Mietek Glinkowski’s #1 – V5-P-22

Somehow I never posted anything about Mietek’s first Vitar… so here it is. V5-P-22 – A black on black 5-string with pearl Schaller tuners. I know he also modified his so that there is a second cable to run to an 18V power box and he replaced the original U92B/U jack with a 1/4″ so it can be plugged directly into an amp or pedal.

V5-P-22

V5-P-22

When it rains it pours – V5-P-11

(AKA when I actually follow up with emails I find interesting things)

Another new Vitar (V5-P-11)… this one has been living in upper New York state since at least the 80s and was played extensively by Douglas Christy (AKA Fiddling Chris Douglas) of the Chris Douglas Band. This one is a black 5-string with aluminium control plate, pearl Schaller tuners.  It looks like it’s been modified, and judging by the jack in the top and lack of battery box in the case it may have been totally converted to a new pickup system.

Douglas’ son Jeff says:

This was my dads, he had a country/southern rock band in upstate NY. I went to many festivals, bars and concerts to watch my dad play back in the 80s. He has passed away since then and I have been holding on to it. It has been on stage with Chubby Checker, Tom T Hall, Charlie Daniels and Eddie Rabbit that I can remember. My dad’s band was called the Chris Douglas Band. Everyone knew him as fiddling Chris Douglas and the country Bows.

Vitar V5-P-11

Vitar V5-P-11

Meet Glen – the man behind the Vi-tar violins!

I should also post an email I received… an embarassingly long time ago… but you know how it is… anyway, 2 years later, Glen!

This is very interesting! I was the first employee of Exinde. I was hired specifically to learn how to build the Vi-Tar. We were essentially a three man shop. Me, David Miller, and Jack Crom. Lee Larrison would come in to test and fine tune the setup of each instrument prior to shipping. With exception of the first 4 or 5 early instruments made, I had been involved with every Vi-Tar produced. The instrument reputed to be John Blair’s most certainly is Nefertiti. I had worked it when we upgraded the electronics after modifications were made in early production. Later models were made out of polyurethane with aluminum channel and t-bar providing the structural stability. They had no perfling. All original early models were manufactured in Franklin Ma, and were hand laid fiberglass. Very few models with the XI logo and Upton MA were made in fiberglass. The switch to injection molded polyurethane/aluminun was mafe to lessen the weight (major complaint) and reduce the manufacturing cost…primarily labor. If I can help with any questions please email me I was with the company throughout the entire Vi-Tar production period.
Glen

After a follow up email he went on to say:

I think the Vitar had a great chance to be a popular alternative or complement to the violin. I was 22 years old when they hired me. I just left a touring band to settle in that area. I don’t have any documentation to share except for the memory of being the Guy who helped keep that Vitar alive after the company (Exinde) filed chapter 11 and then became Xinde International. We then began to use polyurethane injection molding to produce projection TV housings for Advent Corp in Cambridge MA to support the Vitar production (my responsibility). Eventually we produced the 2nd version of the Vitar made of polyurethane/aluminum. I know that the bulk of Vitar production is of the former fiberglass construction.

All in all I doubt we ever made more than 200 Vitars. We made a bunch (14-20) for a Japanese distributor in 1973. These can be identified because both circuit boards were encapsulated with a black epoxy, which was also used as the material for the fingerboards! I know we made 1 yellow and one metal-flake red instrument for that shipment. There are no instruments made after mid 1972 that I did not personally assemble and paint until their demise.

My personal Vitar was a 4string with a fine gold metal-flake white color, conventional ebony friction tuners and gold hardware. SWEET and lighter than the standard! I sold it many years ago to someone in the Boston area. :’( One of a kind!!

I also designed the 2nd brochure (Black &white) did all the trade show booth design and played it (rather poorly) at the Chicago NAMM Show and at the Frankfurt Germany Music Messe in 1979.
It was a sad day for me when they discontinued production, but the company decided to focus on manufacturing polyurethane components for other companies.

Thanks for keeping the legacy of this wonderful American instrument alive! It coulda been a contender!!

Peace and Love
Glen

Very interesting! I’d love to find the red metal flake one myself… ;)  Thanks Glen!

New Vitar discovered! V5-P-15

I recently had a call from Mr. W. Nelson Louderback in Colorado who has a Vitar he’s had since about 1997. It was left for repair at his violin shop and to this day remains unrepairable… the electronics seem to be shot and as you may imagine, schematics are a little difficult to find. This particular example V5-P-15 is a 5-string in white, no purfling, silver/aluminium control plate and pearl Schaller tuners. The most interesting feature is a red rose stencil on the body which seems to be a part of the finish and not applied later. It’s not a standard option according to the price list so perhaps a custom request from the original owner.

