Early 80's Aria Pro II Wildcat

It may surprise some of you to know that I actually really like these Arias, not because I'm not a HUGE fan of Arai/Aria/Aria Pro II, or that it was made in one of my favourite factories, the amazing Matsumoku in their best time, but because I'm not really into "Super Strats" and dive bombing vibratos and locking nuts are really not my thing, but, I find this shape aesthetically pleasing.

The Aria Pro II RS series was introduced in '79 and initially was similar to the TS series guitars and basses and SB series basses, as played by Cliff Burton (introduced in '78) with neck through or set neck all clear or stained timber construction but in this shape. It was the height of the Alembic craze and these were offered in many varieties of pickups and hardware. Early versions had the hooked six a side headstocks(like the TS linked above) that later went to the classic three a side used by Arai and Vantage (among others) 

 

The revised RS (Rev Sound) series appeared in '82 (or maybe '81?) and were a more budget version with a more Super Strat focus. The higher end set and through neck versions were still available in a cut down catalogue with the RS-X and RS-850 appearing alongside the new RS series in the '83 catalogue.

From '83 to '87 the RS series covered A LOT of ground with around 40 standard models on offer broken down into the Rev Sound/Rock Sound, The Cat and the Night Warrior/Road Warrior series all being this shape using different construction, timbers and hardware.

This RS Wildcat is a little different to others around, although it is completely original. Most standard Wildcats had a Strat style vibrato and either three Strat single coils or the great blade type HB/S/S set up, (before SD made the hotrail) with a standard Fender style nut with a string bar between the E and A strings while some had the Fender style two string tree set up.

There was also a locking nut version available but again, most had the locking nut on the headstock with the string bar between the E and A tuners. All of these models had the trussrod adjuster at the body end for obvious reasons. 

 

The ART PLUS vibrato was Araias answer the the Floyd Rose and was offered on some Wildcats but was mainly used on the Night/Road Warrior series which was also available with a Kahler or Floyd Rose set up. The ART PLUS is a two stud knife edge vibrato capable of all the Floyd trick and is easy to string with a "straight in the back" string through bridge. 

While other pickup options were available such as double humbucker and the many bridge set ups this is the only one I've come across with all of these features. The string bar between the nut and E tuners, the locking nut on the fretboard, the truss rod adjuster on the headstock end, the standard slug pole pickups in HB/S/S and the ART PLUS vibrato but with the standard Aria Pro II RS Wildcat on the headstock. The RS was available in many different versions, which the headstock indicated, like the Special V (V neck), the Straycat, The Wildcat II, the Wildcat Plus and more. 

 

This is a solid basswood body and rock maple neck with a really nice rosewood 22 fret neck with jumbo frets. The neck is flat but not Ibanez RG/Jem flat and, like most Super Strats it plays and feels pretty amazing. It has the original Aria branded tuners (made by Gotoh) and all original electrics. The tone pot is push/pull to cut the bridge humbucker to single coil.

The serial number starts with a C which is uncommon for Arais which normally had six or seven digit serial numbers with the first (or first two) signifying the year of manufacture. I was told by a friend in Japan that the C serials were "custom" ordered or made using production parts but I can't confirm this and I have seen other C serial Aria Pro IIs that don't seem to be custom, but, it may explain the anomaly of parts here?

 

This one is a great playing and sounding guitar, as you'd expect from Matsumoku/Aria Pro II from the early/mid eighties and this one, more so than others I've seen is set up almost like an Ibanez RG (with all the features above) and the construction quality is superb. 

I would have preferred the great blade style pickups (I have a spare HB but no singles) in this but it wasn't to be and these pickups are probably the weakest link in this chain, but then, they're easy to swap out with something better.

I've banged on endlessly about how much I love this factory in the eighties and even though I'm not really into Super Strats, this Wildcat has always held a place in my heart for some reason. I just, kinda like this shape and look. Doesn't mean I'm going to go and play Eruption any time soon.

Sep 28 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan