Home » For Three Short Months, Volkswagen Was Serious About Selling Guitars

For Three Short Months, Volkswagen Was Serious About Selling Guitars

Vw Guitar Car Ts3
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When you buy a new car, you might expect the dealer to throw in some options or accessories to sweeten the deal. Maybe an integrated picnic table, an in-car fridge, or a nice set of wheels. Back in 2006, though, Volkswagen went completely off-book when they started throwing in electric guitars with their new cars.

It might sound like a joke, or one of Volkswagen’s famously poor April Fools gags, but it was actually totally legit. It was part of an advertising collaboration between VW and guitar manufacturer First Act.  From October 3 to December 31 2006, you could get a guitar with your new Jetta, Jetta GLI, GTI, Rabbit, New Beetle and New Beetle Convertible, whether you chose to lease or buy. [Ed note: This wasn’t VW’s first slightly out-there ‘collab.’ Remember the bicycle-included Volkswagen Jetta Trek, and later, the Golf Trek of the mid-90s?]

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Vidframe Min Bottom

It’s one thing to throw in a guitar with a new car, but one detail pushed it over the top. You could actually use your car as a guitar amp!

First Act is no longer around as a guitar manufacturer, but it was best known for building instruments at the lower end of the spectrum. However, for this campaign, you didn’t just get some cheap run-of-the-mill starter guitar that you might find at Walmart. The First Act GarageMaster was built specifically for this promotion, with plenty of nods to Volkswagen itself. It came with custom VW logo knobs and guitar picks, along with a VW hand sign motif on the headstock. The included guitar strap was made out of seatbelt material, and the neck featured a mother-of-pearl inlay of the VW logo.

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The general shape of the guitar is somewhat similar to Brian May’s Red Special. The guitar used a string-through-body design, and it came with humbucker pickups in the neck and bridge positions. No tremolo was fitted.

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These guitars aren’t too hard to find for sale online. They’re not heaps common, but they’re also not heaps desirable, so that keeps prices low. via Reverb
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Note the string-thru design. via Reverb
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Note the VIN number. I actually managed to track this car’s build down online. It was a Jetta 2.0T with the DSG which sold for about $1,500 under sticker. via Reverb

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The guitar was never available at retailers—it was solely available with new Volkswagens. In fact, each guitar had the original vehicle’s VIN stamped on a plate on the back of the headstock. The pickguard was similarly matched to the color of the vehicle.

The whole campaign was advertised across TV, print, and the internet, with a website hosted at v-dubsrock.com. Sadly, that website is long gone, and remaining archives are difficult to parse thanks to the site’s use of now-ancient Flash technology.

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Note the “V-Dub” hand signs on the head stock.

The guitar could use a Volkswagen as a guitar amp thanks to some nifty design choices. Volkswagen had begun equipping its vehicles with auxiliary input jacks in this era. However, that alone wasn’t enough. A typical electric guitar only puts out a tiny amount of signal, far less than the output from an iPod or other MP3 player. The GarageMaster was equipped with an in-built preamplifier to boost the output from the pickups to a level that would work with the car stereo. It ran off a conventional 9-volt battery inside the guitar. All you had to do was set the stereo to the aux input, and plug in the guitar with a special adapter cable that went from the guitar’s 6.5 mm output to the 3.5 mm jack on the car.

Indeed, you weren’t stuck using the guitar with just Volkswagens. Thanks to the preamp, you could plug it into any car or other stereo that had an aux input jack. If you wanted to use the guitar with a conventional setup, that was possible, too. A switch on the guitar turned off the preamp, and you could hook it up to a regular amp with a standard guitar cable.

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 The guitar and accessories wore VW and First Act branding.
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The guitar came with a 6.5-mm mono to 3.5 mm stereo cable to allow the guitar to be plugged directly into the stereo’s Aux port.

Since the guitar already featured powered electronics onboard, First Act saw fit to include some extra functionality. The guitar featured an onboard distortion effect that could be switched on and off, along with an EQ shift. This meant that you could hook the guitar up to a car and play multiple different styles of music right out of the box, from clean plucked melodies to crunchier rock and metal riffs.

It might have been a short-lived promotion, but there was serious money involved. Volkswagen tapped Slash, John Mayer, and Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap for the ad campaign. We don’t have any clear idea on what it costs to hire Slash to record a 30-second commercial, but it probably comes out to the price of a small three-bedroom house in a decent neighborhood.

