Crucianelli 335 style

1965-67 Crucianelli & Vox Lynx

  • New pickups with 6+6 screws (look like humbuckers but are not).
  • Bigsby type vibrato unit (there’s one in most cases) with a (fake) rosewood insert on base plate.
  • Tuners are vaguely reminiscent of Kluson, albeit with special sharp ovale metal buttons, and are Crucianelli specific.
  • Brands : Tonemaster, España, Crucianelli — but normally NOT Élite!

Vox Lynx

1965 Hengelo Tonnema

Besides the Crucianelli, Vox, Tonemaster and España branded instruments that had a factory made inlaid logo on headstock, some guitars of this series left the Crucianelli premises with a blank peghead so that any distributor or retailer could put its own marking on. This one for example ended up with a sticker from Tonnema, a Dutch retailer in Hengelo (province of Overijseel, The Netherlands). Now it’s part of Ugo’s incredible collection (look at the Welson and Crucianelli Early Solids sections, you’ll see what an unvaluable contribution Ugo’s guitars offer to the history of Italian vintage guitars, without forgetting a bunch of Eko gems he owns).

The redburst finish has obviously sufffered some discolouration from daylight on top (the back has retained the original tones). The vibrato (bar is missing) is of a kind that was already old-fashioned in 1965. It is actually quite uncommon with this series (it shows more frequently on the Crucianelli Florentines). I suppose the manufacturer used it primarily for its no-name guitars while the branded ones were given a fancier Bigsby copy.

1965 blonde Crucianelli

The main problem with the logo Crucianelli is that no one outside of Italy (except for accordion freaks) is able to read it. It is generally understood as ‘Cruciunello’ or ‘Crucionella’ — in best cases. Equally flimsy are the main other brands. ‘Élite’ is hopelessly common — every electric guitar brand has or had a ‘Élite’ series in its range), ‘Tonemaster’ is confused with a homonymous historic maker of Hawaian lapsteel guitars and furthermore obscured by a famous Fender range of amplifiers, while ‘Panaramic’ sounds like a wrong spelling. Hence an identity crisis we do our best to heal with these pages…

1965 España

All original (except white plastic tip missing from whammy bar). Gorgeous cherry red finish, white binding on every edge including the nicely chiseled f-holes. Just nifty.

España was a brand name used by Buegeleisen & Jacobson of New York City. This company imported instruments made overseas under its specifications (or meeting its specs) and marketed through various wholesalers or distributors in North America. In its position B&J did not have to care about neither manufacturing nor after-sale warranty, it was just a buy and sell business. Key to success was a long established fame (the company was founded in 1901 or so), a carefully selected product range and a clever marketing policy that focussed on a few proprietary trademarks.

As far as electric guitars are concerned Japanese-made instruments were sorted between the Winston (entry level) and Kent (medium to pretty good quality) brands, regardless of the actual manufacturers (Guyatone, Teisco, Kawai…).European guitars were gathered under the brandname España, first used in the years 1961-1967 for Swedish-made classical guitars supplied by Hagström (more about it). B&J and Hagström had been in relationship as soon as 1932, as Hagström just started production of accordions and was already looking for opportunities to export to the USA.

The name Espana was an obvious reply to the also N.Y.C.-based Hershman Musical Instruments Co. that was by then enjoying a huge success with acoustic guitars made in Gothenburg by Herman Carlsson AB (a.k.a. Levin) and sold in the U.S. under the fake Spanish name Goya. B&J took advantage of the high repute they had granted to Swedish-made guitars and choosed a name that sounded even more Spanish. Sales were soon buoyant, B&J complained they didn’t got enough of those guitars to satisfy demand, so instruments from Finland were also enlisted to enlarge the España section in the B&J catalog. There is no much doubt that Hagström helped to establish the link to this additional sourcing.

In the 60′s second half Buegeleisen & Jacobson also applied the España brand to ES-335 copies from Italy (made by Crucianelly) and Finland, the Finnish ones being distinguished by their glued-in neck and a crown logo. Other than that both ranges were pretty similar. Wether Italian or Finnish supplies were first to be imported in the U.S. ist still unclear. España electrics from Finland are more frequently shown in B&J catalogs and ads, but on the vintage market the Crucianelli versions are at least six times as many. In terms of specs they do not show any difference with those wearing a Élite, Crucianelli or Tonemaster logo.

1965 Tonemaster

Aperfect example of typical 1965 Crucianelli-made ES-335 copy, absolutely true to textbook definition. Even the white plastic cap that covers trem arm end is there.

A new inlaid logo “Tonemaster by Imperial“replaces the raised “ Tonemaster“ previously in use. It will be rotated parallel to the neck for the 1966 version.

In 1965 Crucianelli used a wide variety of finishes for this series, including blonde and cherry and a lot of sunbursted finishes, but ALWAYS (with the usual anavoidable exceptions) TWO-tone sunburst. This is surprising, as the company had started making three-tone burst finishes for Vox the year before. Or is it that a visible distinction had to be set up between this Crucianelli range and the Vox Super Lynx series launched the same year?

100 percent original and absolutely lovely with its soft yellow-to-orange sunburst finish. Individual volume pot for each pickup, general tone knob, and a four-way selector : All, B for bass (neck pickup), M for middle, T for treble (bridge pickup). The bell-shaped selector is the same used for most Crucianelli Florentines except that it is fitted on the lower horn.

Despite its collaboration with Eko, Crucianelli didn’t source cases from this partner for the guitars that sported a Crucianelli logo. Probably one more measure to deepen the difference with similar Vox series. The beautiful hard shell item shown here, made of thermoformed plastic material in the Delsey/Samsonite style, was manufactured in Castelfidardo mainly for the instruments coming from the ZeroSette constellation (Goya, Contessa, Sano etc.).

The scratchplate is gone. But what a beauty! This wonderful example has all the standard appointments of the 2nd generation. There is however one unstandardized feature: the finish. You never see two Crucianelli semi-acoustics with exactly the same kind of painting job. Obviously hand made.Il battipenna s’è perso.

Ma che bellezza! Questa meraviglia ha tutte le caratteristiche standard della seconda generazione. Però c’è un elemento che non è standardizzato: la finitura. Non si vedono mai due semi-acustiche Crucianelli con la stessa verniciatura. Fatta a mano senz’altro.

Condition: immaculate, with the stylish molded hard shell case all Goya collectors well know.

Configuration: a little bit strange.

Fretboard, headstock and pickups belong definitely to the 1965 generation though the Elite logo doesn’t normally appear at that time. Neither should do the old style vibrato assembly. The plastic knobs are unquestionably Crucianelli but shouldn’t be there. This cannot be a transitional case, aluminium knobs already were in normal use before this generation, and still were the year after.

Could it be possible that Crucianelli produced at that time under its brandname Élite a parallel series fitted with some second-rate hardware components (like the “Tonnema“)? It doesn’t seem likely. I think that this guitar was assembled some years later from leftover components and remained unplayed for decades until finally surfacing as new-old-stock. Hence the unique state of conservation.