The vintage Diamond models offer kitsch—and a strange charm.

I’ve had so many guitars pass in and out of my house that I often forget some of the cool little gems that I’ve owned. And I mention gems because, during a recent pawnshop crawl, I happened upon one of the cool, old Aria Diamond guitars with the rhinestone “gem” inlay. Finding these Diamond guitars back in the day was like hitting the guitar lottery! You just felt lucky with a diamond-head guitar.

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With its sleek gold trim intact and just a slight crack in its plexiglass faceplate, this 1966 JTM45 hardly looks its age.

This JTM45 is an amp of which rock and blues dreams are made on.

So often in the world of guitar and amp design, the earliest innovations are hard to improve upon. Companies spend years and countless dollars trying to tweak the formula just to wind up back where they started. The Telecaster still looks virtually the same 75 years later, and Marshalls are still the gold standard for classic rock ’n’ roll amplification.

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The author holding a 1960 ’burst back in 1974.

What’s does a Shelby Cobra and a vintage Les Paul have in common? And what comes next?

Dave was minding his own business, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, when the driver in the next lane got a little crazy. It was a lovely day—the kind of bright Saturday when you might want to roll the windows down and just go for a drive. The guy was waving his hands and motioning to make eye contact. He clearly thought that a busy intersection was a good place to have a conversation with a total stranger. Because Dave is a very friendly and outgoing guy, he played along and engaged. His new friend only wanted to know one thing: “Is it real?” This wasn’t the first time someone had asked the question. It came with the territory when you were in public with a genuine early-1960s Shelby Cobra.

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