Eddie Van Halen’s 1975 Ibanez Destroyer 2459 “The Shark”

Eddie acquired this guitar sometime around 1975 after his Ibanez Flying V was allegedly stolen. According to Doug Anderson, he bought the guitar at the store called The Sound Chamber, and it was one of the first Destoyers to reach the US from Japan.

The guitar was bought on the same day that Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P. guitarists, Eddie’s friend) bought his Destroyer, which Eddie would then later borrow and use on Women and Children First (1980). The reason, why Eddie didn’t use his own Destroyer on that album, is that by that time he made some serious modifications to it, which according to him, ruined the tonality of the guitar (more on this later).

Original Specs

The Ibanez Destroyer 2459 model was based heavily on Gibson’s legendary ’58 Korina Explorer. It featured a clear finish on what is believed to be an ash body (lots of debate on whether Ibanez actually used Korina wood or not), a three-piece maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and two Ibanez Super 70 humbuckers with chrome metal covers.

Below is a video that shows a snapshot of Eddie playing the guitar in its original condition. It is one of the very few photos that show the guitar before all the mods were done to it.


Shortly after Eddie bought the guitar, he decided to paint it white. As far as when this happened, it was probably sometime in early 1976, since Eddie was first seen with the white Destroyer at the Starwood Nightclub gig on May 13, 1976.

When I first got the Destroyer, I painted it white. It was the same time that I painted my black-and-white guitar. After I finished painting that guitar, I figured that I might as well paint the Destroyer too.

Eddie Van Halen Shares the Guitars Behind His Quest for Tone

As noted in the quote above, Eddie painted the Destroyer at the same time that he painted another guitar. It sounds like he’s talking about the Frankenstrat because that was the guitar that had a black and white finish. But, based on Chris Gill’s research [The true origins and evolution of Eddie Van Halen’s legendary Frankenstein guitar], the Frankenstrat was first seen with this finish on July 15, 1977.

Also, there’s a pretty well-established history behind the Frankstrat guitar, so this whole story that Eddie told about painting the two guitars at the same time makes very little sense.

But, aside from painting the Destroyer white, it’s also worth noting that he replaced the original control knobs with white ones, originating from a Stratocaster. It’s also worth pointing out that both pickups at this time seem to be the original Super 70. This is important because it is assumed that the guitar was in this exact condition when Eddie used in on Van Halen’s debut album.

Eddie’s Ibanez Destroyer after the first round of mods. The body and headstock are white, and we see Stratocaster-style knobs.

Body Cut, Stripes Added

Sometime after the release of the band’s debut album Van Halen in 1978, Eddie completely changed the appearance of his Ibanez Destroyer.

Firstly, he apparently took a chainsaw to the body and made some cuts. He severed the lower horn below the control knobs and made a “V” shaped cut right straight to the center. He then presumably took another tool and made cuts along with this “V” cutout, so it would end up looking like a shark’s mouth – with cuts representing the teeth.

A stock Ibanez Destroyer body compared to Eddie’s design, with cuts made shown in dotted red lines.

After Eddie made the cuts, he covered the guitar with lines of tape and painted the visible parts with a red spray can. After removing the tape, this method would then of course leave lines across the body, showing the previous white paint.

Following that, be it for structural or aesthetic reasons, Eddie also installed two hook/hook turnbuckles to connect the two “horns” of the body.

As far as electronics, Eddie removed both of the original Super 70 pickups and installed a white humbucker in the bridge, and a black humbucker in the neck position. He also wired the pickups straight to the volume pots, so the guitar didn’t have a functional toggle switch at that time.

Even with what we call the Shark guitar – the Ibanez Destroyer that I cut a chunk of wood out of – it’s got two pickups in it, but I couldn’t figure out how to wire it to the toggle switch, so I just went straight to the pot and boom! I’m happy.

“There are no rules” – Eddie Van Halen: the last guitar mag interview

New Pickups?

As far as the exact models of the pickups, no one seems to know for sure. It’s possible that the white pickup was a Mighty Mite humbucker. This is based on the fact that the white humbucker on Eddie’s guitar shows no holes on the plastic bobbins, which is a characteristic of the Mighty Mite pickups.

Regarding the black humbucker, this was possibly a DiMarzio humbucker – but again, no one knows for sure.

A vintage Mighty Mite humbucker, showing no bobbin holes. Photo from: Reverb.com

Regrets Regarding the Mods, Destroyer Retired

Shortly after Eddie had done all these mods to his Ibanez Destroyer, he discovered that the tonality of the guitar was ruined.

I built what I call my shark guitar, which is actually one of the first Ibanez Destroyers [shaped like Gibson Explorer] made out of Korina wood. I made the mistake of taking a chainsaw to it and putting a bunch of weird stuff on it. It lost the tonality I want.

Young Wizard of Power Rock

From that point on, he used the guitar on very few occasions, but soon enough stopped using it altogether. But even so, the Ibanez Destroyer remained with Eddie until his death and should be considered an important instrument in EVH history.


As far as usage, the guitar was used extensively on Van Halen’s debut album. According to Eddie, he played it on all the songs that didn’t require a tremolo. Even though he doesn’t remember himself, most likely, at that point, the guitar was still white, and it still had the Super 70 pickups installed.

I used that a lot on the first album. I played it on every song that doesn’t have any vibrato-bar parts on it, like ‘You Really Got Me.’ I can’t remember what pickups were in it when I recorded the album – I was always changing them – but that was before I cut that big chunk out of it. 

Eddie Van Halen Shares the Guitars Behind His Quest for Tone
Eddie Van Halen playing the modified Ibanez Destroyer guitar.
Eddie was seen playing the modified Ibanez Destroyer in theYou Really Got Me music video.

Although the Ibanez was also seen on the cover of the 1980 album Women and Children First, according to most sources, Eddie borrowed a different Ibanez Destroyer from Chris Holmes to use on that album. The reason for this was, as already noted, that the tone of Eddie’s guitar was ruined after all the mods.

After Eddie’s Death

After Eddie died, the guitar presumably remained with his son, Wolfgang. Recently, he shared an image of the guitar on his Instagram profile, which confirms that the guitar is still with the family.

Image of Eddie’s Ibanez Destroyer was shared on Wolfgang’s Instagram page.


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8 months ago

I’d actually be surprised if cutting a piece of back of the ody back would have much effect on the sound of the Ibanez ‘shark guitar.

(Incorrectly wired pickups without a toggle switch would however definetely have a strong effect on the sound ;))