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Re-Creating Ace Frehley's
Smoking Gibson Les Paul Guita
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So here you have a brief tour of how we re-created the Kiss Alive 1 - Gibson Les Paul, and were brought to Gibson Headquarters for Ace to sign and provide our missing links.
Don't be fooled, I'm the only one to replicate the original Ace Frehley Smoking Les Paul, originally built by John Robison. This is that story. (left Jim Cara and John Elder Robison)

John's designs and his work making custom guitars were an inspiration and partially responsible for me building guitars as my livelihood. I remember watching Ace's guitar smoke and shoot rockets as a teenager in 1978, and building many half-cocked replicas and had stated building a reputation as someone who could recreate the guitars. I would hire myself out for special events, and also rent out the guitars to bands. I even designed a Red, White, and Blue color changing smoke guitar and played the Star Spangled Banner when Robbie Knievel jumped over Marshal Amps. Through the years I've accumulated much more information and was ready to replicate his design most accurately.

In 2012, I was contacted by a World Class Kiss expert and friend of Ace Frehley who wanted me to design an exact replica of the 70's guitar that Ace used on the Alive 1 tour. I jumped at the chance. Gathering all of my notes, blueprints, and questions, I located John Robison, who was the original designer of most of all Ace's trick guitars. He was kind enough to review my notes and designs. He also was happy to answer questions about items I wasn't clear about. I was extremely proud to have John confirm most of my designs, given I only had access to a couple of poor quality photos. Next, once the guitar was built, Ace's manager, Gibson artist relations, and co-author of Ace's best selling book, John Ostrosky put together a presentation at Gibson Headquarters in NYC, where Ace reviewed the guitar, made some comments, suggested some change (that were made - see below), and signed the now extremely rare and historically accurate guitar now residing with a private collector, and the only working model of its kind. (Jim Cara left - Ace Frehley right)

The project started with a Gibson Historic Custom Shop Ace Frehley Model


After disassembly, the guitar was further reliced and distressed to match the vintage color.


The body was routed to match the dimensions of the original modified guitar, and to hold the trap door, ignition, power supply and halogen lamp devices.

Here's my notes and drawings based on the two photographs of the original guitar.

This is the page I sent to John Robison to have him review and clarify.


Routed to match the Original


Installation of the Stainless combustion chamber, trap door control, Halogen fixtures and fire retardant materials.

Plans drawn from the only two clear photos of the original guitar known to exist .


Working out the details

A view of the trap door pickup release cable, and how we protected the middle pickup from heat and fire.


Ready to string and show to Ace.


The same guitar, after Ace's suggestions, and signature. Note the pickup decal that is covering the trap door.

The Trap door is a fake Dimarzio Humbucker steel flap, that is re-covered with a decal after each use

Ace, reviewed the guitar with a Thumbs up, but not before telling me some secrets that only he would know.

1) My Wiring was too complex.

2) He had an original authentic white plastic output jack that was actually backed with metal so that it would not break.

I applied all of those changes.



With Ace Frehleys recommendation. we modified the plastic jackplate to appear period correct,
yet is now reinforced with a modern steel jackplate


The modified and final wiring based on John Robison and Ace Frehley's suggestion that mine was too complex.

The Front:

The back with clear lucite cover, heat shield, and charging jack installed.

Left: Jim Cara and John Robison review the plans

Right: Jim Cara and John Ostrosky Ace Frehley Gibson Artist Relations and co-author of No Regrets with Ace Frehley



John Robison stands tallest in the front row of the 1976 Kiss stage show that he engineered.

The first test of the lighting and ignition system

 

Red , White and Blue Smoke Guitar