Under construction...

1981 Kramer Pacer Special with killer graphics
EVH Chorus with a blue and cream striping pattern, which came out in early 2018
KnE body painted
Pacer Special body zoom with All Sound Alnico V Twin Blade humbucker
1981 West Germany Schaller tuners
cool paint job

Another striped Kramer, and yes, I know there were no 1982 Kramer Barettas. So first a little history...

In 1981, Kramer began making a single humbucking guitar with a volume and tone knob, along with a phase/split-coil switch. This production model, called a Pacer Special was one of the first to cash in on the Van Halen-inspired simplicity of having a Strat body with a single humbucker. This model also featured a Strat headstock.

In late 1981, Kramer began getting involved with Edward Van Halen and that business relationship began producing results in 1982 with a custom-made Kramer double neck that EVH used on the Diver Down tour, the colorfully taped Purple Pacer, and the the infamous Walker Frankenstein copy (used toward the end of the tour). In terms of the changes to the Pacer Special, Fender threatened Kramer over the use of the Strat headstock, so the soon-to-be-famous Kramer "beak" headstock appeared on the '82 Pacer Specials (pictured with Rockinger trem). Kramer's involvement with EVH also led to the inclusion of the Floyd Rose tremolo, and later Pacer Specials that year included the first factory installed Floyds.

EVH became more public with his Kramer partnership in 1983 and in late May that year, he played the US Festival with a Kramer-logo'd beak neck on his Frankenstein (the last concert with the legendary Frankenstein). The '83 Pacer Special stayed the same through most of the year, but around the time Van Halen filmed their Jump video in November (where EVH again showed off his Frankenstein with the Kramer beak neak), Kramer shook things up. With influence from EVH, Kramer took the single humbucker on the Pacer Special and slanted it like EVH did on his Frankenstein guitar. Kramer also streamlined the electronics with a only single volume and changed the beak headstock to a Gibson Explorer shape. Most importantly, Kramer gave the model a new name - the Baretta. NOTE: Charvel was slanting humuckers in the late 1970s, thanks I'm sure to EVH. For more info on the Kramer Pacer Special and Baretta, check out Vintage Kramer's site:

Kramer Baretta history
Kramer Pacer (Special) history

Ok, so back to my EVH 82 Baretta Special guitar project. I wanted to build something that Kramer would have built in maybe late 1982 - basically a combination of a Pacer Special and a Baretta. The controls and the neck are all Pacer Special, and the slanted humbucker screams Baretta. And of course it has a Floyd. The body is an alder KnE and the neck is a maple Master Blaster. I painted the body to loosely resemble something that's related to both the white/black version of the Frankenstein, and also the black/yellow Bumblebee - but in red & white. I lightly aged everything and applied a period-correct Kramer waterslide and went with a 1980s Kramer neck plate.

For the electronics, I used a real EVH Frankenstein humbucker and went with a pickup ring. One volume and one tone control and I used black speed knobs like on the old Pacer Specials. The Floyd Rose is an '87 model that I bought back in the day for my old Ibanez Destroyer. Trust me, I would love to track down and buy an old Kramer Pacer Special, but they are not cheap. I pieced together a Kramer Baretta years ago, although it's actually a Focus 1000 body with a real Baretta neck, and that's enough for me on that.

Overall this '82 Kramer Baretta/Pacer Special is a tribute to those old Kramer guitars that I would see on the walls at Guitar Center as a kid, dreaming someday that I would own and play one. Especially a striped one!

June 2017


You got to love these 1980s Kramer Focus bodies. Simple alder wood with quality ESP construction, and ready to go for Super Strat Floyd projects!

So this one started off with me finding a stupid deal on a metallic red Kramer Focus 3000 body and I quickly decided to do something really similar to my Kramer EVH 78 Frankenstein - leave the stock base color alone and simply tape the classic EVH design and spray one color over it. So I left the metallic red, taped it up, and painted the body Golden Sunset. I think it turned out pretty cool and the yellow/red color scheme really reminds me of one of Eddie Van Halen's 1980 stage outfit 1 2. And it's also similar to my Kramer EVH Frankenstein II guitar, but a different stripe pattern and without the black.

