El Mirage - Tao Guitars
In the 30's & 40's the dry lakes of "mojave" desert was the
ultimate place to be if you were a speed freak, the names like
Muroc, Rosamond, Harper and 'El Mirage' still evokes the true spirit
of rodding, the birth of one of the great american car traditions.
The dry lakes history was written in two important chapters, pre
& post world war II. The first chapter took place at Muroc lake, the
second at “El Mirage”, the name that will define the whole concept
of our project.
story begins in our hometown Brussels Belgium,
where an improvised meeting took place with Mr.
Elwood Francis, long time guitar tech & cool guitars
seeker for Mr. Billy F. Gibbons. Several guitars were
tried out & inspected by Mr. Francis, encouraging us to go on and make
somethin’ special for his “boss“, in order to make a presentation later on
the European tour.
Back in our workshop, we went through a lot of brainstorming and
drawing sessions, keeping in mind that we had not much time to build up
the whole concept, we choose our “T-Bucket“ model as a start-point, set
out our chambering process; Mr. Gibbons is famous for playing the lightest
guitars on earth, a concept that he pushed to the limit with the help of the
amazing John Bolin, his longtime guitar maker of choice.
fashioned the body in Spanish cedar wood, chosen
for his mahogany likeness in
tone but in a quite lighter incarnation. We sawn a slice, cut the body contour,
carved the armrest & ribcage, routed the thing
out from the back in what we called the “skatepark“ fashion, painted the control cavity in matt
white prior the gluing of the back for later effect.
We fashioned the
body in Spanish
For the neck,
(painted it black
but that’s the
taste of luxury),
For the neck we stand with our beloved European
quartersawn flame maple (yes, we painted
it black but that’s the taste of luxury), Indian
rosewood fingerboard, simple stuff.
Mr. Gibbons is not only one of greatest, coolest
guitar player around, he’s also a graphic artist,
painter , cars & guitars designer (remember the
famous “Cadzilla“, “hogzilla“ bikes, or the “muddywood“ guitar....)
in mind, needless to say we had to push the envelope a lil’ further in order to impress the man. So we decided
to build our own design “bucket“ bridge, a three brass barrels style that we’ve only had in our sketchbook, a
technical plan was made, and then we crafted it into a wood model, the next step was to make the first steel
prototype, which was not our usual crafting material of choice, we had to find the right man for that job. That’s
where Mr Fred Bertrand of KRUGGER motorcycle drops in.
He made us the piece in stainless steel (see picture) working the old hot rodding way, with a hammer & a blowtorch, then we managed to
sand & polish the thing, a process that took us a few hundred hours to bring the whole thing to his actual state of refinement, adorn by three
custom made highly polished compensated brass barrels.
made a jewel inspired by a Cadillac fleetwood
V16 roadster wheel ornament melting into an
oval shape as the result of high speed, a trick
we apply to all our creations, called “kinetic
design” giving to still objects the dynamics of motion. This decoration was made out of actual stainless steel spoon & knife, giving it
mirror polished glaze.
back plate is our small tribute to the late “Big Daddy
Roth“, bearing the visual of his famous “beatnik
bandit“ & “road agent“ plexi bulb roof, which also
sports our classic magnet lock system.
also custom turned pot buttons,
inspired by the classic “behive“
oil filter seen on the oldschool
of the neck, the tuners were mounted with “no visible“
bushings for a real sleek looking headstock, the glossed
black neck was enhanced by custom side markers inspired by some art deco gauges seen on the dashboard
of a ‘37 Ford.
last but not least, come custom made
pickups, created by the absolute PAF
expert Mr Dave Stephens of SD design
pickups. We’ve put one of the three prototypes of his holy grail VL PAF repro, it has to be
heard to be believed, the thing is alive, dripping soul
out of every note played, with a harmonic contend
that is pure magic, Dave just makes the Mona Lisa of
the guitar pickups world.
finished the guitar gloss
black and matt gold, highlighted
by a white lining in a classy
The rest is history.
We would like to thank Mr. Gibbons,
Mr. Elwood Francis & all the ZZ TOP crew
for all their kindness and hospitality.
Photos by François Chevalier
Graphic design by Sebastian Urlica