The semi-hollow ES shape remains one of the most alluring electric designs in history. The folks at Collings know this and, with their new I-35 LC Vintage, attempt a new instrument that feels like a broken-in guitar. Like most of their builds, the story is in the details – these Austin-based craftsmen revel in the minutia of perfection.
Collings’ design uses a smaller ES shape to make the I-35 series more accessible to solidbody players while retaining classic lines and adornments. Along with a redesigned maple center block, the I-35 LC V has a maple top, Honduran mahogany body and neck, and rosewood fretboard. Softly aged nickel hardware accompanies yellowed binding, tuner buttons, and toggle cap.
This latest LC Vintage is built with traditional laminate construction, but the Collings folks are sticklers for the resonance craved by discerning players, indicated by a gloss nitrocellulose finish that’s hand-sanded between coats and impossibly thin to make the tone shine through the amp. A new truss-rod design is part of the equation, along with two Throbak ESG-102B PAF humbuckers, Bumblebee caps, and DiMarzio 500K pots.
All of this is moot unless you consider playability and sound. In hand, the I-35 LC V’s neck is derived from the best ’60s ES examples. The profile is full enough to feel substantial in the hand and to transmit tone, but thin enough to be fast and comfortable – one of the most difficult balancing acts in all guitar-dom. Its 247/8″-scale neck is a hair longer than most, and Plek’d for good measure.
Plugged in, the semi-hollowbody yields massive flavors at every turn. One tricky balancing act is to achieve both acoustic and electric tones in one guitar while also providing a fast neck. Playing the I-35 LC Vintage, you can’t miss that Holy Grail acoustic air.
There’s a reason Collings guitars end up in the hands of so many pros, and the I-35 LC V shows why. If the price seems lofty, compare it to an early-’60s ES and suddenly it becomes a bargain. The LC Vintage is a guitar you’ll play for the rest of your life.
This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.