Eddie Van Halen’s Kramer 5150
Eddie started using this guitar as his main after retiring the Frankenstrat, sometime in late 1983.
It’s a workhorse. It served me for a very long time. When I retired my Frankenstein, that became my main guitar. I played it in a lot of videos – ‘Panama’ and ‘When It’s Love’ – and in the studio. I used that guitar up until I started using my Music Man EVH guitar. It still sounds greatEddie Van Halen Shares the Guitars Behind His Quest for Tone
There’s a lot of debate on the exact specs of Eddie’s Kramer 5150, mainly because it was a one-off, a custom-made guitar, and the official specs have never been revealed.
The body was probably made from ash, but some people are guessing it might’ve been basswood as well. But, ash seems way more likely, because it’s way more common and Kramer would probably use ash than basswood in the early 80s. The reality is, no one knows for sure, and it’s all just guesswork.
The neck was likely maple, as there’s a skunk stripe on the back.
The pickup in the guitar was allegedly a Seymour Duncan ’59 that was custom wound for Eddie. This, however, also seems to be based on speculation, as there are no quotes (to our knowledge) from Eddie or Seymour confirming this.
The finish of the guitar was heavily based on the Frankenstrat and featured the same red finish with black and white stripes.
As noted in the opening paragraph, Eddie used this Kramer from around 1983 as his main guitar. That changed around 1991, when he started using Music Man guitars.
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I really think this was one of his best guitars eddie has ever had
I worked there in the 80s. The neck was hand-picked by Paul Unkert who was tech in charge of artist guitars at the time. It was one of our standard maple Strat necks we used on Pacers, finished in high gloss which Eddie never used, so Paul carefully stripped the gloss off and later oiled it. BUT, before doing that, he cut the round part of the headstock off with a bandsaw, glued an additional piece of maple to it (epoxy) which also filled in the tuner holes, then sanded it smooth. Next he got a hold of a drawing of a 1957 Gibson Explorer headstock, drew that on there and cut it out with a bandsaw and then smoothed it with a belt sander and orbital sander. Then drilled the holes for the tuners, and Voila, the banana headstock for Ed’s guitar was born (Paul made me one also and I still have his shape drawing, on Kramer stationary, laying around somewhere). And here’s a fact that almost no one knows: for the red on the body and headstock, Paul bought 1980 Corvette Red R&M Lacquer from an automotive supply store in Asbury Park, NJ. THAT’S the red used on Ed’s guitar and a few others we built. I think the pickup was a Seymour Duncan Distortion, not a 59’er, but it almost doesn’t matter because, knowing Ed, he probably would have changed it with one of his from his stock at home. That’s definitely something we can’t know for sure.
Correction: Paul didn’t oil that neck… I just remembered Ed like the bare wood. I also just remembered Paul saying how long it took, with a razor blade, to get the finish off between frets without damaging the wood. For whatever reason, the frets needed to stay in, not get pulled to get the gloss off. Sorry, new stuff is now coming back to me, been 40 years. Yikes.