The National Map from Airline Guitars


Origins

The memorable and rare National Map guitars were originally produced briefly between 1958 and 1964 by Valco, a US guitar manufacturer of the era. Valco evolved from the marriage between National String Instrument Corporation and the Dobro company who reorganized in 1942 and renamed the company using the first initials of the owners. The company quickly became one of the leading manufacturers of lap steals in the country alongside Magnatone, Gibson, and Rickenbacker.

In 1961, Valco’s National and Supro guitars debuted with hollow fiberglass bodies in bright, opaque finishes that would establish them as icons in the guitar industry. These models came out of molds, not carving shops, and the result was unlike anything produced to date. Their unusual cutaways were referred to as “map” bodies as they resembled the shape of America. Desperate for a fresh aesthetic, consumers loved the unique visuals of the National line, and the upper quality models have become the most collectible Valco products ever made.

Cult Classic

Among the available models, the Glenwood and Val-Pro designs would gain a bigger following than the other due to their superior quality. The Val-Pro was renamed The National Newport and was used to advertise a new fiberglass material that Valco named “Res-O-Glas.” The unique shape resulting from these molds would catch the attention of consumers. Their bodies were made by pressing glass fiber reinforcement into a mold with two-part epoxy resin. The liquid resin components hardened around the fiber, yielding lightweight material that could form into any shape – including the iconic, map-shaped guitar.

Due to the unusual fiberglass construction, the guitars were lightweight and strangely resonant with a specific, hollow sound. This slightly acoustic resonance was successfully paired with a built-in acoustic pickup, a design feature that was years ahead of its time. The most successful models of this line had three pickups, including two single-coil units and an innovation specific to the company: an under-bridge pickup. This addition would become known as one of the earliest transducer pickups developed before the War. Each had its own volume and tone control plus a master volume. Unfortunately, like early Strats, you could only select one pickup at a time. The middle-of-the-line model featured one single-coil and the transducer. The lower end had just one plain pickup, although a three-way switch let you cut out either treble or bass for unique tones. These 1960s map shaped guitars can have a fatal flaw; there is no adjustable truss rod, and the necks required reinforced steel to be kept sturdy. Their art-deco aesthetic and innovative designs were intriguing during their release and their individuality has gained them a cult following, but these pieces were not made to be sustainable.

Updating

The Airline brand was saved by Eastwood Guitars out of Toronto, and they have rebooted the Map Guitar. The Airline Map preserves the most beloved feature of the Map series: the art-deco aesthetic. It still grabs the attention of audiences who have seen decades of Strats and Les Pauls. The biggest accomplishment of the revisited series is the conservation of the Res-O-Glas tone while using more sustainable materials. The Eastwood reissues maintain that famous resonant tone without sacrificing the craftsmanship of the bodies as these guitars are crafted from tone-chambered mahogany, giving the body more stability and a smooth, high quality sound of a hollow body without any Larsen effect. The new series is also dressed in the bells and whistles of the current industry including Airline Valco Vintage Voice single coils, a Tune-O-Matic bridge, and a bolt-on maple neck. The Bigsby vibrato and roller bridge keep the guitar tuned and saves the strings as there is no friction when the vibrato is auctioned. The two humbuckers with three-way vintage tone control switches allow for a variety of retro sounds, and the pickups are silent. Eastwood successfully resurrected this series while improving its sound quality by using modern technology to create a more sustainable and smooth guitar.

Featured: Airline Map DLX

The Airline Map DLX is equipped with the standard tone chambered mahogany body and bound maple, bolt-on neck. It is a standard size guitar at 25 inches and has a C-shaped neck to accommodate most players. The guitar is constructed with two Valco Vintage Voice humbuckers that are shaped similar to the single coil pickups of the originals and maintain that beloved growling sound in humbucker format. There are two volume controls with one tone. The Tune-O-Matic bridge is the standard floating bridge design for electric guitars that make this piece more sustainable that its predecessors. In order to maintain the look and design of the Valco pieces, it also includes a striped pickguard. While many purchase these guitars for the aesthetic, the Eastwood reissues have gained a following for their amazing sound quality that is definitely a competitor with other big brands such as Martin or Gibson. These surprisingly light instruments have a smooth sound quality that will impress the most experienced of musicians.

Featured: Airline Map Colin Newman Signature

Colin Newman gained his reputation as a successful frontman and guitarist for Wire, a famous post-punk band of the 1980s. Since the Eastwood Airline reissue, Newman has become enamored with the Airline Map series. After continuously praising the brand and advertising its Airline recreations as an Eastwood artist, he was invited to collaborate with the company to produce a signature guitar. Leaning into the unique aesthetic of these guitars, the Airline Map Colin Newman Signature is seafoam green. Rather than adding the Valco Vintage Voice humbuckers, this piece comes with two Alnico Hot-10 Humbuckers that are completely silent. The most obvious update that distinguishes this model is the addition of an EW Custom Bridge Piezo pickup that is located under the bridge. The Piezo pickups detect vibrations from the saddle of guitar, where the strings are the tightest, resulting in an extremely bright and clear tone that defines every note. The Stop Tail, Tune-O-Matic bridge allows for adjustments for string tension so that the player can adjust according to their desired tone and sustain. Not only does the Colin Newman stamp of approval enhance this model, but it is truly made for guitarists who want to have a personalized experience with a truly individual model.