By 1973, Martin had specified a series of solid electric guitars to complement the Sigma acoustic line. These are notable as they were the first solid body electric guitars sold by Martin (or a Martin owned company), all previous electrics having been archtops or thinlines.
These instruments were made by the highly respected Tokai in Japan, and were the only four models made in the period. They were only offered in the colors shown in the galleries here. However, these instruments were not created exclusively for Martin by Tokai, and virtually identical instruments were marketed by Ampeg as their ‘Stud’ line. It is not clear whether the Ampeg models predate the Sigma models or vice versa, but it is likely each were badge engineered versions of Tokai designs. The Sigma and Ampeg version differ only in headstock shape and logo, although interestingly the Ampeg range had more instruments in it than Sigma’s.
The four models were the SG-style cherry SBG2-6 and natural SBG2-9, the Telecaster like cherry SBF2-6, and the vaguely Telecaster bass like natural finish SBB2-8. These all had bolt on necks and 3 per side tuners, with Grover imperials on the high end SBG2-9. (The Ampeg equivalents were SBG2-6=Stud GE-100, SBG2-9=Super Stud GE500, SBF2-6=Heavy Stud GEHT50, and SBB2-8=Big Stud GEB-750)
These were extremely high quality instruments and relatively few were made and sold. Sadly, none of the factory records still exist and the instruments lacked serial numbers, so production totals are unavailable, but it would not be unreasonable to assume that only 150-250 of each model were produced given their short production run and relative scarcity.
Martin’s sales pitch – and it was a good one – in the advertising of the period was that the guitars were all inspected at the Martin factory in Nazareth PA before being sold in the US. The intent here was to offset the fear of potential quality issues in far eastern manufacture that still existed in the 70’s. However good an idea this was, the model range didn’t survive after 1974 and Martin itself would not dally with solid electric guitars again until the EM-18 in 1978, although electrics in the Goya line (also owned by Martin through it’s acquisition of Levin in 1974, although not marketed as ‘inspected by Martin in the USA’) produced Japanese solid electrics until at least 1977 (More to come on the Japanese Martin Goyas in later posts)
The Marshall collection has one example of each model as a key part of the Martin electric story, shown in the gallery here.