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Based on the famous Mosrite “Ventures” model, the Univox Hi-Flier electric guitar is a vintage six-string with a checkered past.
The Hi-Flier, first manufactured by Univox in 1968, was an inexpensive reproduction by a company with a reputation for making “copy guitars,” based on other highly successful industry favorites. When it comes to the Hi-Flier, Univox set out to imitate the American made Mosrite “Ventures” model.
From 1968 through 1982 Univox, based in Westbury, NY, produced replicas including Mosrite’s “Ventures” model. First made famous by the group for which it is named and again years later by Grunge god, Kurt Cobain, other details about Univox and its Hi-Flier are a bit sparse. The Univox website provides some information about its history and designs:
“Also around 1968, the famous Hi-Flier line was started, which continued for several years. Around this time Univox also started copying Les Paul’s and the Ampeg Dan Armstrong. In 1971, Univox introduced its “Badazz,” a copy of a Guild S-100. Some of these copies were actually made by Aria, which seems to have made a lot of copy guitars for other companies.”
Aria is a Japanese instrument maker.
Famous axe slingers wielding a Univox Hi-Flier are not easy to come by and why would they be, especially since musicians can afford to buy the original, the real thing. Though high profile rockers may not have had a need for many Univox electrics, for some young players, Univox was a welcome option.
Contrary to Univox, many artists have performed with a Mosrite in hand. The company’s history, accessed online, is impressive:
“Founded by Semie Moseley, Mosrite guitars were played by many rock and roll and country artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures, The Ramones’ Tommy Tedesco, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Davie Allan, Kurt Cobain, Joe Maphis, Buck Owens, Larry Collins, Buck Trent, Nick McCarthy, the MC5, Iron Butterfly and Dottie Rambo, Arthur Lee Love, Fred Sonic Smith, Ricky Wilson, Kayama Yuzo, and Kevin Shields. Virtually everyone who is anyone has owned a Mosrite at some time in their life.”
That’s quite an endorsement.
Mosrite, initially located in Bakersfield, was established in 1952. The noteworthy company still manufactures domestically in Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to its company site, “Univox guitars were built by the Matsumoko guitar factory in Japan, which were suppliers to Aria, Westbury, Westone, Epiphone, Fender Japan and several other brands at the time. In 1988, a disastrous fire shut Matsumoko down for good, at which point, most of the other brands went to Korea’s Samick Musical Instruments to continue production.”
The end of Univox
By the late 70s, the parent company of Univox, Unicord, decided to end the product line:
“In 1978 Unicord stopped making the Univox line of guitars and equipment. They switched to an original line called ‘Westbury’, which lasted until about 1982.”
The “new” Hi-Flyer
Eastwood® Guitars makes a reproduction of a 1970s version of the famous Univox Hi-Flier model, spelled with a “Y.” Eastwood’s® current copy has a solid basswood body with a maple set neck and rosewood fingerboard, two P-90 pick-ups and a three-way selector switch.
Rounding out the musical package is a Tune-O-Matic bridge, available with a stop bar tail or roller and Kluson style nickel/chrome tuners.
Suggested retail price for the Eastwood® repro is $599. Mosrite’s sell for $2,000 and up.
The Univox Hi-Flier, perhaps best described as a blue collar classic, is a legendary imitator that could have been a contender.