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Gibson Modernist Series Guitars

The Gibson Modernist Series is a group of electric guitars that were designed and released by Gibson in the late 1950s. Gibson president Ted McCarty led a team of designers to come up with guitars with futuristic appeal. The series consisted of three models: the Futura, the Flying V, and the Moderne.


The Gibson Futura, designed in 1958, had a a unique angular body shape with long, sharp horns. It was originally intended to be a futuristic-looking guitar that would appeal to young players. Only a handful of prototypes were allegedly made, and it was eventually rebranded, with some modification to the body proportions, and released as the Gibson Explorer. However, the Explorer was not well received at the time and only a small number were produced.

The Flying V, which was also introduced in 1958, has a distinct V-shaped body. The guitar was said to be inspired by the tailfins of 1950s automobiles. Like the Explorer, the Flying V did not sell well initially and fewer than 100 were made. Dealers who stocked them were seen using them as pointing arrow store window display props. It was reissued in the 1960s in a slightly different configuration, and has since become an iconic instrument, known for its distinctive look and powerful sound.

The Moderne was intended to be the third model in the series. However, the Moderne was never actually produced at the time and remained a mystery for many years. Perhaps the oddest shape of the three, the upper body was like half of a Flying V, with the lower half having a small horn and an atrophied tail. In the 1980s, Gibson finally released a limited run of Moderne guitars, but these were not true replicas of the original design. The original patent application shows the Moderne with the "Gumby" headstock seen here.


The Explorer and Flying V have become iconic instruments in the world of rock music. They are often associated with heavy metal and hard rock, and have been used by many famous guitarists over the years, including Jimi Hendrix, The Edge of U2, and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. Both guitars are highly sought after by collectors and players alike, and original examples can command high prices on the vintage market.

In recent years, Gibson has released various reissues and custom shop versions of the Modernist Series guitars. Despite their initial lack of popularity, they have become an important part of Gibson's history and have influenced guitar design for decades.

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