Vintage Instruments: Archtop Guitars

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1959 Vega E30-D

Among the most unique electric archtops we’ve encountered is this 1959 Vega E-30D. Built in the late 1950’s, the E-30D features a 16” cut-away body fitted with unique-to-Vega Franz single-coil pickups, sparkle-brown underpainted Lucite pickguard, cream pointer knobs and a fancy V-brand tailpiece. It’s a remarkably stylish guitar and certainly a head-turner.

The Queens-made Franz pickups offer fat and clear single-coil tone. They are not at all similar to the Franz pickups found in Guild guitars from this era (which themselves were quite a lot like Gibson’s P-90s), but share more design similarity with fender pickups. The large diameter adjustable poles are the magnets, surrounded by a wide flat bobbin. The tone is smooth and jazzy, with vintage output and DC readings of about 7 kOhms.

The E-30D has a medium C neck carve with a fairly fast feel. The scale is 24-75” and the nut measures 1-11/16” across. The neck angle and set-up are excellent, frets are in great shape as well, and the guitar plays easily. It’s completely original and in excellent condition but for a well-repaired top crack that’s hiding under the pickguard.

Vega electrics from the 1950’s are as scarce as guitars come, but are pro-grade instruments regardless. By the late 1950’s Vega was far too busy making long neck banjos to put much muscle into their guitar production, so instruments like this E-30D remain something of a mystery to players and collectors today.

With 1970’s Hardshell case

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