‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L


The early-1980s saw guitars with some wild shapes. Who is not familiar with 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. Sure, it jumped on that super-Strat bandwagon with the introduction of the Invader, Rampage, and Superhawk. But these models were rather plain looking compared to the Interceptor! Furthermore, the Interceptor also had a low-ender version!

While in production, the Interceptor guitar evolved through 3 body styles, each discussed below. However, there are quite a few known transitional prototypes, i.e. Interceptors having features associated with more than one style. More information on some of these, as well as on the main sequence, can be found on the Interceptor page in the Rarebird section of the Guitars by Leo (GbL) Registry with links to additional pictures of Interceptors in the GbL Gallery. There is some debate on the total number of Interceptors produced and how it breaks down among the different styles. For instance, G&L researcher Paul Bechtoldt claims only 8-12 2nd X-body Interceptors are in existence, all considered to be “prototypes”. So far, already 9 of these can be found in the GbL Registry. I base my numbers on those quoted by Dale Hyatt in his letter of provenance for the Interceptor II in this collection, claiming a total of only 206 of all types were built between May 26, 1983 and July 1, 1991.

The (1st style) X-body Interceptor appeared as a Limited Edition model in the June 1983 price list in 3 versions: I, II, and III. The designation likely was indicative of the number of pickups used and, judging from available marketing material, was for internal use only. However, it is safe to assume that these X-body Interceptors actually appeared only in 2 versions, as evidenced by the 1983 ad slick below. The Interceptor II was released with the same pair of Magnetic Field Design (MFD) humbuckers as found on the Cavalier. Marketing material referred to such a pickup as an “Offset-Humbucker™” but technically it is known as an HG-2R “Angled Offset”. Like the GHB humbucker, a none slanted version used on the HG-2, 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 a triplet of single-coil MFD pickups, the same as found on the Nighthawk and the SC-3 models also introduced in 1983. Early Limited Edition Interceptors had a flamed soft maple body, with either Natural Gloss or Red-over-Black finish (with a transparent Red and opaque Black), a Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato (DFV), a black powder-coated control panel with the pickup selector (3-position on the II and 5-position on the III), volume control, and PTB circuit. The hard-rock maple neck had either a maple or ebony fingerboard. Initially, two prototypes were built on May 26, 1983, both with maple fingerboards and a Red-over-Black color scheme. S/N G000015 is an Interceptor III with gold hardware and although the pickup configuration for S/N G000014 is unknown, it does have chrome hardware. In the absence of an official model water slide decal, plant manager Lloyd Chewning used some (serif) letters decals from the nearest art supply store to compose some. These prototypes were not entered in the sales log. With a date of June 7, 1983, the honor of being the first entry goes to S/N G000013, also Red-over-Black with maple fingerboard and gold hardware. The pickup configuration on this 3rd prototype is unknown as well. The lowest 4 serial numbers among G&L guitars were all special built Red-over-Black 1st X-body Interceptors with gold hardware and collectively entered in the sales log on August 24, 1983. S/N G000001, built for George Fullerton, is an Interceptor III with a maple fingerboard and featured in color on p. 78 of his book “Guitar Legends, The evolution of the guitar from Fender to G&L”. Leo Fender’s own Interceptor II has an ebony fingerboard and S/N G000002. The Interceptor III with S/N G000003 was built for Dale Hyatt and has a maple fingerboard. Finally, Lloyd received S/N G000004. The pickup configuration for his Interceptor is unknown but it has a maple fingerboard. All of these already have the model decal with skinny, sans-serif font seen on all later X-body Interceptors. The first standard production X-body Interceptor was completed and entered in the log on October 6, 1983. Although Dale’s letter does not provide its serial number, he does mention it (still) has gold hardware, a #2 neck with maple fingerboard, and just a Clear Red finish, not a combo. This brings the total among all Interceptors of any style known to have gold hardware to 7. Incidentally, S/N G012264, i.e. the non-gold hardware Interceptor III in this collection, was completed and entered in the log the very same day!

