1984 Gibson Flying V Designer Series

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Unique limited edition design, seriously good pickups, light weight, OHSC, vintage values

Thumbs down: Not the traditional design, alder/maple rather than mahogany construction, no scratchplate

Decree: A very cool and rare rock guitar belonging to a classic lineage with its own distinctive look, feel and sound

Model Description:

Between 1981 and 1988, after several attempts to kick‑start the Gibson Flying V’s flagging reputation, the company went back‑to‑basics with a straightforward Flying V model designed to appeal to the lower end of the market. The Flying V (confusingly also called either the Flying V I or the Flying V ’83) featured an alder body, maple neck, no scratchplate, body‑mounted controls in a triangle and exposed humbucking pickups. In 1984, Gibson decided to spruce up the basic Flying V recipe and released limited numbers of Custom Graphic and Artist Original Explorers and Flying Vs under the broad heading of the ‘Designer Series’. In addition to the finish, the guitars came with a pair of powerful and highly regarded ‘Dirty Fingers’ humbucking pickups. The enhancements were largely cosmetic and designed to add some up‑market designer label swagger to an otherwise rather plain standard model (it was the materialistic, brand‑obsessed ‘yuppie’ era after all). For those looking for something with a bit more ‘class’, Gibson released the upmarket Flying V CMT/’The V’ and Explorer CMT, both with a striking bound flame curly maple top. The snazzy ‘The V’ was launched in 1981 and lasted until 1985. Purists and collectors alike criticise the basic Flying V format for cost‑cutting and for departing too far from the original 1950s Flying V blueprint. The ephemeral limited edition Designer Series sat between the base model and the CMT, possibly resulting in it being largely overlooked and underappreciated at the time, perhaps tainted by the basic model’s plain looks and ‘budget’ reputation. With 1960s Flying Vs now hugely (over‑) expensive and 1970s ones not that far behind, the cool and rare Designer Series is bound to be snapped up by speculative investors waiting for the inevitable hike in vintage market values as time flies (sic!) by.

Guitar Description:

‘I’m Mandy – Fly Me’. Landing at CRAVE Guitars is this fantastically cool 1984 Gibson Flying V, one of the company’s short‑lived but very distinctive ‘Designer Series’ models. These particular guitars are relatively scarce in the UK and I had to import this one from Florida in the USA. Thankfully, CITES regulations introduced in 2017 have been relaxed and no longer inhibit rosewood used in finished guitars from being traded across international borders. The combination of exchange rates, customs duty, VAT and fees, however, means that it cost significantly more than it is actually worth. Thankfully, I am not motivated by profit or ‘return on investment’, which is just as well, as I’ll probably never recover its value. Basically, I was on the lookout for a great Flying V and, thankfully, I bit the bullet. The ‘Designer Series’ was a bit of an experiment for Gibson, comprising a limited‑run of custom finishes. This specific Custom Graphic design is called ‘Style 31’ (ivory with black and silver pin‑stripes), one of just three special finishes available for Flying Vs in 1984. The unique and somewhat understated design cleverly accentuates the Flying V’s otherwise aggressive lines and was ideally suited to the 1980s ‘hair metal’ music scene. The original uncovered ‘Dirty Fingers’ pickups are simply superb, producing high power but retaining a clear articulate timbre, much more versatile than they might first appear. The whole package is ideal for classic and hard rock styles as well as venturing capably into blues, funk and country. Many Flying Vs and Explorers have had the pickups stripped out and replaced with aftermarket alternatives, which was a popular thing to do at the time. This one has thankfully remained all‑original and untouched, including its OHSC. The alder body makes this a light weight guitar compared to its more traditional mahogany peers as well. Like all Flying Vs, they are a pain to play sitting down but that’s par for the course. The neck is very comfortable and great to play. The old‑school Kluson tuners are rare to find as originals on this model. This V is completely stock and in excellent condition for its age, with a couple of small nicks and finish discolouration to give it a lightly aged look. It has probably spent quite a lot of its life hidden away in its case which is sad. A Flying V is clearly a guitar for confident exhibitionists rather than conservative shrinking violets with musical tastes to match. With a cool and rare Gibson Flying V Designer Series, one certainly stands out from the plain (or should that be plane) multitude. Get ready for take‑off.


  • Made in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. in August 1984
  • Ivory with ‘Style 31’ Custom Graphic pinstripes gloss nitrocellulose finish
  • Solid alder body
  • Rare original Kluson tuners with green plastic tulip buttons
  • Medium C‑shape maple neck with unbound 22‑fret rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original dual ‘Dirty Fingers’ uncovered humbucking pickups
  • Original chrome plated hardware
  • No scratchplate
  • Original body‑mounted 3‑way pickup selector switch, 2 volume and 1 tone knobs, strap buttons and jack socket
  • Original chrome Nashville Tune‑o‑Matic bridge and stop bar tailpiece
  • Weight: 6lb 14oz (3.11kg)
  • Original Gibson hard shell fitted case

Detail Gallery:

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