Greco Project Series – custom shop before there was a Custom Shop
In late 1976 Greco announced the creation of a custom shop line of guitars that it called Project Series. This was a decade before there were Gibson (1986) or Fender (1987) Custom Shops.
When I asked in Japan what the Project Series was, I was simply told these were ‘custom shop before there was Custom Shop’
Project Series guitars were limited to certain models which were built to a higher standard than the normal catalog models and could also be customized. Initially these guitars weren’t in any catalog, but later showed up as Project Series models above the rest of the product line.
Creation of the Project Series line was a distinct move away from making cheaper copies of other brands, to offering high end models based upon the strength of the Greco brand. These models were still largely based upon models of other brands, but were built to exceed the quality of those brands at the time.
Project Series saw the introduction of very high end LP and 335 models like EG 1200, EG 1350, EG 1500 and SA 900. As well as the SE 1000 and SE 1200 inspired by Fender Stratocasters, which a few years later they would in fact be making for Fender Japan. The model numbers coincided with the prices, so the SA 900 was 90,000 yen and the EG 1500 was priced at 150,000 yen. Reading Japanese websites and blogs the Project Series guitars were clearly out of reach price wise for the typical musician or enthusiast at the time, which only added to the mystique of these guitars.
The introduction of these models also coincided with significant steps forward in pickups made by Maxon in Japan, with special pickups reserved for these models. For example, the U-1000 humbucker spawned multiple versions, with the U-4000 being reserved for Project Series models.
Initially the same was done with Maxon Excel (PU119) single coils or in the case of SE 1200 the guitar came with Dimarzio FS-1 Fat Strat pickups which were very expensive in Japan, being offered by Greco for 18,000 yen in 1977, when their base Strat type model was priced at 45,000 yen.
If you wanted a Project Series guitar it had to be ordered through Greco ‘Special Agent’ dealers or direct through Kanda Shokai, Greco’s parent company. They would group these orders into lots of about 40 guitars, which would then be built together.
Once built, Project Series guitars were delivered in special Greco Faultless cases which had a large gold and black plate attached declaring all in caps FAULTLESS CASE FOR GRECO GUITAR. To further protect the guitars they were placed inside a ‘silicon cloth’ protective bag made from a fabric similar in feel to a thin felt. Project Series guitars also came with a lifetime guarantee.
Project Series came to an end with the introduction of the Super Real series in 1980, which built on the Project Series by offering more high end models, but also shifting to tying these models much more closely to the specifications and construction methods of vintage models. In Japan, Project Series guitars carry a mystique and some models are highly sought after by collectors. Outside of Japan Greco’s Project Series is still largely unknown, especially compared to Super Real or Mint Collection. When I first stumbled on these models and asked in Japan what the Project Series was, I was simply told these were ‘custom shop before there was Custom Shop’.