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Slash’s ad was probably the coolest of the three. Mimicking the traditional look of the Marshall amp stack, he’s flanked by two stacks of three Volkswagens each. He shreds away on the GarageMaster wearing his trademark top hat. Notably, his GarageMaster is black to match his outfit, with a black pickguard. Thus far, every other GarageMaster I’ve come across has been white, with only the pickguard changed to match the car.

Volkswagen didn’t stop there, either. Keith M Scott, a creative director who worked on the campaign, noted that the company also enlisted street musicians to promote the offer. They were sent out with the First Act guitar and a new Volkswagen, using the car as their amp while they performed out in public.

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The guitar also came with a booklet to educate owners on how their guitar worked. It included a guide to basic chords and playing techniques, as well as rock tips on wearing the strap right and naming your guitar. The tuning instructions are pretty basic, with Volkswagen hilariously suggesting that you could use the horn to tune your guitar in a pinch. Apparently, Volkswagen’s horns in that era delivered a C note. Realistically, this would be a terrible technique for a beginner. New musicians often struggle to discern pitch well, and tuning a guitar can take some practice if doing it by ear. Sitting in your driveway mashing away on the horn while you tune your guitar is a surefire way to get your neighbors to call the cops.

The campaign didn’t make huge waves in either the automotive or musical worlds at the time. For a start, it only lasted for three months, and First Act was by no means a guitar manufacturer of note. However, the guitars remain a notable curio and tend to trade for a few hundred dollars on the second-hand market.

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This would be the worst way to tune a guitar.

Contemporary reviews were relatively positive. Motor Trend did a full “Test Drive” on the model, playing it through a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Hilariously, the article was published three months after the guitars were available to the public. The reviewers credited the guitar’s decent build quality and playability. Sore points were the finicky pickup selector and tuning machines. As for the sound, we’re told it was remarkably versatile. In the outlet’s own words:

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The soul of the GarageMaster is encased within the vintage-voiced Alnico V “bikini-clad” humbucker pickups that provide the guitar’s native chimey sound. The full tones from the neck pickup have a jazzy flavor while the bridge position pickup yields a more concise and focused tone with a surprising amount of single-coil twang for a humbucker. Mixing them creates a warm, round tone with high-end bite. The tone shift switch changes emphasis to either the highs or lows-similar to the old rhythm/lead switches of 1960s Japanese imports.

After meeting the GarageMaster’s Dr. Jekyll, it was time to hear from Mr. Hyde. A slide of the distortion switch significantly alters the mood. Notes that once sang now screamloud. The pickup volume knob acts as moderator, dialing in more or less aggressive tone. Turn it down for a trickle of bluesy overdrive or crank it up to release a flood of sustainable hairiness. The Master volume now controls the gain or output to the amp. This preamp rocks!

Realistically, very few serious musicians would find themselves playing a GarageMaster. Similarly, it’s hard to picture someone purchasing a new Volkswagen in their late 20s and suddenly finding themselves touring the nation a few short years later.

And yet, what makes this promotion stand out is how much love and effort clearly went into it. First Act and VW could have just slapped a VW badge on an existing guitar and called it done. Instead, they went deep. They made custom knobs, custom straps, and custom guitar picks. They wrote a whole guidebook full of amusing quips. They shipped these things with custom cables and electronics so you could plug this thing into a car and rock out. Nobody’s ever wanted to do that before, or since, but the two companies made it happen.

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I can’t imagine dealers would have enjoyed guitarists rocking out inside the dealership.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that all that effort went into a campaign that lasted for just three short months. All that custom manufacturing and three celebrity appearances for a single season’s sales.

We’ll likely never see a campaign quite like this one again. Rock is dead, but perhaps we’ll see Roland start shipping drum machines that mount neatly into the center console of your Nissan Kicks or something.

Until that happens, I want to issue a challenge. Many of these guitars have been separated from their matching cars over the years. Go out and purchase one of these guitars on the second-hand market. Then, buy the used Volkswagen that matches the VIN tag on the back of the guitar. Take it to a local car meet, rock out, and send me the video. I’ll reward you with a year’s membership to The Autopian out of my own pocket. Pulling this feat off should only cost you a few thousand dollars, so it is in no way worthwhile. Regardless, it would be a grand achievement to wear on your sleeve as an enthusiast. Happy hunting!

