Mako Exotec XK-4: Extreme 80s Pointiness!!!

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 7/23/2009 12:59:00 AM -
During the 1980s, guitar design really got abstracted - with "pointy" guitars becoming the norm, as well as various experiments with head-stockless and even bodyless guitars, such as the Steinberger and associated knock-offs.

As a "vintage guy" - I always have kind of looked down on these instruments - maybe because I associate them with the 80s "hair metal" bands that were all over MTV - and LA when I lived there from 1987 to 1989. It took me a while to warm up to even the Gibson Flying V and Explorer - and those two instruments are from the late 50s!

But now that some time has passed - and hair metal is for the most part in history, I'm looking at some of those designs, especially the more extreme ones, for their creativity and artistic merit. And .. a lot of those instruments were really well made.

I stumbled upon the Mako while browsing around on Ebay for a Takamine Explorer copy (as Michael Wright has documented in Vintage Guitar, Takamine made some very high quality set-neck, solid body guitars during the mid-80s) - I originally saw a stripped "project" example, but missed the end of the auction - but I made a note to myself to keep an eye out for another one. I have to say, I'm glad I waited!

The example I found was all original, with the amazing fitted, faux sheep-skin lined original hard shell case - the only thing missing was the back cover for the tremelo cavity.

The guitar is of set-neck construction with a high-quality metallic red finish and a rosewood fingerboard. Construction quality appears high - I couldn't tell what kind of wood its made of, though some comments online refer to a laminated body - a small edge chip showed what looked like mahogany, but its hard to tell.

The hardware is a bit unusual for such a "metal" looking instrument - two single coil pickups and a non-locking Strat-type bridge - more a set-up for a surf guitar than a shred-monster.

The headstock is also surprisingly conservative - looking more like some cheaper early 70s Japanese guitars in style. The stock tuners are Grovers, indicating at least a decent level of components. The aforementioned hardcase is also well-built, and specifically made for this instrument (check the pics!) - again implying that this wasn't an entry level instrument.

The guitar plays well - though the nut seemed to be cut a bit high (it may be a replacement since it wasn't yellowed at all) - and the two pickups are fairly high output, but more along the lines of a Strat than say a Charvel. The neck is dead straight and the frets show little if any wear.

The tremelo was set up very stiff - with 4 springs installed and the anchor screwed most of the way into the body. I did notice that the tremelo arm sticks up at a pretty steep angle - and I saw other comments to this effect online - maybe loosening up the springs will change the angle. The trem works just as well as any Strat trem - not for dive-bombs, but good for wavers .. again more surfy than 80s metal.

As far as the origins of this guitar, it is Japanese, but beyond that, information is at best sparse. The general consensus seems to be that Mako was a line of instruments produced by the Matsumoko Company, who are better known for producing Aria, Vantage and 70s Epiphone guitars. Matsumoko also apparently produced some of the higher quality Hondo instruments - probably the set-neck models from the early 80s.

As an additional clue, I did find a few pictures of the Hondo H-1 - which has some strong similarities to the XK-4, especially in the shape of the body around the neck joint.

I also found a reference online implying that Mako's were distributed by Kaman (makers of Ovation instruments) in the US from 1984 through 1989. I have found images of a number of bolt-on neck Mako's - either Strat or Les Paul style - and some mention that some Mako's were made in Korea and some in Japan - much as with Hondos.

The guitar now belongs to my friend Melanie, who was working out some Metallica tunes on it last I checked. The guitar may get a "reversible mod" - a strat-size GFS double coil in the bridge position - and a repro back cover plate.

If anyone else has more definitive info on where Mako's came from, or remembers them in stores, has catalogs, etc on what other set-neck models were available, I'd love to hear - email me directly or leave a comment on the blog - thanks !!


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  1. Have you ever done the opposite of a restoration and have a newer guitar the "road worn" look to it. Fender is selling the new line and I was curious as to how you would do that/if there is any demand for.

    I was thinking about doing it to a bass of mine. Any pointers?

  2. Hi there Gonze,

    The furthest I've gone with that is to age the clear coat of a few guitars and then wet sand lightly to give a little "edge wear" - but I'm hesitant to really go for the full on "relic" thing - would be frustrating to ruin a new paint job that way!

    In general, Id' say use fine grit - 400/600/800 - wet and dry paper with a bit of water - and take it slowly. I'm not sure how to get the fake dings and chips - I've heard crazy things about hitting the body with chains - but you're on you own there ! :)

  3. My manager relics guitars on the side. His website is

  4. I bought one from a music shop in the Woodbridge NJ mall in 1984. Very lightly used. We're having a garage sale this weekend and I thought I'd let it go. Trying to figure a fair price, I saw that one in fair condition sold on ebay for $242. It's back in it's case with a note not to sell.