I wanted to give our first proper post over to a guitar I previously owned until recently – the Westone Thunder. Westone was a brand that has slipped into memory since its heyday in the 1980s. Made in Japan by the Matsumoku Industrial Co. Ltd, Westone was responsible for some classy looking guitars that didn’t break the bank, and are still well thought of to this day.
The Thunder is a model I particularly liked primarily on its styling. As you can see, this is the one I owned for a few years, and the racing stripe and cherry grained wood was what drew me to the guitar initially. OK, I’m a bit shallow when it comes to guitars, I go by looks rather than what they actually sound and play like. I love the aesthetics of them. Specific shapes and features really appeal to me, so the Westone Thunder became a top looker thanks to its stylings.
I was pleased to find that despite their lower price-point, the guitars were well made as well as good looking. Made in Japan, the build quality and components are of a high standard despite the low price tag. The Thunder comes in several models and colours. Mine was a Thunder I, but there were successive revisions (II and III) with added circuits and the addition of a straight-through neck.
Colourwise, over the years, I’ve seen a green model, the cherry red pictured and most commonly in a natural wood finish. The grain is always heightened and the central stripe a bold design feature. I’m not a fan of the more every day looking natural wood finish one, it’s a bit dull for my taste, but the red cherry is just right. It looks a lot less red in the real world, like an aged Gibson SG, but the grain is very prominent. The high gloss finish and nicely proportioned headstock make this a sleek design somewhere between an SG and a Gordon Smith GS1.
The neck on my Thunder I was a bolt-on job, chunky in a friendly way and robust, with a rosewood fingerboard. You might notice the dials on the one photographed are not the originals. Every other model I’ve seen have brass knobs, but I have to say I prefer the look of these Strat-style knobs. Sound-wise, the double humbucker pick-ups gave a good rocky sound, full of crunch. It felt solid, reliable and well built. I’m missing it now, as we speak.
Here’s some specs on the Thunder I.
Body: Laminated Ash, Maple and Walnut.
Neck: 3-ply Maple.
24.75 inch scale.
Two Magnet-F450 humbuckers.
One volume and two tone controls.
3-way pickup selector and coil tap switch.
Brass knobs, nut and bridge.
There’s lots of great info on their guitars and the other Westone Thunder versions here.
Below are models currently listed at eBay. You should be able to pick up a Thunder I for less than £250, which I think is a great price for a vintage 1980s looker of this quality. You’d struggle to get a brand new budget Squier or Epiphone of the same build quality for that price today.