Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ventura Bruno V-35 (Martin D-35 Copy)

This is a great guitar that I recently found at the Oceanside California swap meet for the bargain basement price of $75. I didn't really need another guitar, but I just couldn't let it go and possible be bought by someone else who didn't know what it was or would have let their teenage kids beat the crap out of it or paint a peace sign on it. When I walked up the aisle at the swap meet and first spied it, another guy was checking it out pretty thoroughly. I had a bad feeling he was going to buy it, so I hovered close by. As soon as he put it down and walked away, I moved in for the kill. It had the original case, which is not always the case (no pun intended) and was in pretty nice shape overall. There was a small piece of binding near the neck joint that had come loose (which I later fixed), but otherwise it was all there and good to go. The guy originally asked $125, which wasn't a bad price really. But the picker in me just couldn't at least try to get it down a bit. I offered him $75 and, to my surprise, he took it.

The term "Lawsuit Guitar" gets thrown around pretty loosely these days, but this Ventura guitar really is from what is known as the lawsuit era. 

I'm not an expert on it myself, and some of you can correct me in the comments if I get this partially wrong, but basically the lawsuit era was in the 1970s when some of Japanese factories were making pretty much exact copies of some of the classic premium guitar brands. Everybody and their dog were knocking off Les Pauls (maybe most notably Ibanez and Tokai) and their were a lot of Gibson and Martin acoustic knock-offs. Takamine pretty much make a name for themselves copying Martin and Guild acoustics, right down to the logo look-alikes. Electra made Teles and SGs and 335s and Les Pauls. And there were countless others. One of pretty decent brands was Ventura. Even though the factories were in Japan and they were copying the big boys, that doesn't mean they weren't making good sounding instruments.

This Ventura Bruno V-35 is basically a copy of the Martin D-35, with the three piece back and the dreadnought body shape. This particular guitar that I bought has an adjustable bridge, which may or may not be original. It doesn't appear to be changed out, but in the catalog sheet I found, the bridge is not adjustable. So, that's up for discussion. The inlays on the neck were nice and the bound headstock looks very high-end. Many people claim that these guitars were made with Brazilian Rosewood, but they were not. The top is spruce, the neck is Honduran mahogany, and the back and sides are Jacaranda. This is where people get sidetracked on the Brazilian thing. They claim Jacaranda is Brazilian Rosewood and it's not. It's still nice and sounds fantastic, but don't be fooled.

The guitar sounded beautiful and I really wanted to find a good home for it. I put it up for sale on Craigslist hoping to find just the right person. The first guy that came to look at it was someone who collects '70s era Japanese guitars. In fact, he was Japanese himself. He took a very thorough look at it, determined that the top was laminated rather than solid, and immediately said thanks but no thanks. The next guy that came to look at it was also well versed in these lawsuit guitars and he determined that it is a solid top, but there were just little things about it that he felt weren't right for him, including the adjustable bridge question, and he passed as well. I began to think that maybe there was something up with this guitar...I mean, it played really well, and it sounded even better. It just needed the right person to fall in love with it. I lowered the price and tried again. Sure enough, a young musician who was looking for something vintage, beautiful and affordable came to look at it. He played it for about a minute, smiled and knew it was his. Perfect! The right person found the right guitar and I love it when that happens. We packed it back in the case and away it went. Another successful guitar adaption.


Anonymous said...

Love those ventura guitars. Nice story. You should have kept it. It was a beauty. btw I have 10 Ventura guitars.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 a v-6 amazing tone and a v-1583 I picked up for 10 bucks battle scarred and beautifull

Anonymous said...

Interesting story and comments. I have a Ventura Bruno V6 B672 Serial 66566. After reading several comments I'd like to know more about mine. It has no other markings on it except inside under and above the sound hole is what appears to be stamped with ink the numbers 318 or 818 the first number is somewhat distorted because of the ink used discoloring the pours wood structuring. Any comments will be appreciated.
Joe Ehly
April, 7 2014

Craig Blake said...

There were actually two Ventura models from different years that sported the V-35 Model number. The earlier version was adorned with the Ventura Moniker on the headstock and came with a variable height adjustable bridge (which is a turnoff to purest). Not sure which Asian maker contracted these for C. Bruno as he used numerous contractors? "Kasuga" (a better known contractor of that era) made some pre '71 models, but they were not the sole contractor. The latter version is favored as it looks remarkably like a D-45 Martin with all the Abalone trim and fixed bridge, the pickguard and bridge shape were different, but the headstock design was a dead giveaway of "Martinistic" design. Some claim these had Mahogany necks but I think it's basswood? The top is Solid Sitka, and the back and sides vary and are laminates to boot, but still very well made. Collectors are now taking interest in these "select" models, the V-6 model is no comparison to the V-35 or 696 models though. I have most of the Ventura sales brochures from the late 60's thru early 70's, feel free to contact me for a copy?
~Craig Blake,, 02/26/15

Anonymous said...

I have a 12 string I bought at Daddys junky guitar some 20 years ago... And its been on my last 3 CD's.. I like it..and nice to find all the information on it ! Rock On.