1976 Gibson Firebird Bicentennial

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Fantastic black and gold aesthetic, weight, those great mini‑humbucking pickups, originality and condition, rare limited ’76 edition

Thumbs down: Neck shape, neck heavy balance, reissue status, non‑OHSC

Decree: A wonderful, stylish and classy vintage ‘reverse’ Firebird without the sky high prices of the 1960s originals

Model Description:

In the first half of the 1960s, Gibson President Ted McCarty persuaded legendary Chrysler car designer Ray Dietrich to join the company and commissioned him to develop the first Gibson Firebird. The offset ‘reverse’ body shape of the Firebird featured the treble horn extending further than the bass side of the body. The Firebird’s other innovations included Gibson’s first guitar with mahogany neck‑through‑body construction and mahogany ‘body wings’ to give the Firebird’s distinctive outline. The headstock was also inverted and used unusual ‘banjo’‑style tuners. In addition, the ‘reverse’ Firebird used unique mini‑humbucking pickups giving it an aggressive biting tone like no other guitar in Gibson’s line up. There were four versions of the Firebird, depending on specification, numbered I, III, V and VII. The original Firebird was launched on the market in mid‑1963, the Firebird was difficult and expensive to manufacture and it didn’t sell particularly well. Also, Fender threatened Gibson with design infringements relating to Fender’s Jazzmaster and Jaguar. In 1965, Gibson changed to a much simpler ‘non‑reverse’ design that stayed in production until 1969. The original ‘reverse’ Firebird was briefly re‑issued as a limited ‘Medallion’ edition in 1972. In 1976, Gibson reissued the ‘reverse’ Firebird again as a Bicentennial edition to celebrate 200 years of American independence. The Bicentennial featured black, vintage white, natural, and sunburst finishes, gold hardware and a special commemorative red/blue ‘76 phoenix’ logo on the scratchplate. The celebratory Gibson Firebird Bicentennials are now very hard to find in great condition at a reasonable price.

Guitar Description:

For your appreciation is an oh‑so‑cool, rare and relatively unusual black and gold ‘reverse’‑bodied 1976 Gibson Firebird Bicentennial. The reissue of the original 1964 Firebird design was released by Gibson to celebrate 200 years of American independence from the UK in 1776. This fine guitar is all‑original except for the switch tip, which is newer. The Bicentennial model is distinguished from other Firebirds by the unique blue and red phoenix logo on the white scratchplate complete with ‘76’ graphic and stars incorporated into the design. The ’00’ serial number and pot codes date this example to 1976 (NB. Bicentennials were made from 1976 until about 1978), so this is the most collectable of the breed. Other distinctive features include the neck‑through body construction, banjo tuners and the Firebird’s unique mini humbucking pickups, just like the originals. This Firebird is nice and light at 8lbs and in fantastic condition. It shows very little playwear – just a few very minor nicks, dings and scratches to add character without going too far. There are no breaks or structural issues of any sort and it hasn’t been tampered with. In fact it has been remarkably well looked after for its age. Once you get used to the fairly chunky neck, which feels further away than on some other guitars, it’s a great instrument to play. Despite relatively low DC resistance (c.6kohms), those unique Firebird pickups impart powerful, gritty biting tones, great for heavy metal, rock and blues. The perennial Firebird’s vintage reputation can only fly sky high.


  • Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. in 1976
  • ‘Reverse’ body shape
  • Mahogany through-neck construction with mahogany body ‘wings’
  • Black nitrocellulose finish
  • Inverted headstock with original ‘banjo’ tuners
  • Unbound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and pearloid dot markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original gold hardware
  • Original white scratchplate with blue/red ’76 Bicentennial Firebird logo
  • Original dual Firebird mini humbucking pickups
  • Original bridge tailpiece, switch, knobs, strap buttons, jack socket
  • Weight: 8lb (3.62kg)
  • Newer Gibson hard shell case


  • Eric Clapton
  • Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
  • Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)
  • Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule)
  • Brian Jones, Mick Taylor & Ronnie Wood (The Rolling Stones)
  • Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music)
  • Gary Moore
  • Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
  • Johnny Winter


It has been conjectured that the original ‘reverse’ Firebird body shape was inspired by the accentuated wings and tail fins of automobile design, especially given that Ray Dietrich was a famed former car designer. However, the fad for 1950s car style had pretty much passed by the early 1960s. It is more likely that Dietrich adapted the ‘failed’ Explorer body shape as a starting point and rounded off the Explorer’s more aggressive outline for the Firebird and then added his own distinctive features.

There were 2,847 Gibson Firebird Bicentennials made between 1976 and 1979. 1,277 were finished in ebony black, 1,254 in natural, 199 in tobacco sunburst and 117 in white. Of the ebony models, only 222 were made in 1976.

Prior to the Bicentennial model, Gibson released the similarly limited edition ‘Medallion’ in 1972 to commemorate the 1972 Olympic Games. Other than the numbered badge on the upper bass bout, the Medallion was basically Gibson’s first reissue of the original Firebird V design and may have used leftover spare parts from the 1960s. Only 366 Firebird Medallions were made (1972 being a leap year).

The Firebird’s distinctive covered mini-humbucker is unlike the Les Paul Deluxe’s version. Here, the pickup comprises two rail bar magnets in the centre of the bobbins with an additional steel plate below the coils, designed to reflect and enhance the pickup’s magnetic field.

Detail Gallery:

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