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Tokai FV 80 Flame Maple Top

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The Tokai "V"

Tokai's V-shaped guitar was first introduced through a teaser advertisement in its 1982 catalogue. Only a silhouette of the iconic shape was shown along with the tag "April Release",  suggesting that the model it would be available in April 1983. The top of the catalogue explains, "A limited edition and limited production model full of super specs will continue to be produced in parallel with the regular model. These models, which are regularly produced by the Tokai Electric Guitar Project Team, are sold out immediately after their release, but due to the special circumstances of limited quantities, if there is a constant demand for purchases, they will be produced again as encore products... after receiving an order, it will be manufactured in 1 to 3 months. We would like to continue to produce super guitars that reflect the times, which should be called super editions. Please support us."

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1982 Tokai Catalogue

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1983 Tokai Catalogue

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The 1983 catalogue then presents the V shape available in 5 models of the "FV" series, similar to the format of the Xplorer and the STAR made by Tokai at the same time. The main differences between models were the number of humbuckers, the sophistication of the pickup wiring and controls, the bridge hardware, and the finish. Tokai asserts that the Vs take the tradition of Rock 'N' Roll guitar design to a higher level with an instrument that is a "cut above in value, feel and performance" with a "no-nonsense level of professionalism".


1984 Tokai Catalogue

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The 1983-1984 catalogue then moves on to present two V-shaped series: (1) the TFV which is designed to be a replica of the Gibson Flying V, and (2) The FVD which was the "FV" earlier. The TFVs came in 3 models with TFV 80 being the top model that came with a flame maple top option, while the FVD had 5 offerings but the numbering had changed - with the highest model now being the 120. 


1985 Tokai Catalogue

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The model name and numbers kept changing across catalogues, but the last mention of the V-shaped models was in the 1985-86 catalogue. It does not feature anywhere after that, making it an approximately 3-year production run. Why so short? Maybe because the demand for these models did not sustain production? After all, the 1982 cataogue did say these were limited edition products and would only be produced as long as demand supported it. 

The rest of this article focuses on a guitar I recently acquired - the Tokai FV 80I love doing research on these vintage instruments, and so here is a synthesis of information from all the catalogues and websites I could access...


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c. 1985 German Catalogue

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The serial number on my guitar dates to 1982 production, when the company published a teaser announcing the soon-to-be-launched V shape. But the first catalogue to feature a series of guitars in this shape was in 1983. Interestingly, that catalogue does not have an "80" model, but my guitar's features match the top-of-the-line "60" model in that catalogue. This might imply that my guitar was an export model and hence the number was adjusted to match pricing in the export market (since the numbers of these models typically correlated with the price). Another reason I am sure it is a '82 production is that the headstock logo is what is known as the "fat script" or "export" logo and was used between 1982-84, based on this very interesting thread on (link).


This is tricky! The one thing I know for certain is that my guitar is the top-of-the-line variant in the series because it comes with the flame maple top finish. But what did it cost? The second highest model (FV 55) in a US 1983 catalogue was priced at $475. Considering this, we might estimate that the top FV 60 model was priced at around $520. This was about the cost of the absolute top-end Tokai Strat ST-120 just a year before it. 


To understand the origin of the V-shaped guitar, we must go all the way back to 1957-58 when Gibson introduced three futuristic-looking models -  The Explorer, Flying V, and Moderne. A prototype of the "V" was presented at the NAMM show in 1957, and the model made its way into the 1958 catalogue where it was priced at par with the Gold Top Les Paul. Notice the "Cadillac" tailpiece and Korina (Limba) wood natural finish of the first model. These details, along with some others, changed over the subsequent decade. 

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1958 Gibson Catalogue

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Initially, the modern guitars were a failure in terms of sales - the Flying V only sold about 100 over the first few years of its introduction. Then, in the 60s some popular players like Albert King and Jimi Hendrix were seen with the Flying V. The model was reintroduced in the late ‘60s as seen in the 1966 catalogue.
Since then, a bunch of players have at some point experimented with the V or made it their main guitar, including Tom Petty, Brian May of Queen, James Hetfield of Metallica, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and many more.


1966 Gibson Catalogue

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Over the subsequent decades, the Flying V firmly established itself as an iconic design in the Rock 'n' Roll scene. This led companies like Tokai, Ibanez, Charvel-Jackson, and ESP to make replicas or designs inspired by it in the 1980s.


1981 Ibanez Catalogue

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1983 Charvel-Jackson Catalogue

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The 1983 US pricelist suggests that the FVs were made of "Ash" but I think it was Sen because that was the Japanese equivalent of Ash used on many Tokai guitars. The top of the body is a two-piece book-matched flame maple cap. The main body is made of three pieces of wood, as is apparent from the seams on the back side. The guitar weighs 3.4 kgs or 7.5 lbs.



The 1983 US catalogue calls the top end FV model bridge system the "deluxe tremelo". You can see "deluxe" imprints on the 12:1 ratio tuners that are vintage styled. The 1984 catalogue explains that the "Top models are standardly equipped wit the Super-Vibrato Unit containing a tuner lock mechanism. A thriling, emotional sound that will satisfy even the hardest-to-please guitar players is created.


