Old gold: 1959 Futurama III

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Made in former Czechoslovakia and imported into the UK by Selmer, the Futurama was the guitar to aspire to for practically every young hopeful in British beat groups of the late 50s and very early 60s.

The prohibitive price of imported Fenders and Gibsons at the time meant that the Futurama’s comparatively modest price tag of 55 Guineas (£57.75) was just about reachable for the more serious player.

George Harrison took a Futurama to Hamburg with The Beatles

This was certainly the case for George Harrison - who took a Futurama to Hamburg with The Beatles - and fellow Liverpudlian Gerry Marsden from Gerry And The Pacemakers. Even Jimmy Page had a Futurama at one point during the dawn of his career.

Early Futuramas were built in Blatna at the Drevokov Cooperative in Czechoslovakia and featured a faux-maple fingerboard and a surface-mounted jack socket. Later models - such as the one featured here - were manufactured in Hradec Králové by CSHN, the major hardware change being the jack socket, which was now edge-mounted.

When Fender switched to rosewood ’boards at the close of the 50s, Futurama followed suit, dyeing a cheaper hardwood (quite possibly beech) accordingly. “They followed Fender and went for a darker wood,” Phil Carwardine of Vintage And Modern Guitars tells us.

“But it’s a cool thing in that a Fender Strat was something to dream about in ’58/’59 in the UK, so loads of people had these and, actually, when you look at them, they’re not that bad - there’s quite a bit in them. It’s quite engineered, really. You can get Hank out of it, which is what everyone was doing, I guess, wasn’t it?”

Body

Despite the similarity to Fullerton’s finest, the Sunburst-finished body was maple and sometimes beech, as opposed to alder or ash

Tremolo/bridge

The tremolo and bridge assembly rivalled Leo Fender’s Stratocaster design in terms of sophistication, with rear-loaded springs and individual string saddle adjustment

Pickups

The Futurama featured a Strat-a-like three-singlecoil pickup array with white plastic covers

Controls

Simple master volume and tone controls oversaw the Futurama’s range of sounds. As Phil Carwardine notes, “You can get Hank out of it…” and what more could a young player in the early 60s ask for?

Neck

Up until 1959, the Futurama’s fingerboard was a light-coloured wood. At the same time that Fender changed over to using rosewood, Futuramas’ fingerboards were dyed to match

Switches

The pickup switches were simple on/off affairs and offered every conceivable combination – more than a Fender Strat of the day

Headstock

Three-a-side tuners, a string guide and an offset truss rod cover are the only features on the Futurama’s headstock; the model name appeared on the scratchplate

We would like to thank Vintage And Modern Guitars in Thame for allowing us access to this piece of guitar history.

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