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Image credits: Volkswagen, Reverb 

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Wuzilla
Wuzilla
8 days ago

I had one of these, but not because I bought one of the cars. If I remember correctly, VW had so many of these guitars after the initial promotion that they were basically giving them away to anyone who asked. I forget if my new VW purchase in 2002 had anything to do with it, or if a buddy worked that worked in the local VW dealer parts department had scored one for me. But I remember that VW was doing promotion after promotion to try and get rid of these things at the end.

I don’t play guitar, so it was purely an oversized piece of swag. I ended up selling it on ebay in the 2010’s during a move; even then, it took several relistings, and I think I ended up getting $50 for it.

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
8 days ago

I’m a guitar playing gear head and while I appreciate all that went into the guitar, both First Act and VW don’t interest me at all.

I did find it amusing that the horn was mentioned as a tuning aid. Back in the day of dial up phones we used to use the dial tone. I think it was an A.

I wonder if they talked about making the horn a different pitch for better ease of tuning.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 days ago

> Rock is dead

Boomer take, divorced from reality.

That was a cool campaign! And I confirm that straps made of seat belt material are awesome.

Protodite
Protodite
8 days ago

Oh man I have one. No only that, but I’ve had one since they came out!

Our local VW dealer had one up for a charity auction, and my parents won it, gave it to me as a birthday gift, and it’s been my electric guitar ever since. The built in pre-amp is fun cuz you can just plug in headphones and play and not piss everyone else off – kinda like the electric drum set approach.

I’m not terrific by any means, and I have a much much nicer acoustic I consider my real guitar, but I love my blue and white VW piece. It’s just fun!

Chris Campbell
Chris Campbell
9 days ago

I remember the VW iPod Promotion of 2003. With cool stickers!

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
9 days ago

I hope these were made to a higher standard than their standard production. First Act made beginner guitars sold in box stores. I remember checking one out, I think at Best Buy, and the protruding fret ends were sharp enough to draw blood.

Second point, I wouldn’t put much weight on a guitar review on a car magazine. Not any more than one would value a car review in a guitar magazine.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
9 days ago

This promotional hit right around the time I was both a Volkswagen fanboy and an aspiring guitarist. I recall it very clearly, and I remember wanting to buy a First Act-equipped VW. Alas, I was just short of getting my license and so was unable to actually get my hands on one of these cars or guitars. I’ve had a lot of guitars since then, including a couple First Act beaters, and can comfortably say I no longer need a VW or a FA in my garage.

In retrospect, it’s odd VW didn’t partner with a higher-quality brand. Fender seems to whore themselves out to anybody.

Alex Zaretskiy
Alex Zaretskiy
9 days ago
Reply to  Cam.man67

Fast forward around 7 or so years and there was an option to equip a Fender-branded sound system in a VW. Seems like a lost opportunity to me.

Chairman Kaga
Chairman Kaga
9 days ago
Reply to  Alex Zaretskiy

And it’s a pretty great factory system! I think it’s actually Panasonic or Clarion hardware with Fender logos, though. Allegedly Fender did work on the speaker voicing and EQ parameters. The system in my 2017 GTI is the best factory systems I’ve ever owned.

Billy Suter
Billy Suter
9 days ago

First Act’s normal guitars were pretty crappy, but they did have a decent custom shop for a while. They made two Rickenbacker 4080-style doublenecks for Takeshi of the Japanese band Boris.

https://mixdownmag.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Takeshi-First-Act.jpg

Chairman Kaga
Chairman Kaga
9 days ago
Reply to  Billy Suter

From what I can gather their custom shop stuff was actually pretty great because they’d hand-build just about anything you could dream up. Sorta like Kiesel, but not quite as pricey.

MP81
MP81
9 days ago

Meanwhile I thought this article happened to be about the Fender audio systems in the cars. Had no idea this was even a thing!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 days ago

Whoa, I had no idea they did this. This is awesome. Slash is my favorite guitarist. I also just watched Spinal Tap again- that movie is hilarious…so does this go to 11 too?!

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
9 days ago

Mid-00’s VW commercials still live rent free in my head (especially these and the UnPimp Zee Auto GTI commercials). So, I guess it works. I still think of VW as the semi-premium brand that it was (it’s not anymore). I miss Piech VW.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

They went from being baby Audis to

*checks notes*

.…less reliable Hyundais

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
9 days ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

Time to un-pimp ze auto.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
9 days ago

My mother-in-law bought a new Beetle that came with one of these guitars. As others have commented, the guitar was absolute trash.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
9 days ago

True that most First Act guitars were garbage, but like the rest of this promotion, the guitar itself was a lot more than just decent.

