The Super Flighters were constructed in Yamaha’s fabled Nippon Gakki factory in Japan between 1977 and 1984, which if you know your vintage guitars will speak for their quality straight off the bat. During this time, much like Lucas Film, Yamaha came out with three evolutions of the Super Flighter each with three slightly varying models.
Specs & Sound
Yamaha guitars have always carried the brand’s ideals of innovation and quality, and the SFs were no exception. Their modern inflections and attention to detail allow them to keep pace with today’s mass produced guitars, even with the use of Plek machines and other technology that has revolutionised the industry.
With the first generation of SF, Yamaha stayed true to most conventional specifications and features of the day but with a few (mostly) subtle improvements and tweaks. These guitars have an excellent reputation for playability thanks to an incredibly low and accurately cut nut from the factory. Even ones bought 40 years later are still sporting a stunningly agile set up thanks to the accuracy and care given at the factory. A small detail that nods to Yamaha’s innovative style are the three-point adjustment pickup surrounds. The extra adjustment screw on the bass side of each pickup allows for that little bit more fine tuning, as well as stability for the pickup on its mount.
These days, when buying a humbucker fitted guitar you’d almost feel cheated if it didn’t come with a coil-split option. In the late ’70s this wasn’t as common as it is now, and so Yamaha’s feature of the “bi-sound” switch on the SF1000 was a fantastic selling point at the time.
As years went by and designs evolved, the SFs started trying to break into new territory with features like on-board distortion circuits. Sadly this level on innovation proved unpopular to the masses and so the later generations are largely forgotten.
One design feature that the SFs are also renowned for is the upper fret access. The positioning of the lower cutaway in combination with the slim-lined neck heel allows for super comfortable access to all 24 frets.
Rarity & Value
It goes without saying that a guitar almost 40 years old and only made for a short period are going to be hard to come by! The real trouble, if you’re serious, is finding one in good condition. Of course, this is a problem for any vintage guitar, but especially one marketed the way of the SFs. These were very much sold as a player’s machine, of excellent playability and unrivalled versatility, so it’s quite a challenge to find one without the customary battle-scars – fret wear, buckle rash and the like. This won’t be a problem if you plan to use the guitar for its intended purpose, but this will make a collector’s job an awful lot harder!
Further roadblocks you may come against could be your location. Yamaha had plenty of trade links with Europe, but their American market was not so strong. If you live in Japan, even better! It only takes a quick eBay search to see how many are floating around there, but importing will cost a whole chunk of extra cash just on tax and shipping, yet alone the now dreaded CITES fees…
Tips For Collectors
Don’t plan to “pick up a case later”. If you’re a serious collector and want the original hard case, hold out until you find a guitar that comes with it. The “SFC” cases just don’t appear to exist as stand alone items. They may have been available for purchase way-back-when, but on the second market? No chance.
Keep a keen eye open for modifications. The classic is for people to have added a mini-toggle switch on an SF700 to add the coil-split or “bi-sound” feature. If you familiarise yourself with the model specifications, you’ll notice that in the first gen of SFs, the SF1000 was the only one with the bi-sound switch.