For the neck, I went with another rosewood Master Blaster and added a Kramer Pacer Series - Patent Pending waterslide decal. Other cobbled parts were a partial black pickguard with a cream knob, an old Kramer neck plate, Gotoh tuners, Schaller strap buttons, and an unplated Floyd Rose.

For the electronics, I placed a dummy single-coil pickup in the neck position, an aged 5-way switch in the middle, and a cream Guitar Parts (GP) Zone Custom Alnico 8 swapped magnet humbucker in the bridge cavity, which I raised up with some additional wood. The GP Zone humbucker is F-spaced, so I screwed it in straight, but the real work was swapping out the stock Alnico 5 magnet for an Alnico 8 - something I've been doing lately for kicks.

The guitar is set up nice and since the Kramer-ized neck has the classic beak headstock, I call it an '83 tribute, as Kramer began switching away from these to the banana shape in 1984. It looks 100% Van Halen, and the customized pickup actually sounds really good!

November 2018


A Van Halen take on the 1984 Kramer Baretta "Holy Grail" guitar.

The early Kramer Barettas had the unique banana/hockey stick headstock that EVH preferred, and I was inspired to put together a "Holy Grail" after seeing Musikraft's two banana headstock designs - the "5150" and the "Holy Grail". I have ordered plenty of the "5150" necks, so I went with the HG option B on this build, tracking down a used 1986 Kramer Focus 1000 body for the rest of the wood. The body came with a unique paint job that I briefly considered keeping, but I ultimately stripped the paint, striped it black and white, and then taped it up and painted it red. The previous owner of the body evidently added a tone control hole so instead of closing that one up, I hid the original volume hole and used the newer, farther hole for my volume. Something different.

I wanted to go with a 1984 theme, but I didn't want to do EVH's 1984 Kramer (on tour in 1986), so I used a No Bozos neck plate, modeled after the shirt EVH used in the famous Kramer guitar ad, circa 1984. I also added an 84 decal on body back, and placed a 1984 quarter under the Floyd. And I added two red stars to the headstock - similar to the neck on EVH's Kramer 1984 used on the '84 tour.

For the electronics, I can't leave well enough alone with humbuckers, so I took apart an old Seymour Duncan Distortion humbucker and replaced the stock ceramic magnet with an alnico 5 (unoriented) magnet. Sounds great, and apparently it's a common mod. I went with the standard Schaller strap buttons and I tracked down an old set of West Germany Schaller tuners for authenticity. And the chrome Floyd Rose I used on this one dates back to 1985 - another wonderful example of German manufacturing.

This was a really fun project as I customized everything I used. The axe has the classic VH looks and the altered Duncan humbucker sounds better than expected and really adds a cool, custom vibe.

April 2019


It all started with a killer deal on an old Kramer Focus body. Just add paint - lots of paint.

During the summer of 2017, I found a deal on a 1985 red Kramer Focus 3000 body and decided to build a twisted version of a Frankenstein around it. Those old 1980s Kramers came in a deep candy red and I prefer more of an apple red, so the first thing I did was rough-sand the body and spray it regular red. I striped it up and then painted it white. Didn't look too cool just yet. I then taped it up for the Frankenstein stripes and shot it black - now it looked really cool front and back. So instead of the standard Frankenstein order of black, white, red, I went red, white black. So basically I switched the red and black stages. Not sure how twisted that is.

Other parts were needed so I tracked down a good deal on eBay on a Musikraft 5150 neck, but with a rosewood fretboard, and painted the headstock to somewhat match what I had going on the body - so far, so good. For the pickup, I went with the same solution I used on my Kramer 5150 83 Prototype - a Seymour Duncan Designed humbucker (HB-101B, which is the overseas bridge position version of their 59 Trembucker) with an FU-Tone Pickup Mounting System. Even though this was for a Frankenstein tribute model, I didn't feel like re-routing the body for the crazy Frank bridge route and filling in the wood where needed (because of the deeper height-adjustment screw areas), so this pickup wasn't going in slanted. I also tracked down a partial black pickguard and a dirty white tone knob and wired everything up. And of course, Schaller strap buttons, Gotoh tuners, mid-1980s Kramer waterslide, and a dummy switch and white neck pickup. I even added a star decal to the headstock, in honor of the 5150.