If First Act had offered something this good sooner, they might still be in business. Probably not, because their brand name just screams “entry level”, and there isn’t much profit there, and they couldn’t sell any high-end models to make up the shortfall.

I’ve played guitar for decades. I’ve played a friend’s VW First Act, and I’d rate its build quality better than most Squiers, somewhere a step or two below an import Fender. Far below an American made Fender, though. I was pretty impressed. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that he refinished the fret ends, set it up, and serviced it better than the factory by the time I played it.

For sound quality, the pickups and selections available were very interesting. The built in distortion was nothing special and only worth using if you didn’t have your own pedals or digital modeler.

If I can find one at $200 in good condition, I’m definitely buying it. I’d forgotten about these, I and really do love oddball guitars that punch above their image.

Last edited 9 days ago by PaysOutAllNight
Chairman Kaga
Chairman Kaga
9 days ago

Like most budget import guitars, it probably just needed a pro setup and some fret dressing to make it perfectly fine. You could go nuts and replace pots and wiring, too.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 days ago

Oof. Craptacular guitars to do a tie in with your semi-upscale (at the time) car brand.

Though I will be the guitars can be found, good freaking luck finding the 00’s VWs that they would have been paired with. I’d imagine most have been crushed by now.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
9 days ago

See, I thought this article was going to be about the Fender branded audio systems (made by Panasonic) available on some VWs. A whole custom guitar to go with a car is wild!

As a side note, the concept of a built in pre amp for a beginner guitar is a great idea – saves having to buy a dedicated amp. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of it. Maybe it’s got something to do with kids not being interested in picking up guitar now…

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

Actually lots of kids are picking up the guitar. It’s still very relevant. Go on any social media platform and you’ll see tons of the youths shredding…they’re just not really playing in the old school, heavily pentatonic based style that’s been the norm for so long.

Lots of the new players are girls too, which is cool! Artists like H.E.R., St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, etc. are inspiring lots of folks to learn how to play. There’s also a whole new wave of female virtuosos which I think is really neat.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
9 days ago

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the guitar is going anywhere, it’s still definitely relevant. Yes, there are definitely kids who are still interested in learning (my 11 year old son and some of his friends for one) but I don’t think learning the guitar holds the same gravitas it did when I was in high school. Taking a quick listen to the music my kids (all born post 2010) and their friends enjoy (when I’m not influencing what they put on) reveals why. It’s samples galore, synthesisers, drum machines and autotune.

Having said that, I don’t spend time on social media so I have to concede I don’t have my finger on the pulse as much these days.

James Carson
James Carson
9 days ago

This is good thing to hear.

James Carson
James Carson
9 days ago
Reply to  PajeroPilot

The only time I ran into First Act guitars were as music school entry level gear paired with 5 w solid state amps. They were pretty bad unless set up properly. A good setup could cost about 50% of the new price.

There are numerous battery box add on boosters one can stuff into the control cavity of a guitar for a few bux.

Nathan Gerdes
Nathan Gerdes
9 days ago

Step 1 complete (guitar purchase). It was surprisingly cheap; I’m no stranger to shitty cheap guitars so we’ll see how it plays (and see what the VIN pulls)

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
9 days ago

Weren’t First Act guitars sold by Wal-Mart? I recall seeing them there and thinking “Who buys a guitar at Wally World?”

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Parents buying their kid a guitar for Christmas. I would bet this covered something like 95% of those that were sold there.

John Beef
John Beef
9 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I don’t know about Walmart but I did see them at Toys R Us.

Bob
Bob
9 days ago

Not dead. And maybe not even that hard to find, thanks to the algo. Punch up something from The Pretty Reckless, that will probably get you to Lzzy Hale, and then you’re off and running.

Bob
Bob
9 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Talking Frusciante makes me think of my old neighbor Ian MacKaye, one of his producers and an owner of Dischord Records, which is still putting out records by Minor Threat, which aren’t selling any worse now then when the band was young – which is to say MOST rock bands didn’t ever sell. The difference is that they can publish on their own now, and I can find them from my couch. The music is still out there, there are just a lot more than three TV channels now, so no show gets 80 million viewers and not many episodes get talked about at work the next day.

