The White Knight – 1967 Fandel S2-C Japanese Guitar (Firstman, Liberty)

Liberty 1Here’s another guitar from that cool late 60s period.  As the guitar boom was wearing down, and acoustics were becoming more popular, the Japanese manufacturers started really churning out some interesting hollowbody guitars.  Some were copies of American designs, but many carried that unique Japanese design aesthetic that I so love.  They elongated bodies, cutaways, bouts, headstocks, and sound holes, and came up with some totally interesting designs.  This guitar isn’t an extreme example, but it’s probably enough of a “stretch” for the average player.Liberty 2This is another guitar that didn’t really appear in the US for very long.  I’ve seen just a few examples of this model before, and most had a “Fandel” badge (or a blank headstock like this one).  In Japan this model sold as a Firstman S2-C (with different pickups), or as a Liberty (with the same pickups).  I wasn’t a real big fan of these pickups.  They did sound sort of thin, but then again, if you’re going for that jangly sound then these are going to be in your wheelhouse!Liberty 3Harris-Fandel was one of the large wholesalers back in the day.  Located in Boston, MA, the company served the large part of New England with many guitar brands including Kay, Danelectro, and Supro.  The company’s president was a pleasant looking fellow named Merty Harris, and these guitars probably represented the lower end of his guitar line.  But in today’s guitar market, what once was low is now not so bad.  Really, these are nice guitars!Liberty 6What I find most interesting about this guitar is the white finish.  For some reason, you don’t see many 60s Japanese imports with white finishes.  Matsumoku probably did the most white guitars, but the other manufacturers didn’t really dabble with the color.  I wonder why?  Maybe some of you re-finishing dudes can shed some light?  Is a white finish harder to get right?  Either way, this guitar is super light and has a wonderfully solid feeling neck.  Now the white finish has yellowed in places, and this guitar had some finish checking, but overall it held up really well!Liberty 4One problem with many of these old hollow bodies was that they were often fully hollow with a small support under the bridge and a block at the neck joint.  The problem arises when one of these supports goes haywire.  When that neck block gets screwy, real problems happen!  Always check the cutaways and binding before buying any of these hollowbodies.  I’ve seen many over the years that have gone goofy, and repair is not impossible, but it’s really hard to get right again.Liberty 5One last point I want to make is the appearance of volutes on many late 60s Japanese guitars.  I suppose that’s a Gibson influence?  I think it’s sort of strange that they just start appearing all at once on these guitars.  Well, volute or not, good luck trying to hunt one of these buggers.  They’re tough to find!


35 thoughts on “The White Knight – 1967 Fandel S2-C Japanese Guitar (Firstman, Liberty)

  1. Alex says:

    I have one of these! I bought it ages ago on ebay for £150. The neck (finished in the body colour) was banged up like mad, so my Dad and I sanded it down and refinished it (rather unprofessionally, I might say). Mine’s badged as a Kimberly(!). The pickup selector switch is also an interesting rotating kind, which was kaput on purchase. Replaced with a standard Gibson toggle. Rewiring it was a bugger.

    I totally understand what you mean my the Japanese design aesthetic. They’re just… different. Modern Japanese style does nothing for me, but classic Japanese cars and guitars, I love. I’ve been looking for info on this guitar for ages, so thanks for posting this.

  2. Dave Jones says:

    My first guitar was one of these. Got it when I was about 12. I’ve been looking around on the net to see one and finally found this. I wanted it because it had a remote resemblance to Mike Nesmith’s white Gretsch (and my folks could actually afford the Fandel). Great memories.

  3. Gas says:

    I had a 12 string one of these, I changed the pickups cause the were junk, then I changed the neck. I Was able to get a crazy sound out of the guitar, I think I took all the parts off and threw it in the trash, its to bad I should have kept it. I think I still have the 12 string neck around in my basement. I guess that is the question what do you do with all these left over guitars.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nice research. I will happily point out that the man behind Harris Fandel at that time is in fact Marty Harris (please correct your typo of Merty). Marty was running the company due to the untimely death of his father Myer (Mike) Harris in 1960. A family off-shoot of this early era iconic music distribution house is Harris Musical Products, still operating in the Boston area.

  5. Bakin says:

    That exact guitar is hanging on my wall. It’s a nice guitar though I don’t play it as much as I should. I’m considering replacing the pick ups or something. It’s a really good looking guitar though. I also tired a different bridge but the strings didn’t align too well. Any suggestions or should I just leave the wooden bridge as I got it?

