The Vox Phantom VI

V209 Vox Phantom Guitar - Made for Vox by Eko, Recanati Italy - 1965

UK Made Vox Phantom II Guitar - 1962
Early Vox Models - 1960-61
Vox entered the guitar market in 1960 and 1961 with a series of student grade instruments with names such as the "Stroller" and "Clubman." Some of these earliest guitars were built for Vox by Guyatone in Japan. Others featured bodies and necks manufactured for Vox by Stuart Darkins Ltd, a UK furniture maker. Click here to see a JMI magazine ad from 1961 featuring some of these early Vox guitar models.

The body shapes of these early Vox guitars resembled those from Fender in America. These early Vox models had inexpensive ferrite "bar magnet" pickups and necks that lacked an adjustable neck truss rod. Vox would not be likely to attract the professional musician with these models.

Looking for an Iconic Shape
Vox then moved on to design a professional grade guitar. It was decided that this new deluxe guitar model should feature a body shape that would be unique, iconic and immediately recognizable as a Vox instrument.

In his 1991 book, "The Vox Story," JMI lead engineer Dick Denney reported that JMI entered into a contract with the London Design Centre in 1962 to suggest a unique body profile that would be developed into a new pro-quality guitar model. Others claim that the design for this proposed "top of the line" Vox guitar was drafted in-house at JMI. Either way, it was through these efforts that the legendary, "coffin shaped" Vox Phantom guitar body shape was born.

The Vox Phantom I and Vox Phantom II - UK Production 1962-63
JMI introduced two Phantom guitars, the "Phantom I" and "Phantom II" plus the Phantom Bass in the 1962 Vox catalog. These instruments featured a satin black polyester finish and were assembled at JMI in the UK using bodies, necks and hardware purchased from various outside suppliers.

It is reasonable to assume that the popularity of the Fender Stratocaster in the UK would encourage Vox to incorporate "Strat" like features into the design of the Phantom. Like the Stratocaster, the Phantom I and II had three single coil pickups, a three position pickup selector, a vibrato arm, a bolt on neck and a contoured back.

Like most of the other models in the 1962 Vox range, the Phantom I and Phantom II guitars were equipped with Vox V.1. single coil pickups with "bar type" magnets and chrome covers.

While the Phantom I guitar was equipped with a three position rotary pickup selector, the Phantom II featured three on/off slide switches, one for each pickup. Even though Vox claimed these individual switches enhanced the frequency response of the Phantom II, it was the three position rotary pickup selector switch from the Phantom I that was incorporated into all later Phantom guitar production.

The 1962 Vox Phantom I and Phantom II were equipped with the Vox "Standard" Tremolo unit. Vox described the Standard tremolo unit as having a roller bearing for smooth action. Vox also noted that the Standard tremolo unit was intended for guitars with flat (non radiused) fret boards.

The Vox Phantom Guitar - UK Production 1963-68
JMI made a major revision to their guitar line in 1963, largely made possible by their development of vastly improved pickups, bridges and tremolo units. Vox replaced both the Phantom I and II with one new six string Phantom model that would take advantage of these new components.

The Phantom was now equipped with three Vox V.2. single coil pickups. The Vox V.2. pickup had a white plastic pickup cover with six exposed pole pieces, similar to the pickups Fender installed on a Stratocaster. While the ends of the Fender pickup covers were round, the ends of the V.2. pickups were square. The three position rotary pickup selector from the 1962 Phantom I was retained for the new Phantom.

Vox also equipped the new Phantom with the upgraded "Hank B. Marvin Tremolo Unit." Hank B. Marvin was the highly regarded lead guitarist with the UK guitar instrumental band, "The Shadows." He was famous for his tasteful use of the tremolo arm while soloing. The "Hank" tremolo unit was a two piece system that included a Bigsby like roller action tailpiece and a micro adjustable bridge. The tailpiece casting featured the inscribed signature of Hank B Marvin.

While the 1962 Phantom I and II guitars were offered exclusively in a satin black polyester finish, white was added for 1963. Red, green and two shades of blue (light and medium) were added in 1964.

The Vox Phantom Guitar - Italian Production by Eko 1965-68
By 1965, the popularity and world wide demand for Vox instruments caused Jennings to enter into a contract with Eko in Italy to supplement UK guitar production, including the Phantom. Most of the Vox Phantoms sold in America by Thomas Organ were made by Eko in Italy. The Italian made Phantoms included a snap-on, padded cloth back pad, as shown above.

The 1966 US Vox catalog described the V209 Phantom VI Guitar as follows: "Ebony fingerboard; nickel silver frets; 3-position pickup switch; true spring action vibrato; adjustable master bridge channel; 6 individual string bridges; exclusive 2-way string damper; padded cushion on back; popular colors."

The 1966 US Vox price list indicated that the retail price of the Phantom guitar was $299.90 USD. Adjusting the 1966 price for inflation, the Phantom would retail today for about $2075 USD.

My thanks to Roger Tessier for not only allowing me to take photographs of his Vox Phantom VI, but also for sharing his great wealth of knowledge about Vox guitars with the Vox Showroom.

UK Made Vox Phantom Guitar 1963-68

Form fitting hard shell guitar case included by JMI Vox with many UK produced 60's era Phantom guitars


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Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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