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Gibson wound down production of the original Firebirds and devised new versions with simpler construction and a different design.
It’s been said that Fender threatened to sue Gibson over the design of the original reverse Firebird, because of Fender’s existing offset-waist body on its Jazzmaster and Jaguar, and that this was the reason Gibson was forced to change the first Firebird design.
But this seems unlikely. Fender was certainly annoyed, publishing an ad showing the Jazzmaster and Jaguar below a headline that read: “The Most Imitated Guitars In The World.” But Fender had little scope for legal action.
It had only a simple design patent for the Jazzmaster, which was granted in December 1959; Fender described the Jazz and Jag’s Offset Contour Body as ‘patent pending’.
The most obvious change to the line of brand-new Firebirds that appeared in 1965 was a slightly more conventional body shape, looking as if the original had been flipped upwards and over.
As a result, we call these the ‘non-reverse’ Firebirds, in contrast to the earlier ‘reverse’ body. Gone was the through- neck and the body ‘shelf’, replaced with Gibson’s conventional glued-in neck. The pickups on the two cheaper models were regular P-90 single coils, and the headstock was more Fender-like and came with regular tuners.
The new Firebirds first appeared on the June 1965 pricelist, with a sizeable price cut. The final reverse Firebirds had listed at $215 (I), $280 (III), $360 (V), and $500 (VII). The non-reverse line was notably cheaper: $189.50 (I), $239.50 (III), $289.50 (V), and $379.50 (VII).
Gibson briefly made a 12-string Firebird V, too, introduced in 1966. But the changes were not enough to stop a decline in sales of the non-reverse Firebird models during the 60s. At the end of the decade, the Firebirds were finally dropped.