‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L

 
 

The early-1980s saw guitars with some wild shapes. Who doesn’t know the looks of a BC Rich Mockingbird or an Ibanez Iceman? And there were many more. Somewhat unexpectedly, G&L also dabbled in that space. Yes, it jumped on the bandwagon of the super-Strat with the Invader, Rampage, and Superhawk models. But these guitars are rather plain looking compared to the Interceptor!


A description of 3 different body styles is provided below. There are however known transitional prototypes, i.e. they have features associated with more than one version. More information can be found on the Interceptor page in the Rarebird section of the Guitars by Leo (GbL) Registry with links to additional Interceptor pictures in the GbL Gallery. There is some debate on the total number produced and how these numbers break down among the different styles. For instance, G&L researcher Paul Bechtoldt claims only 8-12 2nd X-body Interceptors are in existence, with 8 in the GbL Registry, and all are considered “prototypes”. I will base my numbers on those quoted by Dale Hyatt in his letter of provenance for my Interceptor II. He states a total of only 206 of all types were built between May 26, 1983 and July 1, 1991.


The (1st style) X-body Interceptor appears as a Limited Edition model in the June 1983 price list in 3 versions: I, II, and III. This designation likely is indicative of the number of pickups used and, judging from marketing material, was for internal use only. However, it is safe to assume that these X-body Interceptors actually only appeared in 2 versions as evidenced by the 1983 ad slick below. The Cavalier humbuckers on the Interceptor II pickups are referred to as “Offset-Humbucker™” in marketing material but technically known as HG-2R “Angled Offset”. Like the GHB humbucker, as used on the HG-2 and which is not slanted, this is not your ordinary humbucker but rather one to the liking of Leo’s ears with more highs and better clarity. The Interceptor III had the same single-coil Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups as the Nighthawk and the SC-3, also introduced in 1983. Early Limited Edition Interceptors have a flamed soft maple body, with either Natural Gloss or Red-over-Black finish (with transparent Red and opaque Black), pickup selector (3-position on the II, 5-position on the III), volume control, and PTB tone stack on black powder-coated control panel, a Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato (DFV), and hard-rock maple neck with either maple or ebony fingerboard. Two prototypes with S/N G000014 and G000015 were built on May 26, 1983, the latter with 3 single-coils and gold hardware. Both have maple fingerboards and Red-over-Black color scheme but were not entered in the sales log; no pickup configuration is known for G000014. The first to be officially logged is S/N G000013, also Red-over-Black with maple fingerboard and gold hardware. The pickup configuration on this prototype is unknown as well. The lowest 4 G&L serial numbers are also used for Red-over-Black 1st X-body Interceptors with gold hardware and were entered in the sales log on August 24, 1983: G000001 with 3 single-coils and maple fingerboard for George Fullerton, G000002 with 2 humbuckers and ebony fingerboard for Leo Fender, G000003 with 3 single-coils and maple fingerboard for Dale Hyatt, and G000004 with unknown pickup configuration and maple fingerboard for Lloyd Chewning. The first production X-body Interceptor was finished on October 6, 1983. Although the serial number is unknown to me, it has gold hardware, #2 neck with maple fingerboard, and Clear Red (not two tone) finish. This brings the total of Interceptors known to have gold hardware to 7.


Other early Interceptors are worth mentioning. First, Interceptor II G015644 and Interceptor III  G015164, prominently featured at the top of Rarebird page, both with a Natural Gloss finish over a highly figured body and Black painted headstock, were specially built for the 1983 NAMM trade show. Only 6 other Interceptors exist with this rare finish. That NAMM show also featured Red-over-Black Interceptor G016193. The second set consists of Interceptor II G015681 and Interceptor III G015358 which are finished in even rarer Pearl Blueburst also known as Blue Pearl Sunburst.  These were once in the possession of famed G&L collector Glen Yunker and the subject of a Paul Bechtoldt column titled “The G&L Interceptor - And a Book, a Band, and a Man”.


Later maple bodies generally display less figure and ash and mahogany were allegedly added as possible body woods at some point. The January 15, 1984 price list starts with an “INTERCEPTOR -THREE SINGLE COIL PICKUPS” and a “INTERCEPTOR -TWO HUMBUCKING PICKUPS”, making the demise of the Interceptor I official. Both are only available with a #2 neck with 7½” fingerboard. On its 2nd page, one finds “Finishes for INTERCEPTOR Guitars and Basses are available in: Natural Flame Maple as a standard finish. For Red-over-Black, Blue Pearl Sunburst, and Pearl Flame finish, add $100.00 to Suggested Retail”. The price list of September 1985 only retains Red/Black from the above finish options but adds both Black and White. Now the default neck option is a hard-rock maple (pre-BBE) #3 neck, having a 12” radius and 1¾” nut width. At that time, one also was given a choice of a DFV unit or a Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner floating vibrato, with small up-charge if you wanted the “Black Krome” variety (see picture below). All 1st X-body necks had a “sickle headstock” with the G&L teat; those built for the NAMM trade show painted Black and matching for the others. Only about 95 1st X-body Interceptors were produced between 1983 and 1986, some of them in other finishes as listed above.