We’ve just started talking about rock in so many different genres that no one knows what we’re actually debating anymore. There’s something about shoes? Grind what? And the difference between post-punk and post-punk revival?

Dave Grohl, and he gets a vote, says Billy Eilish is rock now. OK with me, because I’ve been hearing this story for literally 50 years:

Down at the Astoria the scene was changing
“Bingo and rock were pushing out x-rating
“We were the first band to vomit at the bar
“And find the distance to the stage too far
“Meanwhile it’s getting late at ten o’clock
“Rock is dead they say
“Long live rock

“Landslide, rocks are falling, falling down upon our very heads
“We tried but you were yawning, look again
“Rock is dead
“Rock is dead
“Rock is dead.”

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  Bob

No disrespect to Taylor or Lzzy intended, but neither of their bands are doing anything particularly unique. Rock still exists but it’s in a very bad place. The main issues are that originality is frowned upon and the scene remains obsessed with ancient icons. I mean, for fuck’s sake…bands like AC/DC, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Metallica, etc. are still headlining festivals.

The music doesn’t appeal to anyone other than old heads at this point and the closest thing it’s had to mainstream relevance has been the recent emo/pop punk revival and Stranger Things making Master of Puppets and Running Up That Hill popular again…but those are old ass songs!

The kids don’t care about rock anymore and, like it or not, they’re the ones that dictate the direction pop culture goes in. The genre and all its subgenres needed to evolve yesterday and haven’t. What recent (last 10 years) rock bands are culturally relevant right now?

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
9 days ago

Gotta disagree. My kids are teens and early twenties and all love rock. Their friends all love rock. They listen an sing along. They got to rock concerts and they play play rock instruments. Rock fandom is going though a revival amongst the youtes.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
9 days ago

My 13yr old son wearing his favorite Pantera shirt would disagree with you.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago

You’re kind of making my first point for me, actually. Pantera is a 40 year old band. And don’t tell me the current tribute act that’s touring as them has any significance whatsoever…no Abbott brothers=no Pantera.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
9 days ago

I should’ve put context to my reply, I was remarking on this
“ The kids don’t care about rock anymore”

And I absolutely agree, I have no interest in whatever is the current version of Pantera.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
9 days ago

Lots of great recent bands out there. The Beths, Last Dinner Party, Fontaines DC to name a few.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

I do not get the Fontaines DC hype. I can’t really talk when it comes to vocal chops since I can barely carry a tune on a good day, but their frontman’s monotone delivery grates on me really fast. I’ve never really understood the appeal…if I want to listen to post punk type stuff I’ll just throw on some of Uncle Adrian’s favorite records. I don’t really see it as a sound that needs to be resurrected but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that Molchat Doma album everyone went nuts over in 2020 even if there wasn’t anything that mind blowing about it.

The Beths are pretty alright. I liked Expert In A Dying Field and I think they’re a great band lyrically speaking. My wife likes them too because her favorite genre of music is sad women playing guitar. The SiriusXM indie channel plays them a fair amount and I certainly don’t rush to turn them off.

The Last Dinner Party has serious industry plant vibes. I have a hard time believing their overnight rise to relevance and critical adoration was completely organic. I do like Emily’s guitar playing though. It’s kind of Brian May-esque and the solos fit the songs quite well. I’m a guitarist myself but I can’t stand solos that are there just to be there. If it doesn’t add anything to the song then skip it. I actually feel like Emily’s solos are the highlights of Last Dinner Party songs.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
9 days ago

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything organic about the music industry these days, even the indie stuff. I do think LDP’s debut album was pretty excellent though. They come across as less “planty” than Wet Leg, at least.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Wet Leg is so unapologetically weird that I have a hard time believing they’re plants. I’ll put it this way…if I were a corporate music entity I don’t think the band I’d be trying to make an overnight success would be a pair of friends from a random British island who dress up like lobsters in their videos while singing about wet dreams chaise lounges…

Last edited 9 days ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
9 days ago

I saw LDP play Seattle a couple of months ago. Very energetic, and they definitely know how to play. Their fans – especially the female ones – seem to reeeeally love them. They probably should thank Kate Bush and Florence Welch though…

Last edited 9 days ago by Widgetsltd
Dodd Lives
Dodd Lives
9 days ago

I’d have to disagree with this, too. My 14-year-old is a metalhead, and while he’s big into classic Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, etc, he’s always introducing me to new metalcore and djent bands. Maybe mainstream radio rock is dead, but there’s always innovation and new sounds on the fringes – which is way more interesting, anyway.