The last stage of the build project was to age the body (as well as the neck, pickup, hardware, etc.) and that was a lot of fun - I think it turned out well. I went with a an old 1980s chrome Floyd Rose and I took the plating off of the saddles, like I've done with a few other Floyds. And last, but not least, I went with my traditional 1976 quarter, but instead of showing the 'drummer' side, I drilled and notched it like EVH's famous 1971 Frankenstein quarter and screwed it to the body so the Washington side shows.

Musikraft necks are perfect, and the Duncan Designed humbucker gets a solid tone. A lot of painting, but it came through with what I was looking for - a twisted Frankenstein.

January 2018

Under construction...

1986 Kramer Baretta II with blue "flip-flop" paint job
'86 Baretta II body - note the elongated horns with flatter top
the only Van Halen-related Kramer Baretta II - the 1988 "Monsters of Rock" guitar
1986 black Kramer Focus 6000 body
modern Kramer Baretta body - Frankenstein style
black Floyd Rose and a custom Seymour Duncan JB with a swapped rough-cast, un-oriented Alnico 5 magnet
black vintage "W. Germany" Schaller tuners
chrome Kramer neck plate
empty SC routes from the Focus 6000
good-looking Kramer

A red & black tribute to my Red Devil II guitar.

In May 1984, I purchased the Red Devil II - a beaten-up, black body with red stripes and eventually added a maple Explorer-style neck. Fast forward to 2015 - I took apart my Kramer Circus guitar and sold the loaded body, but kept the maple Warmoth hockey neck for another project. But what? Around the same time, I figured on a similar guitar to EVH-signed Devil, so I ordered an alder 5150 body from KnE Guitars, and I was ready to go. I sprayed the body red, striped it up, and then sprayed it black. I used thicker stripes (like the Devil) with a similar pattern, and it looked good.

I left the Warmoth neck as is with the natural headstock and the black, mid-1980s Kramer logo. I went with the black Schaller tuners I had on the Circus (swapped the black buttons with chrome ones), along with the black Floyd R2 locking nut. I even left the DKS on the back of the headstock. The headstock on the Warmoth neck (2002 KWS model;) is short and stubby in comparison to EVH's banana, Explorer-like headstock - sort of like the headstock on the newer EVH 5150. And for the pickup, I went with the Jalen Pinnacle (Franky) zebra humbucker with a pickup ring and wired it up to the standard single volume pot. Add an older chrome Floyd Rose, chrome Schaller strap buttons, a cream Tone knob, an old Kramer neck plate, and a 1976 quarter, and I was in business.

Even though it's basically a Baretta with a straight bridge humbucker (5150 guitar), it's really more of a Pacer Special - a tribute to Kramer's original one-humbucker guitars from the early 1980s (see Kramer Pacer (Special) history). In fact, it's similar in design to my Kramer EVH 82 Baretta, but without the slanted pickup and the tone knob. Before Kramer slanted the humbucker and called it the Baretta, the Pacer Specials were actually a close representation of what EVH was doing with the single-pickup guitar, and these models evolved over the years to basically be Kramer's EVH model:

1981 Kramer Pacer Special
1982 Kramer Pacer Special with Rockinger
1982 Kramer Pacer Special with Floyd Rose
1983 Kramer Pacer Special
1983-84 Kramer Baretta

The Jalen humbucker sounds really good, and I like the look of the red and black striped pattern - certainly looks like an old friend, although with some obvious differences (rear loaded vs. top loaded) and I see different shades of red. Brings back memories, and at least I can play this one without worrying about damaging an EVH-signed guitar.

February 2018

Another recycled Kramer guitar.

After finding good deals on a 1986 Kramer Focus 1000 body and an '85 Focus 1000 neck with a banana headstock (separate guitars) in late 2018/early 2019, I decided to put them together. I stripped the paint off the body and then painted it red. I then taped a nice EVH pattern and sprayed it silver and was pleasantly surprised at how good it looks (although I wish I would have used a darker red). I performed the same steps on the headstock and added a vintage Kramer waterslide, and I was in business.

For the humbucker, I had a nice standard-spaced SIN EV79 that I picked up cheap, and wired it in. I have a few Van Halen-inspired, SIN pickups and they all sounds great. I had recently put together a black Floyd Rose with chrome saddles, and it looks good on this guitar. To keep with the black/chrome theme, I used black clamps on the chrome Floyd R2 locking nut, and black washers with the chrome Gotoh tuners.

