Hagström Condor, Corvette, Impala, Coronado 1963 – 1967
by Jack Marchal
When the Standard and DeLuxe were discontinued, and after a short attempt to renew the glitter aesthetics with the weird Deluxe Ä (nicknamed ‘Batman’), Hagström AB choose to gain a wider market coverage by introducing simultaneously an entry level model (Kent) and a range of professional grade instruments: the Corvette (3 pickups) and Impala (2 pickups) series, launched in 1963. Both models share the same gorgeous body shape, 100% original, free from any outer influences, one of the highest achievements of Scandinavian design.
Aside from the short-lived DeLuxe Ä and the Super-Swede of the late 70s, the Corvette and Impala are the only Hagström solidbodies with a glued-in neck, which ensures an excellent sustain while the streamlined joint allows a fantastic playability up to the dusty end of the fretboard. The range of tones extends from the metallic and trebly down to warmer and even darker sounds, in what the massive body made of some sort of heavyweight mahogany certainly plays a role.
There are two separate volume pots for rhythm and solo (the latter being a cool rotary handle below the pickups), and no less than 8 pushbuttons : on/off for each pickup, 3 filters, and rhythm/solo selectors, which results in dozens of preset voices available at once under your fingers. The use of this control panel is however a little tricky in live circumstances, you’ve got to be careful : you take a chance to simply cutoff when you modify the setting while playing.
According to ads and catalogues only two finishes were available, a handsome dark brown burst and a delightful shade of reddish burst (“cranberry burst”), though natural wood finished Corvettes and Impalas are known to exist.
The names Corvette and Impala capitalized on the image and fame of two stylish Chevrolet roadsters of that time. Unfortunately Gretsch was selling (with moderate success) a solidbody called Corvette ; therefore Hagström’s Corvette had to be renamed Condor when it was meant for the American marketplace.
Every Hagström 6-string model had a bass companion. The Corvette had even two : the 4-string Coronado, and the 6-string bass guitar Coronado VI. Same body design, but bolt-on neck. According to the Hagström blue booklet, 1257 Corvettes/Condor and 1095 Impala have been made. Introduced in 1963, they were discontinued in 1967, probably because they couldn’t compete with the Fender Mustang then offered at the same price level in Europe. The Coronado IV is said to have been manufactured until 1969-70, albeit in small quantities.
A sort of cost-effective alternative to the Corvette was the Automatic, also offered in brown- and red-burst and equipped with 3 pickups and a tremolo, but with a bolt-on neck and a more conventional control layout. The overall shape was a mere Jazzmaster knockoff. It seems very few were made available.
Version 1 (1963-64)
Same pickups as those mounted on Deluxe/Standard and Kent models. Tulip perloid tuner buttons (probably sourced from Schaller and also encountered of various German guitars of that era, Höfner, Klira, Framus). Crown logo behind the nut. The earliest Impalas (#535- series) are quite interesting with their peculiar peghead design (the earliest Kent guitars and basses have the same one), their bold pickups (they look like humbuckers and are actually single-coils !), the special scratchplate shape and their black pushbuttons. It seems Hagström wanted to sharpen the difference between the Corvette and the Impala, this lattter being more related to the Coronado basses.
Version 2 (around 1965)
Enclosed Dutch-made Van Ghent tuners, with metal buttons. No longer any difference between Corvettes and Impalas other that the number of pickups.
Version 3 (1965-67)
Crown logo is discarded. New rectangular pickups. Some guitars of that era have a white neck binding.