Maton Wedgtail & El Toro

Some rarer than rockinghorse sh!t Matons… story by Michael.

Part one: Wedgtail! Guitarnerd readers might recall a post about my old Maton V606 amplifier which I ended up selling on eBay some time ago. In the listing I cheekily mentioned I would be willing to trade it for a Wedgtail but nothing else. I didn’t get the Wedgtail unfortunately, but the amp sold and that was that.

About seven or so months ago now I was leaving the Music Swop Shop in Melbourne, and was walking past Fretted Instruments, (who had moved right next door to the Swop Shop some months prior from their previous location a few kilometers away) and had the odd thought to glance in as I walked past. (I say odd because I walk past the store about 25 times a week and never glance in).

As I briefly glanced whilst continuing to walk, I spotted what I thought at first to be a wild Japanese git-thang from the ’70’s, sitting on a stand next to the front counter. The shape caught my eye (thankfully), and on inspection, it turned out to be a late 70’s Maton Wedgtail (#78)! (The Serial is 178)

I was sooo stoked to see one! But the stoke-ness was somewhat bittersweet as I knew that Fretted Instruments were very well informed and that it would be clearly out of the reach of my financial capabilities. I went in anyway to ask about it and hopefully give it a play (this was the first one I had seen in the flesh). The owner was talking to a gentleman at the counter so I waited patiently for them to finish so that I could begin gushing over said guitar. As I was waiting and inadvertently eavesdropping, I realised the gentleman at the counter was the Guitar’s owner! What was far more amazing, was that the owner of Fretted was turning him away!!! The guitar was up for grabs!!! And at a price I didn’t have to think twice about… almost.

The owner had turned him away and told him to try eBay because the guitar looked like it had met head-on in a car crash with a Gibson Melody Maker. The elevated scratch-plate was gone, along with the pickups, and had been replaced with a mutilated dual-pickup melody maker pickguard, complete with Japanese single coil pickups. It had four tuners, one string, a nut with 9 slots, the flimsiest folded aluminium bridge I’d ever seen and a Masonite/vinyl cavity cover on the back.

It was clearly going to be A LOT of work, but the neck was straight, and it was a freakin’ Wedgtail, so I bought it!

Over the following weeks, I band-sawed up a new cavity plate, I studied MANY photos and cut a new scratch and I made CAD files for the pickup surrounds. I had new ones laser cut, to suit both the original and standard humbuckers. I hunted down some non-identical but suitable tuners to fit with the other four. The nut was surprisingly fully functional despite the bouzouki like slots. I splashed out and bought a Gotoh Bronze-Aluminium saddled bridge and re-tensioned the spring on the original (though kinda cheap looking) tremolo.

All that was missing now were the pickups.

So for months my project stopped… I could have chucked some nice humbuckers in there, but I was hellbent on finding some original Maton Humbuckers! And then one day I found a pair! Albeit they were gold originally and not silver, but they were a matched pair!

Unfortunately, they happened to be lodged in an even rarer Maton, which was in an even worse condition than the Wedgtail…

Part two: El Toro! Meet Maton El Toro #6.

I found the ad on Gumtree and sped over to the seller’s household as soon as I got his address. He turned out to be the Guitar’s original owner, and had owned it for nearly 50 years. I guess when you own something that long, considerations about it’s collect-ability never cross your mind, as unfortunately during the ’80’s, he had spray painted the ENTIRE thing metallic purple! (I’m still finding it on the hardware!)

Worse still, the neck had been glued in place. As such, he had sanded the thing back to the beautiful Mahogany underneath, and had removed the binding and decals. But it was fully complete bar one missing knob and the pickup surrounds.

So I had an even BIGGER project on my hands now! Plus the dilemma of having to choose which guitar got the pickups! I spent a solid two days applying new binding to the neck, and painstakingly shaping it around the frets. Now the guitar was playable… and it was VERY playable!

The El Toro was amazing! The long neck was perfectly straight, and it was a delight to hold with the new binding in place. The next few weeks were spent on the next big task… re-finishing!

Myself and my fellow gear-whore Tony (a different Tony to the dear operator of this site mind you), set up a somewhat sketchy shop outside his shed and began a frustrating game of ‘avoiding the rain and humidity’. After filling the grain and some of the more roughly sanded areas, we sealed the neck and body with good ol’ Nitro sealer. I went to Astra Paints and got a nice off-white cream (which was a tiny bit butterscotchy), and a good solid black.

This one would’ve been white originally going off the cavities, but after a test spray, I decided black would be the choice for the body, and that the head-stock would be white. I did two coats of black on the headstock followed by several coats of the cream white. After it was dry, I sanded back the white around the edges to create a black border as per the original colourscheme. For the body we only did two coats of black with no clear coat. I wanted this thing to age FAST. Worse come to worse, if my amateur re-fin ended badly, it would’ve been quite easy for a pro to redo the whole thing. But it came up pretty good! After a few months of gigging it’ll look nice and worn in and hide any defects I may’ve overlooked.

The final dilemma were the pickups. I had succumbed and put the Maton humbuckers in the Wedgtail because they looked oh so good together.

I decided I needed some wild pickups for the El Toro, so I hunted down a gold Ibanez Flying Fingers Super 80, and an original 70’s Ibanez Iceman Humbucker. To my delight, they absolutely SHRED! The tone is fantastic! Clean jazz (if you like that sort of thing…) Warm Blues, and of course, thundering Stoner Riffage.

I tune the El Toro to something like D Flat and it just resonates beautifully. The low tuning balances out the high tension from the long scale, and you can just bend and bend and bend and bend and bend. I even managed to find a Vintage Japanese made explorer case to fit it!

The Wedgtail plays excellently as well… but I found it’s tone somewhat lacking. Of course, after all the effort I put into finding some Maton Humbuckers, they just weren’t doing it for me.

I bought a pair of ’70’s Ibanez V2’s, which internet forums describe as “…70’s copies of DiMarzio Super Distortions”, and switched them for the Matons. I plugged him into a nice Vox AC-30…and, tone heaven. NOW it sounds like it’s sexy vibes suggest it should. Plus the pickups match the color!

All that’s left to do is to knock up the decals for the El Toro and then play both of them into the ground!