Eli Apollo, a veteran gigging guitarist in
New York City, had dropped off a Strat at
30th Street Guitars for a setup. When he
got the guitar back, Apollo realized it was
talking to him like no other axe had before
with “strings that had a spongy feel and
were super-easy to play.” He asked who
had done the setup and was introduced to
a man named Cobra (Jimmy Carbonetti).
After commissioning two relic jobs—a ’57
Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Junior reissue
and a Fender Custom Shop Tele—Apollo
approached Cobra with an idea. The result
was the formation of Cobra Guitars.
So it was only natural for Cobra Guitars—
launched in early 2010 by Cobra and
Apollo—to specialize in relic’d, worn-and-torn
guitars. Thus far, Cobra has tackled four
of his favorite “old-timey” models. “I had
experience building and relic’ing Strats and
Teles,” he says, “so building our own versions
was a natural starting point for Cobra
guitars.” In addition, they’ve introduced a
model reminiscent of a Les Paul Junior and
another guitar inspired by the relatively
obscure Fender Starcaster.
“I put all my love and passion into each
guitar, spending hours making it feel, sound,
and look perfect to me,” says Cobra. “It
starts with shaping the neck to feel just right,
then painting it. After the lacquer dries, I
begin hours of hand rubbing, chipping, and
mixing up dyes to get that real dirty, I’ve-been-
feel, and look that ultimately creates
an aesthetically pleasing, incredible feeling,
kick-ass sounding instrument.”
The newest Cobra model was finished just before print time, so we had to
include it. Reminiscent of a ’50s Les Paul Junior TV model, the Old Friend
is intended to honor New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders. The double-
cut mahogany body has a relic’d TV yellow nitrocellulose finish and is
loaded with a single Lollar P-90. The Old Friend features a 24 3/4" maple
neck with a rosewood fretboard set with 6100 frets.
Left to right: Cavebat, Cavehound, and Cavebean
An ode to the early ’50s Telecaster, the
Cavebat features a meticulously worn swamp
ash body and a 25 1/2" scale, one-piece
solid maple neck complete with a rosewood
skunk stripe. In addition, it’s set up with Joe
Barden compensated bridge saddles modeled
after original ’53 saddles that sport
notches underneath the E string areas. The
Cavebat has Lollar Special T Series pickups
designed to give this vintage-vibed rocker a
fuller tone and drive the amp harder.
A semi-hollow beast, the Cavehound features
a swamp ash body with a carved top and
flat back, and a bolt-on maple neck with a
rosewood fretboard. Reflecting its Starcaster
heritage, the Cavehound has a 24 3/4" scale,
Callaham ABR-1 vintage-designed alloy steel
bridge, a trapeze-style tailpiece, and Lollar
toaster-style single-coils that are inspired by
the jangly tones of ’60s Rickenbackers.
This beat and battered beauty comes with
an alder body, 25 1/2" scale maple neck,
and rosewood fretboard. To achieve a pre-
CBS ’60s vibe, the Cavebean comes with
a Callaham Vintage S Model bridge and is
loaded with three Lollar Vintage Blackface
pickups. These pickups are designed to deliver
a prominent midrange, clear treble, and a
full bass with a defined, piano-like attack.
Pricing and Availability
Cobra Guitars Cavebat and Cavebean start at $2750. The Old Friend
starts at $3000, while the semi-hollow Cavehound starts at $3500.
And if a customer has an off-the-wall request or idea, Cobra is willing
to bring it to life. “As a builder, it’s our duty to the customer to
bring them what they envisioned,” says Apollo. “In addition, it’s really
important that our clients have a great experience from moment one.
We’ve tried to create a cozy, friendly, fun workshop with cool, vintage
amps to hear our guitars through.” Currently, Cobra Guitars is a one-man
shop, so the wait time on an order is two to three months.