There are other early Interceptors worth mentioning. Interceptor II G015644 and Interceptor III G015164 are prominently featured at the top of the Rarebird page. Both specially built for the 1983 NAMM trade show, they have a rare Natural Gloss finish over a highly figured maple body and their headstock painted Black. Only 6 other “Natural Flame Maple“ Interceptors exist, all with a 1st style X-body. Also featured on that NAMM show was a Red-over-Black Interceptor with S/N G016193. The matching set of Interceptor II G015681 and Interceptor III G015358 are finished in an even rarer Pearl Blueburst, also known as Blue Pearl Sunburst. Both were once owned by 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 displayed less figure while ash and mahogany were allegedly added as possible body woods at some point. The January 15, 1984 price list confirmed the demise of the Interceptor I, making no mention of this version but including an “INTERCEPTOR -THREE SINGLE COIL PICKUPS” and an “INTERCEPTOR -TWO HUMBUCKING PICKUPS”, both available only with a #2 neck and 7½” fingerboard. As stated on its 2nd page, “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 January 15, 1985 price list only retained Red-over-Black, now referred to as Red/Black, from the above finishes but added Black and White. The default neck option had been updated to 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 between a DFV unit or a “Krome” Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner vibrato, the latter with a small upcharge for the “Black Krome” variety (see picture below). All 1st X-body necks had a sickle headstock with the G&L hook; those built for the NAMM trade show were painted Black whereas the front of the headstock matched the finish seen on the top of the body 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 reason why the Kahler unit became an option had everything to do with an innate structural weakness in the design of the 1st X-body. A DFV warrants the routing of a spring cavity causing a the body to be thinner there. Combined with only little wood behind the vibrato unit, the areas around the posts were prone to hairline cracks. A Kahler unit at least alleviated these issues by virtue of being flat mounted. The next step in obtaining more structural integrity was the introduction of the 2nd X-body. It has always been claimed Interceptors with this body style were available as of early-1986 but its development started already in late-summer/early-fall 1984 with a number of early specimen. The 2nd X-body Interceptor came standard with a Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner vibrato, more wood behind the vibrato unit, 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. Convinced the mid-1980s market demanded use of such a pickup, Dale tried to force the issue by building test mules with a variety of aftermarket buckers. Seymour Duncan PAFs were a viable option, even then, and certainly debated. But Leo was dead-set against them. Helmut Schaller and Leo Fender had both 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 the existing business relationship, Dale asked Helmut’s company to provide the 2 Schaller humbuckers for the 2nd X-body Interceptor HH, (potentially) “wound to Leo’s specifications” and controlled by a 3-position mini-toggle pickup selector, a master volume control, and a separate tone control for each pickup. Schaller sourced humbuckers on G&L guitars had black plated pole screws and slugs, distinguishing them from similar Schaller pups on other brands. The 2nd X-body Interceptor SSS had the same pickups as the 1st X-body Interceptor III now controlled by 3 on/off mini-toggle switches, master volume, and a single tone control. Of the 9 entries currently in the GbL Registry identified by their (former) owner as a 2nd X-body Interceptor, only 2 have the SSS configuration: S/N G019583 and G020492. So what carried over from the 1st X-body? The soft maple body of course, with either Black or Clear Red/Black finish, and the matching sickle headstock, still with the G&L hook and gold font. Now the default was a hard-rock maple (pre-BBE) #4 “flatneck” neck, i.e. with a 25” radius ebony fingerboard and 1¾” wide nut, frequently with Leo’s patented String Lock mechanism. Dale’s numbers claim only about 19 2nd X-body Interceptors were built even though new marketing material had already been developed (see e.g. the slick below). He also dismissed the persistent rumor production of any X-body ceased because of Leo’s dislike of its shape. Reality is these first 2 styles had low sales and were just not as popular as the other Superstrats. Hence, to further the evolution of the Interceptor, Dale kept looking for a configuration that would make these guitars more popular taking into account the feedback by players and dealers alike. Several prototypes were built expressing the different ideas under consideration with this Interceptor SSS transitional prototype as an example. In the end, the Interceptor changed its look for the last time.

