Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Aria Pro II PE-160 "Dragon Strat"

Remember the Univox Eagle Bass that we looked at last month? Well, here is its six-string counterpart also from the Matsumoko factory in Japan, the Aria Pro II PE-160 "Dragon Strat". This example is owned by Guitarz reader Justyn, who tells us that:
"I bought this guitar about 17 or 18 years ago when I saw an advert in a local paper for £80 and it has been my only electric guitar. The guitar itself is a real workhorse, extremely rugged and produces quite a wide range of sounds for a very basic 3 position switch system. It performs well with effects pedals and like you said, you can get a good approximation of Hendrixy tones especially from the neck pickup which is very good for chordal style rhythm playing like Little Wing, Castles Made Of Sand, etc.

"In all the time I have had this guitar I must admit that I have treated it very roughly, I have only bothered with a guitar stand for it recently and it was often left leaned up against whatever I was closest to when I put it down and as you can see from the pics it has a multitude of scrapes, dents, scratches and bumps, the poor thing has been dropped and knocked over many times but has never been affected by the harsh treatment I lavished upon it. The neck still plays well and because of its ruggedness you can play it as viciously or as tenderly as you like.

"When I first bought it I didn't know what I had got hold of but as I have mellowed with age I began to care more about it and got curious one night and tried to find out a bit about it. You know how it is when you have too much coffee and it's past 2 in the morning, sometimes you think of things you usually wouldn't. Anyway after a bit of digging around I found out that these guitars were only produced in a short run and are quite rare even if they are not that expensive compared to other vintage guitars, they are well worth buying if you get the chance. I really would hate to loose mine as it has bags of character and always seemed to forgive me for the abuse I put it through. I will be replacing the bridge soon though as it is starting to corrode a bit.

"This guitar was made in 1977 and they were made with three designs (two Dragons and an Eagle) from solid Walnut. You can find the original catalogue picture here: http://www.matsumoku.org/models/ariaproii/pe/nptype/nptypes.html and you can also find pics of the other Dragon design here: http://www.matsumoku.org/models/ariaproii/pe/nptype/pe160/pics.html, and the Eagle here: http://www.matsumoku.org/models/ariaproii/pe/nptype/eagle/pics.html.

"I'm pretty sure the Univox Eagle Bass Guitar was made in the same factory. There were also Ibanez carved strats. The Cornucopia (http://www.ibanezcollectors.com/forum/replicas-and40ibanez-brand-only!and41/got-a-carved-strat!!!!/), Dragon and Eagle designs (sorry no links for these two).

"These were made in the Matsumoku factory and if you are interested you can find out more about the guitars they made by looking here: http://www.matsumoku.org/guitars.html. They produced Univox, Aria, Aria Pro 2, Washburn and many other brands. The site has got an amazing amount of information and the forum is full of very knowledgeable people who like you and I love the weird and wonderful guitars that are often overlooked."
Thanks for that, Justyn! This is the exact same guitar that my mate Phil had many years ago (I hope that he still has it), although his had a single coil-sized stacked humbucker in the middle pickup position (not a pickup combination you usually come across) and that gave it some fantastic sounds.

One thing that always struck me about Phil's guitar was that the dragon was effectively upside-down. I wondered if this was so as to give the guitar a Hendrix vibe as the dragon would have been the right-way up if played upside down, a la Jimi.

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