Seizing on the success of affordable Japanese import guitars in the '60s, companies like Greco, Ibanez, and others produced as many guitars as they could for the '70s USA guitar market. In this period, many designs were shameless copies of more expensive American-made guitars. Before companies like Fender hired teams of lawyers to fight the competition, some of these "Lawsuit Era" guitars made their way into players' hands.
This SE550 was made by Matsumoto in Japan in 1974, and it's pretty obvious what they were going for... this is a brazen strat copy. While the body and the neck are original, every thing else is after market, custom selected parts. There's something cool about chopper motorcycles and vintage hot rods, and the same can be true of guitars. Sometimes, the right parts come together to create something special, something with its own unique character. These old "chopper" guitars are great players that stand out on stage.
On this Greco, the pickups are easily the most intriguing choice: these are made-in-Japan Maxon pickups. Famous for the original Tube Screamer design, Maxon is not really known for pickups. Using the Maxon date code, these pickups were made in July of 1974, and they appear to marked for "Prototype" use. Functionally, they are classic single-coil strat pickups, and they sound fantastic.
For hardware, this Greco chopper is rigged up with Hipshot Locking tuners, a Babicz no touch bridge and tremolo bar, a Fender pickguard, and a Fender tremolo cavity cover. The electronics are properly dialed: 5-way Fender switch, 250k CTS pots, a Russian paper-in-oil .022 uF tone cap, and a .38 Special switch tip. This guitar came to us with an Evil Knievel strap with gold Marvel strap locks—it seemed fitting. The original Greco tuners, bridge, tremolo assembly, pots, input jack, and knobs are included.
As far as playability, this Greco SE550 does what it is supposed to, and it's a lot of fun. It could benefit from new frets, but it is still manageable and fun to play where it is. This is an intriguing, one-of-a-kind Greco that feels like a rare find. Mojo!