The FVD headstock is a departure from the original Gibson Flying V or the Tokai TFV replica of the Gibson. Instead, it is more aggressive and modern in its shape. The decal sticker says "Tokai Super Edition" and "The Quality Musical Instruments of The World with 'The Extra Tokai'". The decal at the top of the headstock has an image of (what seems to be) a flying dragon and "Special Series". The Tokai logo is a shiny sticker resembling mother of pearl inlay.


Neck & Fretboard


To begin with, fretboard is a thin, inversely radiused rosewood laminate fretboard, similar to what was used by Fender from 1962 till the end of that decade. Easier-to-build "slab" rosewood fretboards that were flat and not inversely radiused were used before and after this period. The laminate process requires much more complex manufacturing and must have been quite expensive, but more desirable because it was thought to be a more stable construction over time. Tokai's 1981 catalogue explains the reason that the laminate fretboard is used is that " is superior in acoustic characteristics and strength compared to the flat fingerboard". The laminate is an interesting option for the FV 80; why would Tokai invest in the added effort and costs to give this - otherwise - modern spec guitar a very specific vintage spec fretboard? Maybe they were doing a production run of rosewood laminate ST necks at the time and so it was cheaper and easier to just use the same process on the FV?

A maple fretboard option was also available. The FV has a painted headstock to match the flame body. The maple neck has a 25 1/2 inch scale, with 22 frets. 1984 catalogue explains, "By adding one fret to the 21-fret neck which formed the mainstream of previous detachable necks the sound range has been expanded". Finally, I was very surprised to find that the fretboard has a 7.25" radius. I was expecting a 12-inch radius since this is supposed to be a shredder! As far as the shape of the neck is concerned, the 1983 catalogue describes it as a "V and oval combination neck - fast action, easy string bending".

The neck attaches to the body via a "4-bolt offset grip neck fastening system". The catalogue elaborates, "The detachable neck revolution that Togai boasts to the world; Unlike the conventional plate system, the 10% deep Phillips nut L4 screw is independent and perfectly joined, boasting outstanding strength and long sustain. In addition, we have changed the shape of the heel part of the body and neck, which was impossible with the conventional plate method, and succeeded in a heelless cutaway even though it is a detachable neck system. The bold cut of the heel part and the shape of the flow make it possible to achieve outstanding playability at the right position".



The truss rod is the Allen key style, unlike the Philips style rod ends used on some Tokai strats at the time. The rod is adjusted from the bottom of the fretboard.



My FVD 80 has a flame maple top. This was a special colour that came with an additional cost to the topmost model in the series. The 1983 catalogue lists the FV 55 as the highest spec "V" model but then adds that there is an FV 60 too which is a "55 model with a Flame Maple select top". The finish seems to be poly, based on an alcohol swab test I did myself. The body has white "celluloid" binding that has aged into a lovely ivory colour. 



As per the 1983 US pricelist the top end FV was equipped with the P1-14BZ humbucker pickups with zebra bobbins - maybe that's why it was called "BZ"? This set of electronics came with the "dual sound system" activated by a push/pull system. As explained in the 1984 catalogue, "The dual sound system produces two different sounds with just one pickup. One is a coil-to-coil connection in series, which is the usual humbucking sound. Unlike the single-coil sound that can be obtained with a coil tap system, the advantage is that the humbucking effect is preserved, resulting in a clear, noise-free sound." My tests showed that the neck and bridge pickups present about 4.1 ohms when using the single pick-up sound option. In the regular humbucking option, the neck presents 8.1 ohms and the bridge presents 8.3 ohms. The neck is warm and easily pushes my small tube amp into a warm overdrive, while the bridge is articulate and crunchy!


1983 Tokai Catalogue

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1984 Tokai Catalogue

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The 1984 catalogue claims that these electronics also came with options for coil tapping, a 5-position toggle switch with phase-out half-tone options, and a booster switch to create an overdrive sound with the help of a battery. I could not find any of these settings on my guitar. They must have been available on customer request only?  

Finally, the 1983 catalog claimed that the "double shielded electrical control cavity keeps it quiet", and "hand-wound humbucking with 5 leads for custom wiring versatility".

Control Knobs & Switch


A toggle switch with three positions allows you to choose betwen neck, bridge, and both pickups. There is one volume and one tone knob. The tone knob has a push/pull feature. When pulled up the "dual sound" function is activated and the pickups sound like single coils - their outputs are reduced to around half of what they are when in the pushed down position where the pickups work like typical humbuckers. 



The nut looks and feels like the typical strat-style Tokai bone nut. An old catalogue explains “The nut is made from cow bone. Tokai's craftsmen pay the utmost attention to the machining of this part, so it goes without saying that the finish is superb! This is a very important part of the guitar, so a lot of time was spent on it.”



  1. Tokai catalogues (link)

  2. Tokai catalogues (link)

  3. vintage Tokai catalogues (link)

  4. Fender catalogues (link)

  5. thread on vintage Tokais older than 1985 (link)

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