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The Hamer Prototype : Part Two

The Phantom A5

Jol Dantzig with Andy Summers, holding one of the first Phantom A5s.

The original Hamer Phantom A5 was based in part on the comtemporary Cruise Bass (a more exagerated Jazz Bass body shape) but also shared many common features with the two year old Prototype. The early Phantoms used the same sustain-block bridge or the new sustain block trem. Construction was near identical with all mahogany construction and the traditional Hamer three-a-side headstock as well a scratchplate to hide the neck joint. The pickup arrangement owed everything to the Prototype - the same triple coil pickup was fitted (now stamped Hamer rather than DiMarzio and usually in black rather than creme) but a second scratchplate mounted single coil was added. Switching was different to the Prototype : the first switch selected either the triple coil (down position), the scratchplate-mounted single coil (up), or both together (middle); the second lower switch selected either the humbucker (down) or the single coil pickup in the triple coil (up). This gives most pickup combination except all three pickups together or both pickups of triple coil together. Controls were completed by a master tone and volume. Andy Summers of The Police was again an influence on the design.

Left, a Prototype 12 and right, a Phantom 12.

The Phantom A5 soon began its own evolution and deviated further from the Prototype, by 1984 losing the three-a-side heastock in favour of a new six-on-a-side design and usually being fitted with a Kahler locking trem.. A stripped-down version was introduced called the Phantom GT with just a single humbucker. In 1985 the mahogany neck of the Phantom models was replaced by one of maple construction, although still glued in traditional fashion. Like the Prototype, the Phantom also had a 12-string version (see left). The new Hamer models and designs were leaving the Prototype behind, necessitating the introduction of an updated version, the Prototype II.

Phantom GT
A 1984 Phantom GT in Ice Pearl with later features such as six-on-a-side headstock and Kahler trem.. This final version shows very little influence of the Prototype.

The Prototype II and Prototype SS

The updated Prototype II was basically the same guitar as the original model but now included the extra sratchplate mounted single coil pickup of the Phantom A5, Phantom-style switching and a Kahler flat-mount trem. replacing the sustain-block bridge and through body stringing. Just a few were built with Floyd Roses. This model was inevitably short-lived, mostly restricted to 1984 production, because of the impending introduction of the Prototype SS (Steve Stevens). The Prototype 12 also gained the additional single-coil pickup.

The Prototype SS was an all-new design (in collaboration with Steve Stevens, then playing with Billy Idol) which owed little to the original Prototype, with a symetrical double cutaway body and headstock design much the same as the revamped Phantom guitars. The scratchplate was lost as was the triple coil mounting for the pickups. The now familiar bridge humbucker and two single coils were controlled the same way as for the Phantom A5 and the soon-to-be ubiquitous Floyd Rose was fitted to all but a very few guitars. Once a deal was agreed with Stevens in 1984 the model became a fully fledged signature model, the Steve Stevens (complete with signature logo), and the name Prototype was dropped.

1984 catalogue Taken from the 1984/5 leaflet, Hamer Rocks Hard (click here to see), the Prototype II with Kahler trem. and additional pickup and switch (left) and the Prototype SS (right). The latter guitar was designed for Steve Stevens, who appeared in contemporary publicity (see below), and it was duely renamed the 'Steve Stevens'.
Steve Stevens

In 1986 a new Steve Stevens II model appeared with an increased scale length (25.5 inch rather than the 24.75 inch of the original model), with just two pickups, but amazingly with a body shape that was very like that of the original Prototype from which the model had evolved. The original Steve Stevens model became the Steve Stevens I, changing from 22 to 24-frets. The popularity Steve Stevens models would spell the end for the Prototype and Prototype II.

1987 Steve Stevens II
A 22-fret 1987 Steve Stevens II with Floyd-Rose trem., angled humbucker, just one neck single-coil pickup and single switch. The origin of the body shape is unmistakable. This example has the longer scale length.

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