Cobra Guitars

Cobra Guitars

Relic''d classics from New York

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- played-in-nasty-smoke-filled-dive-bars-around- the-world-soaking-up-whiskey attitude, feel, and look that ultimately creates an aesthetically pleasing, incredible feeling, kick-ass sounding instrument.”

Old Friend

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.

This rare English Tonemaster was made circa 1957.

The Valco-produced English Tonemaster is a rare, lap-steel-inspired gem from the 1950s—when genres and guitar design were fluid.

The 1950s were a peculiar time for the electric guitar. Innovators, designers, and tinkerers were pushing the boundaries of the instrument, while musicians were experimenting with various playing techniques and sounds. There was an evolution of sorts (or de-evolution, depending on your slant) from solidbody “sit-down” guitars, like pedal and lap steels, to “stand-up” or “upright” solidbody electrics. If you look at an early Fender catalog—let’s say from 1953—you’ll see the Telecaster (and Esquire), the Precision Bass, and then a whole bunch of steel guitars. There was a shift underway, and many manufacturers began to blur the lines of what a guitar should look, sound, and play like.

Read More Show less

PRS Guitars and John Mayer officially announce the PRS SE Silver Sky, an affordable version of the original with PRS trademark bird inlays and three single-coil pickups.

Read More Show less