The V215 Vox Challenger Guitars - 1964 - 1966
Crucianelli Production

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The six string Challenger guitar, produced for Vox by Crucianelli in Italy, is shown above in ice tea and red burst finishes.

Crucianelli produced accordions in northern Italy as early as the 1880s. Their instruments were sold primarily in Europe until the end of World War II. The combination of a surging US economy and the post war "baby boom" opened new opportunities for Crucianelli to sell their accordions in North America. The ten year "golden age" of the Italian built accordion ended in 1957 after a truck driver from Tupelo Mississippi forever changed the face of popular music. After the arrival of Elvis Presley, the guitar replaced the accordion as the musical instrument of choice for a youthful America.

With their popular 1958 release, "That'll Be the Day," Buddy Holly and the Crickets became the prototypical rock combo. The Crickets featured lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. Their guitar based line up was soon adopted by the Shadows in England, the Ventures and Beach Boys in America, and even the Beatles among many others. Despite the post-war popularity of the accordion, it found no place in rock and roll.

Accordion sales were seriously on the decline by the end of the fifties. Crucianelli soon learned that if they wished to avoid extinction they would need to produce guitars.

The earliest Crucianelli guitars surfaced in the early 1960s. Crucianelli manufactured and sold guitars under their "Elite" and "Tonemaster" brands. Crucianelli also supplemented their business by producing private labeled guitars for other manufacturers and distributors. One of those manufacturers was Jennings Musical Instruments, the parent company of Vox.

Vox had experience producing solid body guitars but had not mastered the construction techniques required to mass produce hollow bodied semi-acoustic guitars. Furthermore, there was little time for Vox to develop semi-acoustic production capacity. The demand for Vox guitars had become meteoric in the Beatle era and opportunities for sales were being missed. Unable to produce guitars quickly and in numbers to satisfy the burgeoning market, JMI turned to Crucianelli and Eko to build semi-acoustic guitars for Vox. Crucianelli produced two semi acoustic guitar models (Lynx and Challenger) and two semi acoustic bass models (Escort and Cougar) for Vox in 1964 and 1965.

The Vox Challenger was a variation of the Crucianelli "Elite G-502V" guitar. The Challenger and Elite G502V guitars shared the same semi acoustic body with florentine (pointed) cutaways and two f holes, two pickups with twelve pole adjustment screws, tone and volume controls, three way pickup selector switch, bridge, neck, head stock and tuners. The only significant difference between the Vox Challenger and Elite G-502V models involved the tailpiece. The Vox Challenger utilized a trapeze tail piece whiile the Elite G502V had a vibrato tail piece.

The relationship between Vox and Crucianelli was short lived. By 1966, Vox shifed their guitar production away from Crucianelli to Eko, another Italian manufacturer in northern Italy.

The 1965 Jennings Vox "Pop People with the Top Sounds" catalog described the Challenger as follows: "A slim-body, double cutaway model. Two independent maximum frequency pick-ups; separate tone and volume controls; special micro-adjustment bridge; slim-line re-inforced neck, with adjustable truss rod; adjustable finger plate and individual machines. Indestructible high-gloss polyester finish."

Many thanks to noted Vox guitar authority Roger Tessier for allowing me to take photos of his Vox Challenger guitars.





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Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music


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