The finished product looks cool with the silver/red striped combination, and I feel good about recycling these old Kramer parts!

April 2019


Under construction...

Musikraft Richlite "Holy Grail" neck
silver Kramer American waterslide
black Schaller tuners
black Floyd Rose with chrome EVH D-tuna, stainless steel screws and titanium block inserts
SIN EV78-F humbucker
Knobeez Jazz/MXR rubber knob
tungsten steel Floyd Rose fat sustain block (42mm)
"Tungsten is over 4 times denser than titanium and more than twice as dense as brass. To equal the mass of our tungsten sustain block, you would need a titanium block 4 times the size and a brass block double the dimensions of our tungsten block. No other sustain block offers the perfect combination of mass and hardness."
unique paint job

In January 2001, I purchased a used Kramer Baretta off the Web, basically because it had a 1980s headstock that I didn't own yet (the black pointy headstock with the Kramer American logo in gold). Well, the body wasn't a Kramer American, it was a Chandler, so I sold it and the EMG 81 it came with and kept the rosewood Kramer American neck and the black Floyd Rose. While neither of these parts ended up on my Frankenstein II, the story is related - trust me!

My choice at the time was to either build a new guitar around these parts, or take the neck and Floyd and put them on an existing guitar. I had put together a Kramer out of some parts the previous year, and I decided to do some switching. This guitar, which I called a Kramer Floyd Rose at the time (eventually became a Kramer Carrera), consisted of a cream Focus 3000 body with black pickguard, chrome hardware, and a maple Floyd Rose model neck. I had purchased a 1984 Kramer Floyd Rose in July 1999 from the Guitar Center in Towson, MD. (The Floyd Rose body is kinda strange, so I sold it on eBay right away.) I replaced the maple neck with the rosewood American neck I just purchased, and swapped all the hardware with black hardware. I added an engraved Carrera truss rod cover, and I was good to go - on that guitar. Check out the Kramer Carrera Deluxe guitar page for more info.

Now I had an extra maple Kramer neck and a chrome Floyd Rose - what to do? I bought a cheap Warmoth poplar Strat body in March 2001 and decided to make a striped Edward Van Halen guitar - and do the painting myself. I first sprayed the body with gray primer and then sprayed it red. I then taped off some stripes and sprayed it black. I taped some more stripes and sprayed it yellow. I'm not sure why I chose this color scheme, but I've always refrained from making an exact EVH guitar clone - maybe out of respect? Besides, I think yellow with black and red stripes looks pretty cool. And the stripe pattern/design is based on EVH's striped Wolfgang used in the late 1990s.

Once the guitar was painted, it was just a matter of assembling it with the maple Floyd Rose model neck and the chrome hardware (Floyd Rose, straplocks, neck plate, etc.) from the now-designated "Kramer Carrera." The Floyd Rose model neck already had chrome tuners, although they weren't the originals from 1984. Those were badly tarnished, so I replaced them with chrome Schaller tuners.

The big decision was what pickups to use. I chose the Seymour Duncan Custom Custom for the bridge because I had learned that this was the "custom" pickup that Ed used in the 1980s in his Kramers, when Seymour was supplying his pickups. After Ed left Kramer in 1989, Seymour couldn't release the pickup to the public as the "EVH Model," so he called it the Custom Custom. Word got out, though, and I have to say that it does sound like Ed, circa 1986. Ed's original Frankenstein, like my Red Devil II, has a neck position pickup, but it's not wired up. I figured it was a waste to do that again, so I decided to use a Duncan Vintage Rails in the neck position, to get that vintage Strat tone. Everything is wired to a 3-way switch and single "tone" knob.

The paint job isn't perfect, but this guitar has a great tone and is set up perfectly. It also features a D-tuna for the Floyd Rose (all resting on a 1976 quarter, of course). Listen to the STP-like solo I did on this guitar with an E-Bow on Mile Marker Unknown off of bikini.

June 2002

UPDATE: February 2009

I came across a really good deal on eBay for a 1980s Floyd Rose, but it was for a black one and I wanted a chrome one for another project, so I swapped the chrome one off my Frankenstein II for the recently acquired black one. I did leave, however, the EVH D-tuna on the Frankenstein II, so... no big deal.

