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1980 Gibson Explorer RD Prototype One-Off Vintage Electric Guitar 100% Original w/ Case


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Up for sale, a 1980 Gibson Explorer RD Prototype in excellent condition and in perfect working order. This vintage one-off Gibson prototype represents the only known example of this body style and electronics layout with the second generation RD controls first seen in 1979.

The RD, “Research and Development” series was Gibson’s response to the ever growing popularity of analog synths in the late 70s. Norlin owned Moog at the time of production, and as such this state-of-the-art guitar is fitted with factory Bob Moog-designed active electronics. With mahogany body and neck construction, this solidbody offset is capable of a variety of rich and ripping tonalities. The neck position is full and articulate, while the bridge has all the focused cut and bark one would expect. The pair of two-way toggles unique to the second generation RDs activate the Expansion/Compression mode and Bright Mode (these can only be combined on the second generation RDs). This prototype weighs 8lbs 13oz, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar with 11-48 strings, low action, and accurate intonation.  

The mahogany neck has a slender, fast-feeling C profile carve which gains quite a bit of shoulder and roundness in the higher registers of the fretboard, measuring .815" deep at the 1st fret and .980" at the 12th. The slab rosewood fretboard features dot inlay and the original wide/flat Gibson medium jumbo fretwire which has ostensibly been leveled and crowned, currently showing zero wear while still having a surprising amount of meat. The guitar conforms to traditional Gibson spec with a 24 3/4" scale length and full 1 11/16" nut width, and the headstock is fitted with original Gibson-branded mini Schaller gold tuning machines. There is lacquer touchup on the headstock face towards the logo, where there was previously a small amount of lacquer chipping and checking at the tip, and light transparent overspray on half of the back of the headstock.

The electronics function as intended, with CTS pots that date back to the 30th week of 1978. Hardware includes the gold ABR-1 bridge and corresponding stoptail, with only light wear through the clean gold plating on the bass-side tailpiece stud, and edges of the pickup covers. The original gloss Walnut nitro lacquer finish exhibits a targeted area of overspray where the finish was previously worn where the forearm crosses the top. There is also a very small “skin deep” stabilized split in the mahogany on the inside edge of the treble cutaway, and some even fainter lines that can be dismissed as checking adjacent to the input jack and along the treble-side mounting for the bridge and tailpiece. Cosmetic wear is otherwise limited to a few small, shallow nicks on the body edges and neck profile, and a few targeted finish scuffs central to the lower bout.

This Gibson Explorer RD Prototype is utterly unique, matching one of Gibson's most storied body shapes with an increasingly revered electronics layout. This is the only example of the RD Explorer to surface for sale.

The original black tolex hardshell case is included.