The offering of such a Kahler vibrato had a lot to do with an innate mechanical weakness in the design: with so little wood behind the DFV and the presence of its spring cavity thinning the body, the areas around the posts were prone to hairline cracks. It is always claimed the 2nd X-body Interceptor was only introduced in early-1986, but the path to this configuration already started in late-summer/early-fall 1984. The Interceptor got a little more wood behind the vibrato unit to be less susceptible to hairline cracks, longer horns on the body, and rear-loaded controls for both Interceptor HH and Interceptor SSS versions. Gabe Dellevigne has told me the story of Leo’s reluctance to design a humbucker, MFD or otherwise, with similar characteristics as the Gibson PAF. Dale, convinced the mid-1980s market demanded such a change, tried to force the issue by building test mules with a variety of aftermarket humbuckers. Seymour Duncan PAFs were a viable option, even then, and certainly debated. But Leo was dead-set against them. Helmut Schaller and Leo Fender both had started their companies only a year apart which had created a certain kinship. And Schaller already provided the tuning machines used on G&L instruments. In the end, leveraging that mutual friendship and existing business relationship, Dale asked Helmut to provide the 2 Schaller humbuckers for the Interceptor HH, (potentially) “wound to Leo’s specifications” and controlled by a 3-position mini-toggle pickup selector, volume control, and a separate tone control for each pickup. These Schaller provided pickups on G&L guitars are distinguishable from Schaller buckers sourced to other brands by both the pole screws as well as the slugs being plated black. The Interceptor SSS had the same pickups as the 1st X-body Interceptor III now controlled by 3 on/off mini-toggle switches, volume control, and a single tone control. What remained? The soft maple body with either Black or Clear Red/Black finish and matching “sickle headstock”, still with teat and gold lettering. The 2nd X-body Interceptor came standard with Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner floating vibrato, frequently combined with Leo’s patented String Lock mechanism, and a hard-rock maple (pre-BBE) #4 “flatneck” neck: 1¾” nut and 25” radius ebony fingerboard. Dale states only about 19 Interceptors were produced even though new marketing material had already been developed (see the slick below). He also dismisses the persistent rumor that the X-body was taken out of production because Leo disliked the shape of the X-body. It just didn’t sell well enough and the other Superstrats were more popular. Hence the further evolution of the Interceptor.


The Interceptor remained part of the catalog until 1991 after it changed for the last time in 1988 to a more traditional Strat-style body with rounded bottom although with much sharper horns than on a Stratocaster proper and beautiful bevels on the lower bass bout acting as arm contours. This latest, 3rd style Interceptor was available in 3 configurations. The most common configuration is the Interceptor HSS: Schaller bridge humbucker, 2 Nighthawk/Skyhawk MFD pickups in middle and neck positions, 3 on/off toggle switches complemented by rear-loaded volume and tone controls, similar to what was available on the Invader. The Interceptor HH again had 2 Schaller humbuckers, single mini-toggle as a pickup selector, volume control, and a separate tone control for each pickup. A picture of Steve Kellett’s White Interceptor HH is in the Gallery. The Interceptor SSS is likely identical to its 3 pickup predecessors in terms of wiring but none are registered. Each of them initially came standard with the (pre-BBE) #4 neck with rosewood fingerboard but could be ordered with either DFV, Kahler, or Leo Fender Vibrato (LFV), as stated in the January 1, 1988 price list below. By June 1988, more colors had been added and all necks became available as an option on this model; see e.g. my Tan/Gold Sparkle Interceptor HSS w/Leo Fender Vibrato. The matching “sickle headstock” on the 3rd style Interceptor was redesigned by Ray Ransdell and has lost the teat and is a little more stylish. It even appears properly mirrored on a lefty Clear Red Interceptor HSS with S/N G022514. The same headstock was used on the Invader, (non-Signature) Comanche, and (non-Signature) Skyhawk. Surprisingly only about 92 were built, which is comparable to the number of 1st X-body Interceptors!


Earlier in 1984, the line of guitars was augmented with the release of the Interceptor Bass similarly wildly styled but otherwise identical to the El Toro released the year prior and available with ash, mahogany, or maple body. Initially all controls were mounted on a black powder-coated control panel (see “Kings Of The Road” ad below). In 1988 the controls were rear-loaded when more (sparkly) colors became available, for example Tan/Gold Sparkle, to keep parity with the 3rd style Interceptor. A similar Tan/Gold Sparkle matching pair is shown in the 1988 catalog below. And like the guitar, the Interceptor Bass received the redesigned “sickle headstock” too. Only about 418 of these Rarebirds were built until production ceased in late-1991. And as Greg Gagliano writes in “Wiggle Stick Basses”, some with a Kahler vibrato for bass dive bombing!


Several beautiful examples of Interceptors with different configurations are featured on Greg Gagliano’s ggjaguar.com website.


My Interceptors, fronts and backs (L-to-R):

1984 Interceptor Bass (control panel), 1983 Interceptor II (1st X-body), 1983 Interceptor III (1st X-body), 1986 Interceptor HH (2nd X-body), 1988 Interceptor HSS w/Kahler (3rd style), 1988 Interceptor HSS w/Leo Fender Vibrato (3rd style), 1987 Interceptor Bass (rear-loaded).

 

The Interceptors