|Period||1967 — 1977|
|Bridge||Tune-o-matic style with Jaguar-style Tremolo (Phase 1-3); Stoptail (Phase 4)|
Two P-90s (Phase 1-2)Two humbuckers (Phase 3-4)
|Orange sunburst, black, white, natural|
The Univox Hi-Flier was an electric guitar manufactured by Univox and Unicord from 1968 to 1978. It had a very similar appearance to the Mosrite Ventures guitar, though was somewhat different (and much cheaper).
The Hi-Flier went through many changes, and is known as having four phases. However, the changes made that define these four phases have "transitional" periods where characteristics from an older phase carry on to a newer phase, for sometime into the production. It is impossible to date these guitars by the serial number as it is uncertain whether records were kept on their production (the original factory burned down in the 1980s), and generally, the serial numbers run from largest-to-smallest over many years.
The Hi-Flier debuted around 1968. It was loosely based on the Mosrite Ventures model, and featured two P-90 style pickups.
The very first Hi-Fliers had a three-tone sunburst finish, pearloid white pickguard and truss rod cover. These very early Hi Fliers are distinctly different from later models because they have much thicker bodies and necks, a "bar" type string tree that covers all six strings, larger fret markers for all frets except the two on the twelfth fret, dual black rocker switches on the pickguard, and a chrome raised-plastic "Univox" headstock logo.
Sometime in late 1968/early 1969, a limited special version of the Hi Flier, called the Hi-Flier Custom was produced. With this new model, a black finish was offered along with the standard sunburst finish. These models are very similar to the earliest Hi Fliers, except that they had a red tortoishell pickguard and truss rod cover, often slimmer neck/body (which became standard for all Hi Fliers around this time period), and a badge that read, "Univox Custom."
To complicate things even further, there were many Hi-Fliers made that had all the same characteristics as the Hi-Flier custom, but were fitted with a standard "Univox" badge, with no custom-tag. This was a simple matter at the factory because the Hi-Flier custom was created simply to use leftover stock badges from the previous Univox Custom model, a hollowbody 335 type guitar built much earlier in the 1960s. The factory presumably had many badges left over, and used them up on the Hi Fliers, until they ran out and resorted back to the standard "Univox" badge.
A Phase two Hi-Flier retained the P-90 pickups, and early transitional models also retained the plastic "Univox" headstock badge. Changes to the model at this time included:
-String trees changed to separate metal pieces
-Fret markers smaller, and uniform in size
-Three-way toggle switch replacing the earlier rocker switches.
-addition of white finish (options were now: Sunburst, Black, and White)
- Pickguard no longer pearloid or tortoise shell, but rather plain white- three layer.
- Mid-way through the production of the Phase two models, the headstock logo was changed from the plastic "Univox" logo to a 1970's style Block-letter decal under the lacquer finish between the tuners. They would remain this way throughout the rest of production.
Around 1974, the Hi Flier was updated with a new finish option (Natural), and most importantly- twin humbuckers replacing the single coil P-90 type pickups. These humbuckers were already in production for the "Ripper" strat copy and "Gimme" Les Paul. They are extremely high output humbuckers with a distinctive chrome surround, clear plastic top, and three-screw mounting. Though these humbuckers strayed significantly from the Mosrite design the guitar was based on, their unique tone and high-output have made them a sought after Phase of the Hi Flier---capturing the quintessential Hi Flier tone.
Production of the Hi-Flier reached its peak in the mid 1970s, so consequently phase three Hi-Fliers are the most common variety found today.
In addition, Natural finish Hi-Fliers, and many later phase three Hi-Fliers (in Black) were fitted with all maple necks and fingerboards.
Around 1977, the Hi Flier was once again changed.
White and Black Hi Fliers retained their white pickguards while Sunburst and Natural Hi Fliers were fitted with black pickguards.
Many of these models had the pickup surrounds changed to white plastic (from the standard black plastic).
The knob layout was changed from in-line tone and volume knobs to a horizontally-opposed knob layout.
Most prominently, Phase four Hi-Fliers saw a hardtail Gibson style stop-bar bridge/tailpiece replace the pre-existing Fender Jazzmaster-style separate vibrato and roller bridge setup.
- Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
- Paul Raimi of The Kill Raimi's
- Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth
- Dexter-X of Man or Astroman?
- E of Eels
- Asa Osborne of Lungfish
- Joey Lennon of The Punkles
- Jay Hayes of "Haiti"
- Justin Trosper of Unwound
- Dimitri Coats of Off! (band)
- Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs (band)
- Som Wardner of My Vitriol
- Chris Summerlin of Felix and Lords (Gringo Records).
Univox guitars were produced by a Japanese guitar factory called Matsumoku. This factory produced a variety of guitars for many manufacturers, including big names like Epiphone, Aria, Univox, and later, Westbury. They would often take standard models they made, and apply a variety of brand names to the same guitar, to fill orders, depending on the market the guitar was headed for.
Models that are absolutely identical to the Hi-Flier in every way have been seen wearing a variety of brand names, including:
Unicord - late models shipped to Canada. Raised plastic Unicord logo.
Raven- Very early models shipped to Canada. Identical to the Phase 1 Univox Custom except for a peculiar integrated bridge/tailpiece that was also used on the Epiphone ET-270 model. Raised plastic logo with raven bird
PAN - Three types - One early variety identical to a Phase 1 Hi-Flier with a small black decal of the pan figure playing a set of pan pipes, and "Pan" text. Another model similar to a Phase 2 Hi-Flier with a gold decal the same as described previously. Later versions had an inlaid M.O.P PAN logo, and were mostly sunburst phase 2 models.
ARIA – These were widely sold within the Aria range in the "Aria Diamond" series, as the 1702T model. Identical to a Phase 2 Hi-Flier with an Aria decal under the finish, horizontally at the top of the headstock.
DIA – Very rare, "DIA" is possibly short for "diamond", the series of Aria guitars containing this Hi-Flier twin. Identical to Phase 2 Hi Fliers, mostly sunburst, with an inlaid DIA logo, or circular Dia decal.
Eastwood – Very common reproduction of the Phase 1 Hi Flier by Canadian company Eastwood, sold at a very reduced price compared to vintage Univox Hi Fliers.
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