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Hmmm, yeah the string alignment is usually a problematic issue. There’s a few ways to correct it, like a space controller bridge, redrilling the existing bridge, and working on the neck. And the pickups, yeah, there not that great but sometimes that’s the charm of these oldies. Then again, if it would get you to play it again then maybe a pickup swap is in order?

  6. dirtyoldguitars says:

    Interesting how this branded one has a trapeze tailpiece not tremelo & the different bridge to the Firstman & Honey badged ones
    Do you want a pick guard for this?

  7. Mike says:

    I have the bass version of the white knight that I acquired here in Boston. Been racking my brain trying to figure out what the brand is. Gotta be a Fandel. Thanks for the info.

  8. Larry says:

    I have a 60’s Liberty Hollow body with the Liberty on the headstock. It says, “Custom Liberty Model” on the inside. I’ve never seen another like it. To my eyes it looks like a copy of the Martin GT-75. Recently a Martin GT-75 found it’s way up to Guitar Center so I ran home and got my Liberty to A/B it with the Martin. The Liberty blew it away certainly in playability. The pickups in the Martin were funky so not a fair comparison. My Liberty has replacement pickups in it now cut for Humbuckers. I have one of the originals which was dead and it looks like they were Japanese soap bars. I would like to go back to something close to the originals. Any suggestions? I can send pictures if you are interested. Thanks for posting.

  9. orleanslocal says:

    Hi I have one of these guitars, the string ride high at the 12th fret looks to be in good overall condition, I am looking to sell it. I will test it out to see if the pickups work how much do they go for? and is any one interested in buying it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I recently bought a White Knight in near mint condition. It’s story is that it was cased, under a bed for 30 of it’s 47 years. Super clean, white not yellowed yet ! All electronics well working.

  11. Swamphawk says:

    I have a friend that owns one of these and we have been researching for several weeks now. Your web site has been excellent. It seems that the White Knight has worn three different badges; Kimberly, Fandel, and Liberty, and a few seem to have had no badge at all. If you go to and key in “Japanese Manufacturers of Made in Japan Badged Electric Guitars from 1960 to 1980” you will find a list of most all of the manufacturers. However, Fandel is listed as having an unknown manufacturer. I have seen photos of this same head stock design on other Kimberly products. But there is not enough evidence to say that Kimberly/Kawai/Teisco actually made this guitar. Realisticly, the neck could have been made by one company and the body by another. It’s anybody’s guess as to who made this guitar., but I’m still looking.

    1. lexiconguitars says:

      Firstman was the name of the factory that made them and badged them several other names including Honey,Conrad,Liberty ect.Firstman was the factory that morphed into “Mosrite” previously known as Zen On/Morales.They were the only factory to use that distinctive teardrop neck plate and that headstock shape

      1. drowninginguitars says:

        Oh man, I appreciate your comments but that’s not correct. Firstman was a company and never owned or operated a factory. Firstman existed from 67-69. The factory that made these was located in Nagano..called the Maruyama Factory. This factory, along with the Kurokumo factory made the original Japanese Mosrite guitars. Semie Mosely actually befriended the owner of Firstman and signed an agreement. I met the Firstman guy and interviewed him quite a bit over about five years. Zen-on made their own version of Mosrite guitars called Morales, but there was no connection between Zenon and the Maruyama factories.

      2. lexiconguitars says:

        Yes I’m aware of factory names V brand names.Should i rephrase that as Firstman being the ‘main brand’ to make more sense/simplicity?In the same vein as Aria is largely known as the main Matsu badge even though they made several others.Details on Zen On i have is after they ceased production of Morales Mosrite copies and concentrated on acoustics they were carried on by the Kuro factory as Firstman & Mosrite guitars.It doesn’t help when they’re catalogues were labeled as Firstman & Mosrite though.Sorry for confusion.

    1. Miike Smith says:

      I had a beauty just as the one pictured that I sold on EBay about a year ago
      It has been in it’s case under a bed for 30 plus years. Condition was nearly like new . The white finish had not even yellowed with age ! A little neck shimming and truss adjustment an it played beautifully..
      I sold it on EBay winning bid was $440 US.with proprietary semi hard case.

  12. Seth says:

    Does anyone have advice on replacement pickups or parts? Just scored a Liberty white knight that’s missing a pickup but would like to find a good set to replace with. Also missing the “Bigsby” bar Thanks!

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