We know what you’re thinking: “Ummm… Dodge convertible. If I could have one, I’d take a ’70 Challenger R/T, Hemi, four-speed, Plum Crazy finish!” Ah…yeah. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? But this is a guitar mag, buddy, and when we talk Dodge Convertible, we’re talking a very purpose-oriented, versatile stringed instrument created and built by Rick Dodge, of Tallahassee, Florida (reserve snide political comment, please!).
This Dodge Convertible is the latest version of the interchangeable pickup module concept that has been tried to varying degrees of success by a handful of builders and manufacturers. The Dodge is a solidbody guitar, available as a bass or standard six-string in single or double cutaway, featuring mahogany or maple tone woods, with retail prices ranging from $950 to $1,199. The modules run an additional $240 to $395 depending on pickups and electronics.
What makes the Dodge unique is the modules – and the way they’re applied. Installed, the module makes up the majority of the interior of the body of the guitar, and contains the complete electronics – pickups, switches, and plug jack. The modules (which are made of wood) fit tightly, make solid contact with the body, and pop out of the back of the instrument by loosening a large, knurled thumbscrew on the bottom edge of the guitar, where an output jack might normally be. Bridge grounding is accomplished through a spring-loaded ball bearing in each module that makes contact with a metal bar near the bridge.
We tested a maple single-cut with a pretty translucent blue finish called Blue Pearl. The guitar has a 91/2″ radius rosewood fingerboard on a very comfortable C-shaped neck. Scale length is a standard 251/2″. The bridge is a Mann-Made hardtail with optional string-through body. The overall weight – 8.5 pounds with module – is pretty average, and it has nice headstock-to-body weight distribution.
Tone Tool Test
We ran the Dodge through a ’76 Fender Twin Reverb with master volume and stock speakers, a ’77 Marshall JMP 50-watt half-stack (with modded preamp) with 25-watt Celestion Greenbacks, and a Peavey Ultra Plus head and 412 MS cab with Sheffield speakers.
We test-ed each module with an approximate counterpart; a 1986 Fender Stratocaster ’62 reissue, a stock ’59 Fender Esquire, a ’68 Gibson SG Standard with DiMarzio PAFs, and a new Peavey Firenza with Peavey’s P-90 copies.
Our first test module was Dodge’s Full Spectrum (list $275), which features three Harmonic Design Strat-style single-coil pickups, and a five-way switch. The module has the standard one volume/two tone setup. Through the Twin Reverb, we noticed a very punchy sound, with good string balance. The JTM offered much the same, and the modules out-of-phase setting was very authentic – but a little bit dark – compared to the Strat.
The Jar Bone module ($250) is a Tele-style with Harmonic Design Tele Plus pickups. Compared to the real-deal Esquire, the module’s bridge pickup lacked a little bit of brightness and punch. This could be simply because it is positioned further from the bridge, plus the Esquire’s bridge and pickup are one unit. The HD pickup is also wound hotter, so by nature it produces less high-end. This module’s strong points are the middle and neck positions, which sounded great – and the neck position is particularly impressive!
The next module, Field of Screams ($290, and winner in the “Clever Name” category, by the way) featured Harmonic Design’s P-90 copies. They offered a very fat (bordering on obese) Tele sound in the bridge position, run through the Twin. Through the Marshall and Peavey amps, it sounded great in all positions – very smooth and dark! It compared favorably to the Peavey Firenza, offering up a more round, dark tonal mix.
The Critical Mass module ($270) carries active EMG 85 humbucking pickups. Because it’s obviously aimed at the more heavy metal-prone customer, we ran it through the crunchiest amp of the bunch – the Peavey – and it delivered on the promises made by its looks; plenty of low-end thump and loads of sustain! How’d it sound through the Twin? Yeah, right…
Next up, the Lesspaulmorerick module (read it slowly…), which has two Seymour Duncan ’57 humbuckers with Standard Les Paul control wiring. We ran it up against the ’68 SG and it sounded quite good, but had a bit less note definition (a fact attributable more to pickup winding and body woods). Through the Twin the module delivered a good clean tone, and through all amps, in fact, it delivered fine tones in all positions. Our only knock is the position of the toggle switch; depending on how aggressively one strums, it could be knocked out of the desired position. Given the space on the module, there really isn’t anywhere else it could be placed, so one would simply have to be careful.
Finally, we tested the most expensive module available – the Continuum ($395). It features a Seymour Duncan Custom in the bridge, a Duncan Little ’59er in the neck, and the Stealth Sustainer (by Sustaniac), also in the neck position. The Stealth Sustainer acts like an onboard E-bow sustainer. If you’ve never monkeyed with one of these, basically it can hold a single note indefinitely, regardless of volume (it’s an electromagnet that induces string vibration). The system uses two push/pull pots; one activates the sustainer, the other sends the sustained note to a higher harmonic or octave note. It’s a fun gadget.
The Dodge Convertible is a great idea for the player who wants/needs a variety of sounds without having to haul an arsenal of guitars. Also, if you’re the type of player who doesn’t adapt to the feel of a different guitar at the drop of a song, the Dodge allows you to change sounds without changing the feel of the neck shape, fretboard radius, string spacing, scale length, etc.
Rick Dodge Convertible
Type Of Guitar: Solidbody electric with interchangeable pickup modules.
Features: Available as a bass or standard six-string in single or double cutaway, with mahogany or maple bodies. Rosewood fingerboard with 91/2″ radius and scale length of 251/2″. Modules offer a range of pickup configurations and volume/tone knob choices.
Price: Guitar, $950 to $1,199. Modules, $240 to $395.
Contact: Rick Dodge Guitars, 2120 Longview Drive, Tallahassee, FL, (850) 562-4331, www.dodgeguitars.com
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Mar. ’01 issue.