1970's Tomson Mustang copy

In the world of offset copies the Mustang (Musicmaster, Duo-Sonic) is kind of the forgotten little sibling. Maybe it's because it was the "student" model, or because it was never as famous as it's more impressive Jaguar and Jazzmaster family. While Japanese manufacturers were making copies of Jags/JMs from the mid sixties, it took until the early seventies for any of them to start making an almost proper Mustang copy.

Teisco, Tempo, Sakai, Memphis, Cimar and many others all made Mustang copy or Mustang inspired guitars but it's believed these Tomson branded ones were probably the first on the market. 

With the Mustang style guitars being the "cheap" end of the Fender range, copies had to be even cheaper to sell and Tomson made lots of Fender copies and mostly with CBS style aesthetics.

Tomson was a domestic Japanese mail order brand that primarily sold to the beginners market. They didn't manufacture their own guitars, like many brands in Japan, but instead commissioned existing factories to make guitars with their name on the headstock.

 

It appears Tomson used several (at least two) different factories for their guitars. The acoustics and some solid bodies are confirmed to have been made by Suzuki (Kiso Suzuki Violin Co). I have discussed the Suzuki factories before HERE but the Kiso Suzuki factory that made some Tomson guitars is now closed but not after making some VERY nice guitars under brand names like Thunder and ESP (and possibly Jaguar. more on that soon) 

While the acoustics that came from this factory in the early seventies were superb, these Tomson branded guitars were all entry level in quality and price. While they're better than some (Sakai, Teisco etc) Mustang copies I've played they're definitely not anywhere near the quality of later Fender Japan, ESP (Navigator) or Cimar ones I've seen. They are however still nice guitars to play and sound good, and, they look great.

 

They are a thin laminated body in "almost" exactly the same shape and size as a real Mustang. The body is contoured, which some of the cheaper copies aren't, being simple slab bodies. The finish is good an I've always loved the Competition stripes on these.

 

The neck is nice maple with good quality rosewood fretboard (this was a good factory remember) and is slightly thicker than the thick Fender profile. It's a very comfortable neck and easy to play, being aimed at beginners. The tuners are open gear tuners but work well and keep tune. There's a nut with no zero fret and the scale is 24.75" like a Gibson, making it a "long scale" Mustang.

The electronics are good quality with a basic Mustang type set up. The single coils are typical Fender style covered single coils and the three way switches found on Fenders are replaced with two way. Just a simple ON/OFF without the phase switch. They still look the part and are very functional. There's also the master volume and tone pots. The scratchplate and control plate are pure Mustang.

The vibrato is a simple unit with variations on this theme being available on many entry level Japanese guitars of the time. The bridge is the simple non intonatable roller bridge also found on many of these guitars, mainly the cheaper end Teisco, Kawai etc guitars of the period.

 

This one is all original with the vibrato arm and knobs intact, which many are missing. 

While some Tomson solid bodies were also made by other factories these don't really show signs of Teisco build and hardware as stated online elsewhere. Also Tomson as a brand only seems to appear in the mid seventies, after Teisco which had been bought out by Kawai, ceased to make guitars so I believe these were all made in the Suzuki factory. It's possible Kawai or Sakai made these although they don't show signs of build, feel or hardware from those brands. Tomson also offered Strat, Tele, J and P bass and a Tele bass (Appears to be Fujigen made?) in their line up along with a few acoustics. The other Fender copies in the range all appear to be solid timber bodies with clear Strats and Teles being nice Sen Ash bodies and maple necks. 

 

Very similar guitars were offered under the Thunder brand name also made by Suzuki which were similar models (also offered a Les Paul) but were a step up in quality and distributed by Nihon Chikushin, which was believed to mainly be a record distribution company. This factory also made solid body guitars under the Suzuki name including a medium level Mosrite copy. 

This one didn't last long in the shop. While they're on a level of some of the "mid range" cheap entry level Japanese guitars, they look awesome, play well and sound good, as many of these guitars do with a decent service. Most of these brands were made by quality factories using good quality timbers and hardware and are still performing 50 years later. That's pretty impressive for a cheap "entry level" instrument all these years later.

 

 

 

Apr 16 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan