1982 Gibson Explorer CMT

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Stunning appearance, solid tone woods, great pickups, originality, condition, OHSC

Thumbs down: Very heavy, one‑time treble boost circuit modification

Decree: Fantastic to look at but a bit of a backbreaker, unless you are Superman or Superwoman

Model Description:

The original Gibson Explorer was introduced to unsuspecting consumers in 1958. At that time, Ted McCarty’s futuristic design didn’t inspire players and after less than 40 had been shipped, it disappeared. Gibson reintroduced the Explorer in 1976 to a much warmer reception, fitting as it was for hard rock guitarists of the time. Gibson experimented a great deal with the Explorer template in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including the E2 (II), Explorer I/’83, the CMT and Explorer III, along with the emergence of limited Custom Shop specials among others. The variants can be very confusing even for those who think they know about the company, the model and the period. From 1983 to 1989 the basic model was called simply the Explorer, identifiable by no scratchplate and controls in a triangular pattern alongside the switch on the lower bass bout. In order to appeal to more affluent buyers, Gibson issued a limited edition Designer Series in 1984. Even more upmarket was the Explorer CMT (which stands for Curly Maple Top), which lasted 3 years (1981‑1984). There was also a Flying V CMT (‘The V’) model. The CMT is notable for quite a number of reasons. The solid slab body comprised a maple/walnut sandwich with a striking flame maple cap and cream binding to the top. The neck was made from flame maple/walnut with an ebony fingerboard. The choice of tone woods made the CMT a heavy instrument, often exceeding 10lbs (4½kg). To reinforce the macho look and feel, the CMT’s used Gibson’s powerful ceramic magnet ‘Dirty Fingers’ humbucking pickups. The highly unusual bridge was a ‘three-point top-adjust tune‑o‑matic’ and the tailpiece was the Gibson fine‑tuning TP‑6. Unlike the base model, the CMT kept the original 1950s control layout with a scratchplate. To confuse matters, the truss rod cover boldly carried an engraved E/2 logo for no obvious reason, as the CMT is a very different guitar to the earlier E2. Finishes were tobacco or cherry sunburst, with the addition of a relatively scarce natural option. Gibson Explorer CMTs are relatively rare and prices are increasing on the vintage market. To date, Gibson has not reissued the Explorer CMT model.

Guitar Description:

This stunning 1982 Gibson Explorer CMT is NOT a lightweight for lightweights. This is a real, muscular HEAVY ROCK guitar – one for strong people with spines of steel out there, playing music to match. The spectacular, cool and rare CMT model was only made between 1981 and 1984 and this is a beauty. The very attractive body was constructed of layers of solid, weighty maple and walnut, with its very striking bound single piece flame maple top and unbound flame maple/walnut neck with its ebony fingerboard. In my view, the dark cherry sunburst is much prettier than the dowdy tobacco sunburst or the insipid natural finish. The authentic aging nitrocellulose lacquer has a fine patina that offsets the gold bling nicely. The CMT retains the traditional Explorer scratchplate with the pickup selector switch on the upper treble bout and the three control knobs in a line. The Gibson ‘Dirty Fingers’ pickups are a favourite of mine and live up to their reputation combining beefy strength with finesse and subtlety – truly an exceptional pickup (unlike the reissues). The gold hardware, unusual bridge and original fine‑tuning TP‑6 tailpiece complete the picture. Despite what it says on the truss rod cover, this Explorer CMT model should not be confused with the earlier distinctive layered and contoured walnut/maple E2 model (1979‑1982), which is actually similar in style to the unique Gibson Flying V2. An active treble boost circuit had been added with a small toggle switch between the volume and tone knobs (now removed). This particular Explorer has undocumented provenance with the previous owner claiming that it was owned by the guitarist from English alternative rock band Hundred Reasons, citing a number of appearances on MTV videos. While the location and timing are about right, I cannot confirm this, so it is best regarded only as an anecdote. Heavy (in more ways than one) if your back can take it.


  • Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A. in March 1982
  • Cherry sunburst nitrocellulose finish
  • 5 piece maple/walnut body with flame maple cap and top binding
  • Flame maple/walnut set neck
  • Unbound ebony fingerboard with 22 frets
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Gold plated hardware
  • Original 3‑ply black/white/black plastic scratchplate
  • Original uncovered Gibson ‘Dirty Fingers’ humbucking pickups
  • Original pickup selector switch and knobs
  • Changed jack plate and socket
  • Original ‘3‑point top adjust’ tune‑o‑matic bridge and fine tune TP‑6 tailpiece
  • Weight: 10lb 6oz (4.7kg)
  • Original Gibson hard shell case

Detail Gallery:

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