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Hondo Chiquita Travel Guitar

I recently picked up a unique and somewhat rare Chiquita Travel Guitar.  This guitar was designed by Mark Erlewine in the early 1980s with input from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.  The idea was to create a short-scale electric guitar that you could take as carry-on luggage and play on a bus, plane or wherever.  The guitars were manufactured by Samick in Korea and sold by Hondo, a division of IMC.   Several different colors and styles were made, including models with swtichable double-coil and single-coil pickups.

Back_to_the_future Mine is in bright yellow, same as what Michael J Fox played in the opening scene of "Back to the Future."  I must admit, when I first got the guitar and opened the hard-shell case, I burst out laughing.  It's quite something to see this bright banana-colored instrument nestled in the lush velvet interior of a case.  It's like seeing a gold record for the Ramones.  It's a great guitar but not something you need to take too seriously.

Despite it's low-cost manufacturing, the guitar is very high quality.  It has a neck-through design, a nice Schaller bridge and the original DiMarzio distortion humbucker pickup.  There's no tone control though you can back down the volume from 10 for a slightly cooler sound.  Otherwise, it's crunch all the way.

The Chiquita weighs just over 4 pounds, making it incredibly light.  It measures just 28" end-to-end, almost a foot shorter than a typical electric guitar.  The Chiquita achieves its compact size by using a short-scale of just 19" which feels like you're playing a regular full scale guitar with a capo on the 5th or 6th fret. 

Since it uses heavier gauge strings (.013) you're able to get a very good tone out of the guitar and can still play in standard tuning (EADGBE).  The Chiquita sounds great for open chords, power chords etc.  But the compact scale can take some getting used to, especially as you get to the 12th fret and beyond.  Because of the short scale, you don't have to bend very far to get a half-step or two of tone.  Which is good because the heavier gauge strings give more resistance than typical light-gauge electric strings.  But again, it's mostly just a question of getting used to it.

Unfortunately, Hondo discontinued the Chiquita in 1985 and these guitars have become somewhat rare now.    You can sometimes find them on eBay for between $250-$300.   Erlewine Guitars continues to sell high quality hand-made versions of the Chiquita, but they are quite expensive, clocking in at over $600. 

Check out the video below to see an example of the guitar in action.

Comments

I want one - I can finally be McFly - genius. I will be checking ebay daily. Thanks for posting.

Actually, I'm thinking of selling this or swapping for a Roland eBand JS-8. But prefer to do a local swap (SF Bay area) rather than have to ship it.

--Zack

Nice article. The Hondo Chiquita looks all right.

I have one in red, 3 way switch and hardshell suitcase with battery amp.Very enjoyable and quite a conversation starter.

Nice guitar.I think it is made just for traveler :)

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