Maton Flamingo Series 1

A beautiful unique Australian classic joins the guitarnerd family.

In previous Maton stories, I’ve stated that while I respect the Flamingo… I’ve always been more of a Fyrbyrd fan. And who could blame me. The Fyrbyrd is pure 60’s style… beautiful lines and heaps of chrome all tied up with classic Bigsby hardware.

The Flamingo on the other hand at first appearance looked a little strange. That tiny little horn, along with the sparse electronics and non-curved headstock made for a very ‘unique’ guitar design. I kept thinking… ‘cool, but the Fyrbyrd is where it’s at.’ But recently, things have changed… thanks to fellow Maton expert Ken P and other Maton fans, I’ve seen the light.

The Maton Flamingo is just damned cool. It’s a fantastic piece of design that is totally unique. I mean… whoever was designing guitars at Maton in 1962 was a goddamn genius. I don’t know if it was Bill May himself or someone else in the factory. Whoever it was deserves a LOT of credit and applause.

This particular example of Flamingo was owned by guitarnerd reader Gareth who emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in buying it. By then, I owned two Series 2 Flamingo’s and I was hooked. I knew I needed a ‘short horn’ Series 1, and this one looked fantastic. It was pretty much all original and in fantastic condition.Even the original straight bar bridge was still there. Plus the tremolo still had it’s arm… unlike my other two Flamingo’s.

Now, I gotta say. The straight bar bridge is a pretty crap piece of design. The intonation on these guitars is very hit and miss. It’s ‘sort’ of in tune… nearly there but not quite. I know I could easily swap it for a cast Bigsby moustache bridge and that would fix it a lot, but this guitar is so original that it would be a shame to do that. It plays fine as is so it says as is.

Plus the tremolo is surprisingly good. I’d heard stories about how crap and cheap these things are, but this one is partcular is responsive and stays in tune. I was going to swap the original tremolo on my black Series 2 to a Bigsby, but if these are what they original Flamingo tremolos feel like… it’s staying.

One thing I need to track down is a set of knobs…

Between my 3 Flamingo’s, I have one knob. I did have two from my original stripped Series 2, but those were donated to my Fyrbyrd as it only had one white knob. So yeah, my Flamingo’s are knobless… and switchless. Maton said they’re going to look in their infamous parts cupbaord to see what they can scrounge up, so here’s hoping. If anyone out there has any Maton parts to sell or trade, let me know.

The original pickups are just great. They’re the same single coils that were fitted in the more expensive Fyrbyrds… just one less. The neck pickup in this Flamingo is a monster…  a big round sound with a lot of output. Lots of bass and bite. The bridge pickup is a lot lower output… nice and bitey and great for that garage sound. The in between setting sounds great as a middle ground between the two.

The Maton pickup switcher is missing, so I fitted a chicken head knob I had lying around… it’ll do the job for now.

The headstock is showing some wear and tear, but still looks fantastic. It’s a great design. Sort of Maton Fyrbyrd meets Harmony BobKat.

The original ‘M’ is still there… a bit cracked and faded but it looks great. The original strip machine heads have been switched for Klusons, which isn’t actually a bad thing. They’re a lot more sturdy and responsive than the original pegs. If I track down an original set, I’ll fit them… but until then these will do the job nicely.

The neck joint is nice and solid… no cracks or repairs. The original finish is turning a little yellow in spots, but nowhere near my junkshop Fyrbyrd…

Now here’s the thing. I’ve played few Flamingo’s now and a few Fyrbyrd’s and I gotta say… for playability, the Flamingo’s KILL the Fyrbyrd’s. The necks on Flamingo’s are beautifully slim. I don’t know if it was because they were student guitars and made for smaller hands, but they’re like the best 60’s Strat neck you’ve played. This particular one has a beautful neck, and with the refret done by Gareth, plays superbly.

Fyrbyrd’s on the other hand are a bit of a handfull. Well, mine is anyway. Don’t get me wrong… my Fyrbyrd is a fantastic guitar… probably one of the best Fyrbyrd’s out there… playing wise (as confirmed by Tim from Tym Guitars). But where the Fyrbyrd is the Cadillac of 60’s Australian guitars… all chrome, curves and power, the Flamingo is the Ford Mustang. Small, svelte and all business.

If you’re thinking of getting into vintage Matons, try a Flamingo. They’re easier to find than a Fyrbyrd (they made around 1500 of them) a fair bit cheaper plus they sound, play and look fantastic. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks so much to Gareth. You rule!

•••update: I’ve just managed to score this set of Flamingo parts (for a bit too much money)… but at least my Flamingo is now complete from top to bottom! I have an original set of Flamingo tuners as well, but I think I’ll keep the Klusons on there for now…