For about six years in the 1960s, the Hoshino Gakki company (better known by their most popular brand, Ibanez) produced guitars at their Tama plant in Japan. And yes, it was the same place that produced the early Tama drums. The factory churned out some really kooky designs and this Hy Lo model 2103 is a good representation of the kook factor! The segmented guard is very reminiscent of the early UK Burns guitar design.Most of the Tama made guitars had their share of quirks. For instance, many of the clear celluloid pickguards they used tend to deteriorate over time. And the thicker guards they used, like on this Hy Lo, were prone to shrinking. But some of these Tama models had cool little details like sparkle inlays on the pickups, small puffy labels (remember those old puffy stickers?), and some cool graphics. Plus, this particular tremolo is one of my favorites from the old days! The switches almost always seem to be a source of frustration when it comes to tech work, and honestly they were some of the worst to come out of Japan. The switches never seem to be fully off, so unless you sink some work into them there is always this tone “bleed”, especially since the wiring is parallel.Notice that strip of darker wood running through the headstock. That was sorta a Tama trademark, as was the small metal label often nailed to the headstock. These guitars were made under a few different names (like Maxitone) and most had this small label with similar graphics. These Tama made guitars were also imported into many European countries, and it seems like the wackiest designs were destined for locations outside the USA. Serious collectors spend lots of time searching all over the world for those rare little weird nuggets of Tama guitar design. Hoshino made quite a few different models and the identifier is often located on the back of the headstock via that small sticker, which ALWAYS seemed to fall off! But the necks on these feel very fine, just a little chunky, and the bodies were almost always made of solid wood.Notice that little “Japan” stamp near the neck heel? And check out this subtle belly contour. And you have to take note of that trapezoid neck plate, that’s a definite Hoshino marker. This guitar is on the light side and balances real well.
I haven’t seen too many of these model 2103s, so I’d say that this is a rather rare model. I’ve seen maybe three in about five years. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not floating around out there. It just means there ain’t too many of them! At least we have this one documented for posterity. Dano at Happy Guitar Repair made this one playable, and Mike Dugan makes it play.