1983 Gibson Explorer 83

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Exclusive looks and fantastic colour, great pickups, traditional scratchplate and controls, all‑original, superb condition, OHSC

Thumbs down: Slight finish crazing, black knobs, model uncertainty

Decree: A fabulous early 1980s Gibson Explorer that looks stunning, plays well and sound great

Model Description:

After as short and unsuccessful original production period at the end of the 1950s, followed by nearly 20 years absence, Gibson reissued the Explorer in 1976 in relatively small numbers until it was discontinued in 1980. In 1981‑1982, a very similar model, called the Explorer I continued the standard format established in the 1950s. In 1983, the Explorer 83 replaced the Explorer I for a brief period. Although the 83 continued the traditional control layout with scratchplate, Gibson starting making bodies from alder, rather than mahogany/korina and the necks started being made from maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The now‑uncovered pickups were Gibson’s renowned ‘Dirty Fingers’ humbuckers and hardware was chrome plated. In addition, factory Kahler vibratos were available as an option. From late 1983 until 1989, the base model, simply called the Explorer, took centre stage. The basic Explorer was easily recognisable with no scratchplate and controls in a triangular pattern, while also retaining the alder/maple construction. There was a confusing plethora of other variations on the Explorer model during the 1980s including the II/E2, CMT, Designer Series, III, Korina, Heritage, Custom Shop, XPL, 90, etc. For many, the 83 was the last ‘proper’ Explorer of the 1980s. The Explorer has featured in the Gibson line up in plenty of models since 1990 to the current day. Gibson’s budget brand, Epiphone, also produces a low cost, offshore Explorer. The 1980s Gibson Explorers vary greatly in value depending on model, condition and originality, although many can be picked up at affordable cost, especially compared to new retail prices.

Guitar Description:

I know that it is a personal opinion but I reckon Gibson Explorers are SO cool anyway, and this particular example is super, super‑cool. It isn’t a Custom Shop model but it certainly looks like one. Therein lies a slight issue with identifying this particular model. It has many of the features of the Explorer Korina including the gold hardware, ivory pearlescent paint and the ‘normal’ Explorer format with the scratchplate, the pickup selector switch on the upper treble bout and the 3‑in‑a‑line controls. However, it doesn’t have the gold knobs, covered pickups and headstock trappings of the Korina. Its weight is notably heavier than either of my alder body Explorers from the same period, suggesting it might be made from mahogany or korina. The small uncovered areas of wood in the electronics cavity reveals that it is either mahogany or korina and not alder. On balance, and to be on the safe side, I’m coming off the fence and saying that it is probably an Explorer 83 with rare factory custom finish and hardware. The original and unusual fine metallic pearlescent ivory/white finish has faded evenly to a lovely creamy gold colour, which goes beautifully with the gold hardware, white scratchplate and dual black ‘Dirty Fingers’ pickups. I am, of course, biased but is utterly gorgeous. While the pickups are gutsy and powerful and sound amazing, especially suited to heavier rock sounds that Explorers are renowned for, it is equally capable at other genres too. It is a real joy to play as well as to look at, great for exploring (sic!) what a great electric solid body guitar can do when unleased. It has hardly been used over its lifetime and is presented in superb all‑original condition with only a few early signs of finish crazing to hint at its age. Its very sumptuous original hard shell case just adds to the luxury look and feel. Whatever model it is, it is very, very nice indeed!


  • Made in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. in November 1983
  • Offset single cutaway mahogany solid body finished in nitrocellulose pearlescent ivory
  • Set mahogany neck
  • Unbound rosewood fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and pearloid dot markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original gold plated hardware
  • Original single-ply white plastic scratchplate
  • Original dual uncovered black Gibson ‘Dirty Fingers’ humbucking pickups
  • Weight: 8lb 13oz (3.99kg)
  • Original brown Gibson hard shell case made by TKL

Detail Gallery:

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