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
9 days ago

In a past life, I was a luthier at a small chain of music stores in and around Texas. I used to get First Act guitars from time to time, and they were hot garbage (they’re dead now, so I can say that… which will make more sense momentarily). They were cardboard and chewing gum and marketing and pretty much nothing else. For instance, I recall one coming in for a set of strings. No biggie, right? Only they were so terribly awful, that one of the tuning knobs broke off in my hand from the sheer act of using it. Garbage guitars. Absolute worst I’ve ever seen. Hated when they came in, as did every other tech and luthier. One guy at another store had one come in, and had clearly had similar experiences. He refused to work on it, stated why, and that should have been it. Only Walmart sued our pants off for stating the obvious and put the whole chain out of business. Their defense was something like “we have a great replacement policy” or some bullshit. So, were the poor kids whose parents didn’t know better supposed to return/exchange the guitar every time a string broke? We can’t be buying them new guitars or sending them for an exchange every time the spit holding them together dried out. Stupid nonsense. F*** First Act. Glad they’re dead.

Last edited 9 days ago by Spectre6000
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

This really was the golden age for terrible import guitars. It’s wild how much better beginners and those on a budget have it today (which is a good thing). You can roll into a shop, leave with a Squier for a couple hundred bucks, and have a guitar that will serve you just fine for years. Or you can order a Harley Benton. I remember picking up a Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster in a store a few years ago and liking it so much I nearly bought it.

But anyway, in the 2000s $1-250 got you any ass tier guitar you could imagine and everyone was in that game. I remember getting a $150 BC Rich Warlock when I was 14 that absolutely fell apart within a few weeks. All my buddies had an assortment of Squier and Epiphone junk around that time and it was brutal passing guitars around. All of them had bad fretwork, dead spots on the neck/assorted warping or bowing issues, and they all sounded abysmal.

Add in the proliferation of Line 6 Spider amps and it was a goddamn aural shit show of biblical proportions. There were a few First Act guitars bouncing around and they may have been the worst out of the bunch other than the true bargain bin Strat copies that came in kits with an amp, cable, gig bag, etc. You could find those at department stores for like $150 and they made Squiers of the time feel like American Fenders…

I often wonder how many people gave up on the instrument as a result of how terrible affordable equipment was back then. I’m sure unplayable guitars turned a lot of folks off. I’m glad beginners have it better today. You shouldn’t have to suffer through an ass tier instrument in addition to the challenges of learning how to play in the first place.

James Carson
James Carson
9 days ago

In the 70s I had to suffer through mosrites, greco, ibanez, raven, teisco, yamaha, westone, tokai and others until I graduated to fenders and gibsons. Went a little backward when David Lindley popularized old junk guitars and again when punk and new wave did the same thing. Eventually figured out that the sound was in the player and the amp not the guitar.

CivoLee
CivoLee
8 days ago

Say what you want about the Walmart-level stuff, but the Studio for Artists was legit. Perry Bamonte of the Cure had one, as did Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and one of the guitarists in the Drive-By Truckers had one too (may have been Jason Isbell, can’t say for sure). And they really tried to bring that to a wider market with the SFA series of mid-tier instruments. Unfortunately, you only get one chance to make a first impression and having debuted with Walmart-level stuff alone made them difficult to take seriously. Hell, when I first heard about the Studio for Artists, I imagine that the promo was more First Act’s idea than Volkswagen’s.

Many people see First Acts as good modding platforms these days.

And even if some lower-tier guitars in the 90s and 2000s had construction quality issues, at least they were playable for more than just open chords, unlike the cheap instruments of the 60s. Jack White used a Whammy pedal to play leads because his old Montgomery Ward Airlines were too hard to play in the upper registers.

Last edited 8 days ago by CivoLee
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 days ago

As an old person, factory guitars at any price point around $200+ are so very much better than $200 guitars 30 years ago (which in today’s dollars is way more) it’s not funny. I’m so glad kids can pick up a cheap instrument and rock out with their pudenda out for years.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
9 days ago

Meh, Kia Cee’d came with a free Eric Clapton.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocqfxt6EkxY

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
9 days ago

I like when VW did pairings with other brands; despite K2 selling out and moving their ski production to China, I still think the K2 Jetta is pretty cool.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Honestly we need more collabs with automakers.