V-5-P15

Vitar Serial number V-5-P15

New Vitar Book! (?)

Wow Vitars must be more popular than I (and this guy) thought… he’s put together a “book” on Vitar information. It’s apparently 60 pages long and is a copy/paste of the Wikipedia entry I wrote which is approximately 4 paragraphs long. He’s either using an incredibly large typeface or he just pasted in the entire html code for the site. I can’t decide if I should be flattered or litigious. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m probably the only person who would ever buy this book anyway.

Check out the cover of the book which I personally designed by copying and pasting his cover here

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350677480643&ssPageName=ADME:B:SS:US:1123

New Vi-Tar Unearthed! V5-P-0046

Mietek Glinkowski has discovered (and purchased) yet another Vi-Tar at Frederick Oster Violins in Philadelphia… this one is a white 5 string with chrome hardware, Schaller tuners and no binding. Very cool. Mietek Glinkowski's White Vitar - Front Mietek Glinkowski's White Vitar - Back Mietek Glinkowski's White Vitar - Side Mietek Glinkowski's White Vitar - Label

Vitar demo record!

Hey check out this fun toy that Santa Ebay brought me today – An original Vi-Tar demo record.  The narrator is great… some of that will definitely be making it into the next session my band records… but there’s some music on there as well. They were obviously proud of it’s ability to play classical music, but the bit of jazz at the end of side 1 and the rock example on side 2 are definitely more fitting to the Vi-Tar sound.

Vi-Tar Demonstration Record - Side 1 Vi-Tar Demonstration Record - Side 2

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Vi-Tar Demonstration Record - Side 1

Vi-Tar Demonstration Record - Side 2

YouTube Link

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Vitar Brochure

Another trip back in time to the seventies with this, the Vitar Brochure. A fancypants 4-page color foldout cardboard brochure extolling the fantastic state-of-the-art design of the Vitar.  I think the most interesting feature are the 3 different Vitars pictured – on the cover, a very sexy White/Gold 5-string with gold purfling (and an awkwardly installed chinrest). On the inside a Black/Gold 4-string with the slot headstock and violin pegs, and on the back a Black/Gold 5-string with gold purfling and Grover tuners (no back panel…hmm). It also shows a different battery box than I have – anyone else have this style with just an in and an out?

So there are 3 more lost Vitars to be tracked down…

My favorite excerpts:

“The quality of the Vi-Tar’s sound is superb, by any standard – as fine or finer than the most costly Italian instruments”

and

“The Vi-Tar was never intended to be played at eardrum-dissolving sound levels. To do so would defeat its own purpose and severely limit the desirability of one’s presence in the world of music and musicians.”

Well luckily I don’t know the meaning of the word “limit-the-desirability-of-one’s-presence”!

Vitar brochure 1

Vitar Brochure 2&3

Vitar brochure 4

Vitars Described

Here’s a page from the Exinde files called simply “Vi-Tar Description”. I’m not sure where or when this would have been used… but here it is.  There’s no new information hidden in there, except the claim that “The Vi-Tar will NOT feedback at any volume level”……. well that sounds like a challenge.
Vitar description page (top half)

Vitar description page (bottom half)

Battery Packs and Cable Jacks

If you’re in need of a replacement cable or battery pack for your Vitar,  you most likely won’t be able to run down to your local music store and pick one up (If you EVER find a local store with any Vi-tar parts, LET ME KNOW!). I’ve cobbled together a quick schematic for the battery box… it’s pretty simple once you get the wacky avionic plugs.

U174/U TP120 Plug The 4-conductor plug they used is a pretty uncommon one used almost exclusively for helicopter microphone headsets. It’s made by Nexus and the model is U174/U (or TP120). They’re available for about $15US-$30US from various distributors. The cheapest I’ve seen is $14US from ProCommRadios.com.

U92B/U TJT-120 Jack The jack is a Nexus U92B/U (TJT120)  and is available for $13 at Keenzo.com.  The jack seems to be priced by itself at most places, so make sure you also get the retaining nut and star washer when you order. If you search around a bit in your part of the world you should be able to find them. It actually looks like the plugs and jacks are both easier to find in the UK than in the US.

Mietek Glinkowski modified his Vitar so that instead of the 1/4″ output coming straight out of the battery box, he has a double cable coming out of the Vitar – one to an 18V battery box and the second plugged straight into his amp. That way you don’t have the big clunky battery box hanging out of your amp or pedal bending the jacks. You could also replace the 1/4″ male plug on the battery box with a 1/4″ female and then just stick in in your pedal board like a pedal, or add a  jack on the side to run it from an adapter to save on batteries.

Vitar Battery Box Schematic