Navigator Esparto, natural finish, made in Japan 1977. Navigator was the first brand of guitars ever produced by ESP, launching in 1975. They were a small operation made in ESP’s Tokyo workshop, offering custom builds as well as a small number of stock models. This one hails to their first couple of years of production, and it’s a really, really lovely guitar. First up, the wood on show is really good. The two piece ash body is lightweight and resonant, showing off some gorgeous grain patterns on the top horn and behind the bridge. The neck is a straight, stable piece of hard rock maple with some sweet concentric grain lines, it’s both visually attractive and lively in the hands. It’s carved by hand to a moderate U-style shape, neither chunky nor skinny, and is one of those necks that instantly feels like an old friend. The neck and body are both finished in a ‘special varnished’ method, which is a super thin gloss nitro lacquer style of finish. You can see the ridges in the finish following the grain lines, it’s amazingly thin and really lets the grain do the talking. Original Fender Strats from this era can be made in a bit of a hurry and sometimes sound pretty thin, but this is absolutely immaculately crafted and has a supremely thick, assured, full take on the classic Strat-spank. The neck pickup is deep and vocal, with a smoky midrange and convincing sweetness on the top end. The bridge pickup is creamy and bright, but still full and fat. The in-between positions offer a sweet quack, but there’s a distinct hi-fidelity quality to the tone that lesser Strats don’t offer. These don’t pop in these parts very often at all, so if you’re after a delightful little slice of MIJ history, this will absolutely put a smile on your navigation dial.
Model: ESP Navigator Esparto SP-01
Made: Japan, 1977 approx (no serial on these)
Finish: natural, ‘special varnised’ nitro finish
Body: ash, two piece
Neck: hard rock maple, one piece inc board w/ skunk stripe, 7.25″ radius, 25.5″ scale, 70s U shape
Mods: back cover removed
Pickups: ESP Hi-Fidelity single coil x3
Case: basic non original gig bag
Cosmetic condition notes: mild finish wear. The headstock has some minor marks on the end and bottom edge. The neck is clean and smooth in the hands, minor dimples on the back only. The back has a couple of dents on the bottom edge and along the belly carve, as well as widespread light scuffs around the body. The sides have a couple of light dimple son both horns and some minor dents and scuffs in the elbow area and near the jack. The front has a couple of dimples near the jack, behind the bridge, in the elbow area and on the top horn, as well as some standard play wear on the guard and horns. Overall: very good condition (8/10).
Playing condition notes: Neck is straight, action is low, intonation is good, truss rod works. All electronics tested and working properly. The frets appear to be recently levelled, dressed and polished, but there’s some height gone, 7/10 for fret life left. Setup with fresh 10/46 Mooonshiners strings.