I almost bought a Kramer Ripley back in 1987 from the Guitar Center in Covina, CA, but I backed out due to the price tag (around $600). I swore that I'd get one someday, and it turned out to be 11 years for the same price ($599). Edward Van Halen first used a Ripley guitar back in 1983 to record Top Jimmy off of VH's 1984 album. After Kramer scooped up the technology in the mid-1980s, EVH's red-swirl, "bowling-ball" Ripley became the most famous version.

The thing that makes the Ripley unique is its Bartolini pickup. The active pickup (it takes two 9-volt batteries) is really six pickups in one - one for each string. This allows the player to pan each string either left or right (example: E D B = left, A G E = right). The stereo output jack enables two amps to project the signal in stereo. The electronics also feature a three-pot parametric EQ and a three-way EQ scoop switch. When used correctly in stereo, this guitar sounds amazing.

I was doing some work in Michigan in May 1998 and was on the Web during lunch searching for Kramer guitars, and I stumbled upon a site that had a 1988 Ripley for sale - Music Connection in Seattle. The guitar had a white/ivory body with a rosewood neck and black hardware and was advertised as being in excellent condition. The one catch was that it was missing the black Floyd Rose tremolo arm. No big deal. Funny how $600 doesn't seem to be as much 11 years down the road.

The guitar was waiting for me when I got back to San Diego and it was in fine condition. Since I already owned a white/ivory Kramer with one pickup (my Kramer Baretta), I decided to re-paint the Ripley. Not just any paint job - an Edward Van Halen-inspired stripe job!

I bought some metallic gold and metallic black spray paint and went to work. I removed everything from the body, except the delicate electronics, and roughed up the original finish. I then painted the body gold. Then I applied some masking tape in an EVH pattern and sprayed it black. I didn't try to copy the striping pattern from any particular EVH guitar, maybe a little from his 5150 guitar, but certainly not an exact copy. I chose black and gold because that matched the black headstock with the gold Kramer logo. The paint job came out OK, although the tape I used for the thin stripes wasn't thin enough.

When you buy a Ripley guitar, you don't have to do too many modifications. The tuners and strap buttons are already Schaller, it has a Floyd Rose, and the pickup is the whole reason you buy the guitar in the first place. I added a chrome Floyd arm that I had from an old, pre-fine tuner Floyd that I parted out. (This started my tradition of using chrome arms with black trems.) I also used a 1976 quarter for under the Floyd plate. Oddly enough, the guitar came with a chrome Kramer neck plate, but I was able to get a black Kramer neck plate from Victor Litz Music in Gaithersburg, MD.

I probably haven't utilized this guitar's maximum potential. The thing that still amazes me is the tone the Bartolini pickup gets - it absolutely smokes! The on-board parametric EQ lets me dial in a monster sound. Check it out on Sans off of man makes plans and God laughs - the only guitar used on the tune.

June 2002

Under construction...

Kramer EVH Frankenstein -Walker Ad-
EVH 81 -Rude-
EVH with the Rude guitar on the 1981 Fair Warning tour
EVH's dismantled Rude body
Jerry Lica-painted Rude body - note the neck pocket
The 1981 Fair Warning tour was also called the W.D.F.A. tour
Michael Anthony's Charvel Blood Splatter bass back with the W.D.F.A.
Anthony and his W.D.F.A. bass with EVH on the 1982 Diver Down tour
ebony fretboard with no dots - just like the early 1980s Kramer Carrera
EVH RUDE painted in the HB cavity
body zoom with Duncan Alnico II Pro Trembucker
black Gotoh tuners with FR wrench holder
Marshall decal and W.D.F.A. script on body back
back of the Musikraft neck was painted black at one point
Musikraft neck with ebony fretboard
Locke body with the famous Walker horn
alternating black/white on the side
amazing paint job

UPDATE: February 2023

I found a deal on some black "chevron" tuner buttons, so I went ahead and swapped out the stock black Gotoh buttons for a more period-correct look.

See other Kramers:

5150 Kramers
Kramer Projects
Van Halen Kramers - Tributes

previous story   back to the BEHIND THE GUITARS page   next story