Baldwin guitars.
    And certainly, for added appeal the designer added the stylish Fender – style headstock.
    Just thought you might be interested.

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