1961 Supro 1580A Coronado

 

For whatever reason, Valco never created the tooling needed to build archtop guitars. As far back as the mid-1930s, National-Dobro purchased archtop bodies from various Chicago-area competitors rather than build its own. This did not change in subsequent decades; in the 1950s, National and Supro guitars still featured bodies by Kay, Harmony and even Gibson. Traditional hollowbodies were abandoned altogether in 1961 when the res-o-glas models were introduced, but Valco’s acquisition of Kay in 1967 spawned a variety of short-lived models with hollow Kay bodies.

Some of these bodies were identical to those found on Gibson, Harmony, or Kay models, but others were distinct. The Harmony bodies, in particular, were different from those found on Harmony guitars. The National Club Combo, for example, featured uniquely stylized f-holes (the same body with reversed f-holes can be found on Vega electrics of the period). The body also featured different control routing and even different binding than the Harmony equivalent (model H62/H63), suggesting that Valco purchased the bodies when they had just been glued together. Valco then put the finishing touches on them, including the routing and the finish.

The same body could be found on the Supro 1590A Coronado, though the National and Supro catalogs gave slightly different measurements for the guitars’ depth. Introduced in 1958, the Coronado lacked f-holes altogether in favor of an unbroken sea of black. Even more unusual was the guitar’s wiring: the three pickups (two Vista-Power type units and one “rhythm unit” in the bridge) each had its own volume and tone control, but these were mini-sized potentiometers adjustable with a screwdriver. The idea was to create presets for each pickup that could be accessed with a conventional 3-way selector switch and a conventional master volume control. This complex setup, combined with gold hardware, pushed the Coronado’s price up to $225 without a case – the most expensive product in the Supro catalog at the time. Although the catalog never showed it, the pickguard was decorated with the “Val Trol” label.

The Coronado underwent a number of changes in 1960, including the receipt of a new model number (1580A). The spruce and maple body still lacked f-holes, but it was thinned down to 2” and given a natural top. The basic frame was apparently taken from the Harmony H70/H71 Meteor, but again the details were different. The electronics also changed; the “rhythm unit” disappeared and the remaining two pickups were given a more traditional 4-knob layout with conventional potentiometers and no master volume. The hardware was downgraded to chrome but the neck was now bound. If this version was less quirky, it was arguably more usable for the average player. It was cheaper, too, at $197.50 without a case. The pickguard now sported the Coronado name with a conquistador mascot, but still the catalog showed an undecorated guard.

The Coronado was completely revamped in 1961 when it was given a res-o-glas body and a new neck to match. It became the model 1582 Coronado II, but the pickups and wiring remained the same from the second version. Finally, however, the catalog showed the decorated pickguard (also unchanged since the second version). The res-o-glas version underwent several minor changes over the years, such as the addition of a vibrato tailpiece, before disappearing after the 1964 catalog.

The above guitar, with the slimmer Harmony body, is entirely original. The tailpiece is reversed from the catalog picture, something seen fairly often on Valco instruments that apparently reflected the whims of the factory. This was one of the last wood-bodied Coronados built, with a serial dating from shortly before the introduction of res-o-glas bodies.

 

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