|Scale||24.75 in (629 mm)|
The Gibson Futura was an electric guitar that was the precursor of the model introduced as the Explorer. These prototypes, christened "Futura" many years later, resembled the eventual Explorer design, but had a differently-proportioned body, as well as a 'split' or 'forked' headstock that survived into the first few production Explorers but was quickly replaced. Gibson obtained U.S. Design Patent number 181,865 for the Futura body shape.
Gibson's designers made a very few, perhaps 4-6, of these prototypes between 1957 and early 1958, using patternmakers' mahogany at first and then korina (limba). One of these, a mockup without electronics, was photographed at the July 1957 NAMM trade show; three are known to be in existence as of 2014, one in mahogany, one in korina and one with a korina body and mahogany neck.
When Explorer production began, with the final, wider body shape in "korina" or African limba wood, a few very early examples retained the "split-V" headstock. One of those "transitional" models is today owned by Rick Nielsen. The Explorer offered a radical, "futuristic" body design and golden-blonde korina, much like its sibling, the Flying V. Its initial run was unsuccessful and it was discontinued in 1959 after shipping fewer than 50; a few leftover bodies were fitted with nickel hardware and shipped in 1963. The Gibson Explorer was reintroduced in the 1970s and is still sold today.
In 1996 Gibson brought out as a limited edition the "1957 Futura Korina Reissue:" something of a misnomer, since the design had never been issued in the first place, and of course in '57 the guitar did not have a name. Since that time Gibson's Custom Shop has occasionally produced additional Futuras. Epiphone has recently added two versions of the Futura to its higher-end "Prophecy" series of guitars. Both guitars feature an ebony black finish with matching hardware, available with a Floyd Rose double locking tremolo or a fixed bridge. Other guitars in this series include the Les Paul, SG and EM-2.
Gibson marketed another model named "Futura" in the early 1980s. This Futura's body shape was nothing like the Explorer or its prototype: it was instead an upscale version of the Corvus "can-opener." Due to this fact the Corvus is commonly confused with the Futura today.
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- It is also possible that these were late prototypes that Gibson later serialized and sold, a standard practice at the time