Collabs are great.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 days ago

This was a very cool campaign. Not surprisingly I saw more runs of the ad with Slash than the other two combined. I didn’t even know they did one with Nigel Tufnel.

So why hasn’t Jeep come out with a promotion where you can get a VIN-matched gun with your vehicle?

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
9 days ago

This needs to be pitched to SNL. Seriously.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 days ago

Sadly, the time has passed. I always think of things like this after there is a little too much distance to make the joke work. I had thought about emailing The Onion a suggestion for having Pope Francis declare that sizzurp was also a gift from God but I didn’t think about until a few weeks after he had called wine a gift from God. That delay is why I don’t write jokes for a living.

VanGuy
VanGuy
9 days ago

Also, last I checked, Onion does not take outside suggestions.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago

There are few things in the world I find more bleak than the fact that American manufacturers essentially engineered gun cases into their trucks. You can tell me that the small storage space under the rear seats is for something other than guns, but I won’t believe you. I’m not even one of those “take everyone’s guns” types either…hell I’ve owned guns. I just find it so depressing that they’re so omnipresent in our society.

I also love that Jeep is now putting backwards American flags on their trucks in a nod to the US military. So goddamn cringy. In case your 6,000 pound, 12 MGP Grand Wagoneer doesn’t say yee haw quite loud enough for your tastes Jeep has you covered. But anyway, giving all the buyers an AR15 with a serial number that matches the VIN would be perfect lol.

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
9 days ago

There’s an old man in my neighborhood who’s put one of those blacked-out backwards flag on the rear bumper of his Nissan Sentra.

The amount of chaotic energy this gives off is both amusing and disturbing at the same time.

Last edited 9 days ago by MY LEG!
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 days ago

“giving all the buyers an AR15 with a serial number that matches the VIN would be perfect lol.”

Introducing the new Dodge Colt…

MY LEG!
MY LEG!
9 days ago

oh god don’t give them any ideas.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 days ago

Completely unaware of this sales campaign. Pretty cool if somewhat strange, but then it is VW. If the build quality of the guitars matched the period VWs there may not be many left functioning. Also, like First Act guitars, most of those VW models are no longer sold (at least in the US). Fun read.

Last edited 9 days ago by Canopysaurus
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 days ago

Makes me remember the VW-Trek mountain bike tie-in from the ’90s.

I appreciate how VW goes beyond simply buying the rights to a brand name for a trim line (cough, Ford) and actually gets into the thing itself.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
9 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Saab 9-5 Gary Fisher Edition, complete with matching bike, bike rack, and slide-out cargo tray, says hello.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 days ago

The most niche of all special editions I would imagine. I expect nothing less from Saab.

Protodite
Protodite
8 days ago

That was a thing?!!

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
8 days ago
Reply to  Protodite
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 days ago

*looks at 2000s VW*

🙂

*looks at current VW*

feelsbadman

Anyway, one of the VW guitars actually found its way to my high school. One of my buddy’s parents bought a VW and gave him the guitar since he could actually play. We were all pretty excited when he bought it into the unofficial music room but were subsequently pretty disappointed in how it played and sounded.

I noodled on it for a few minutes and was unimpressed. The one he had sounded very hollow. There wasn’t a lot of body to any of the tones we could coax out of it and stuff in the higher register sounded kind of squeaky/ice pick-ey. None of us were exactly connoisseurs of fine instruments at that age but it didn’t hold up to the assortment of secondhand Fenders and faded series Gibsons that we’d managed to wrangle.

Regardless, this was such a cool promotion and I agree that it’s hard to imagine a manufacturer doing anything like this these days…although while rock is certainly a reanimated corpse shambling along these days guitar is still very popular. The kids these days are all over Tik Tok and other platforms doing assorted interpretations of the twinkly neo soul type that Polyphia, Chon, etc. really put on the map.

I certainly can’t play like them and they’re keeping guitar relevant, so they’ve got my respect. In fact if a company wanted to do this today I think the wise move would be to offer an Ibanez and have a bunch of folks that are covered in tattoos from head to toe tapping and hybrid picking on them. But then again cars are so goddamn expensive now that I don’t think much of that generation is in a place where they can buy them, unfortunately…

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
9 days ago

Actually, Brazil’s VW had a special edition of Gol, called Gol Vintage, to celebrate car’s 30 years. It came with an amp and a Guitar. Only 30 of these were done.

There isn’t much information about it nowadays, but this definetely came to my mind when I read this.

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