Officially introduced in 1988, but with 12 already built in 1987, the 3rd style Interceptor used a body with long, sleek, pointy horns, a rounded bottom, and beautiful bevels on the lower bass bout acting as an arm contour. This body style is also known as the “Long-Horn”, a nickname coined by members of the old GbL forum to distinguish that look from the more Strat like appearance of the e.g. the Skyhawk Signature. This final style was available in 3 versions. The most common was the Interceptor HSS, here with Kahler vibrato, with a 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. Like its 2nd X-body equivalent, the 3rd style Interceptor HH 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 with S/N G025032 can be found in the GbL Gallery and he demoes that very guitar in this YouTube video. Sam Norris shows off his 3rd style Interceptor HH with S/N G024748 in this GbL post. Beyond Steve’s and Sam’s, currently 2 others are registered: S/N G022722 and G038067. The 3rd style Interceptor SSS, here with ash body and DFV, had the same wiring harness as the 2nd X-body Interceptor SSS, i.e. again with 3 on/off switches, one for each pickup. The only other example of this super rare version currently in the GbL Registry is S/N G022500, a Blue/Black Interceptor SSS owned by G&L’s Dave McLaren himself. A never sold Tan/Gold specimen with S/N G024151 comes out of the inventory of a former G&L dealer in or near Kentucky and was quickly acquired by Sam when it became available in April 2022. Casey Quinn claims to possess a Gold/Blonde 3rd style Interceptor SSS, still in the original shipping carton, of which the last digit of its serial number (G02241x) has not been made public. However, I have never seen any pictures of this guitar. Hence, in compliance with a long standing G&L tradition, “... without visual evidence, it does not exist”. Any 3rd style Interceptor initially came standard with the (pre-BBE) #4 neck and rosewood fingerboard but could be ordered with either DFV, Kahler, or Leo Fender Vibrato (LFV), as stated in the September 1, 1987 price list. The January 1, 1988 price list added Purple and Purple/white as available finishes. This was followed by adding Tan/Gold (see e.g. this Interceptor HSS w/Leo Fender Vibrato) per the June 15, 1988 list which also made all neck profiles available on this model. Ray Ransdell had redesigned the matching sickle headstock appearing on the 3rd style Interceptor, removing the G&L hook and making it a little more stylish. The model decal now used a shadowed, sans-serif font. It even appeared 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. It may come as a surprise only about 92 3rd style Interceptors had been built before production halted on July 1, 1991, a total comparable to the number of 1st X-body Interceptors!

In 1984, the line of guitars had been complemented by the Interceptor Bass, similarly wildly styled but otherwise identical to the El Toro released the year prior. This bass was available with a choice of an ash, mahogany, or maple body and, as listed on the January 15, 1984 price list, in the same finishes as for the guitars: Natural Flame, Red-over-Black, Blue Pearl Sunburst, or Pearl Flame. Initially all controls were mounted on a black powder-coated control panel (see the “Kings Of The Road” ad below) but were rear-loaded starting mid-1985. The January 15, 1985 price list only includes Black, White, and the Red/Black (i.e. Red-over-Black) combo as available finishes. But the January 1, 1988 price list announced additional colors including Tan/Gold Sparkle (strangely omitted for guitars on that list), 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 also received the redesigned sickle headstock using the same model decal with the sans-serif font. Only about 418 of these Rarebirds were built until production ceased in late-1991. Most interestingly, as Greg Gagliano writes in “Wiggle Stick Basses”, some of them have a vibrato for bass dive bombing as seen on this Interceptor Bass w/Kahler with a stylish Black Krome unit!

Beyond another Black Interceptor Bass w/Kahler with a Krome unit, Greg’s ggjaguar.com website features several beautiful examples of Interceptor guitars in different styles and versions.


The Interceptors