A new Hofner guitar costing not much more than a tank-full of petrol for my car?? (Based on the price of fuel in the UK of course!) I had to try one of those!
The original Hofner Shorty (Model 180) was produced in the Bubenreuth (Germany) factory during the early/mid 1980's. According to the catalogue, it was intended as a "travel and backstage guitar". As well as the single pickup 6-string guitar, a Shorty Bass (Model 187) and a Shorty Super (Model 181) fitted with a built in amp and speaker for ultimate portability, were offered. The re-issue Shorty, which is made in China, has just been introduced (in late 2004). There were some very early prototype versions about recently, with a separate bridge and stop tailpiece, but I understand that my guitar is now the production model fitted with a combined bridge/tailpiece.
The Shorty is a very sturdy little guitar. It has to be in order to merit being called a travel guitar. Scale length is a respectable 24.75", the same as Gibson use, but overall length of the guitar is kept to the minimum by having the combined bridge/tailpiece set right at the bottom of the body. The body is actually just big enough to carry the pickup, the simple volume and tone controls, the bridge, and the jack-socket. It certainly is a guitar built with a purpose!
The attractive red metallic finish on my guitar does not disclose the type of wood used in the body construction. The 1980's guitars were made from mahogany, and maybe........no, surely not at this price !! The neck looks something like maple and on this example actually has a rather nice degree of flame figuring. Unbelievable!
The above mentioned bridge/tailpiece is chromed and is fully adjustable for intonation and overall string height. A single twin-coil pickup is fitted, and this provides a fairly substantial punch to the little guitar's amplified sound. The two controls work well, with an impressive range of tone through the old Selmer 10watt valve amp that I have been playing the Shorty through.
The neck-body joint is of the bolt-on variety of course, and the body slot on my guitar has been cut nice and tight; certainly no room to push a plectrum between the body and neck, and that is more than I could say for many 1970's F--d--s that I have seen. Note also the very pleasant markings of the neck timber in the photo above.
The fingerboard is rosewood, or something very similar. Whatever it is, it feels hard and smooth, with no obvious blemishes. Frets are of the narrow variety and are nicely bevelled and finished at the edges of the fingerboard. Fret markers are simple dots and there is no zero fret. To my ears, the positioning of the frets is fine and only minimum adjustment of the bridge for intonation as supplied was required.
The machine heads look just like the Schallers fitted to the original Shortys, but at the price, they surely can't be. They do work smoothly and efficiently however. The guitar keeps in tune well, probably due to the very solid construction of the whole guitar.
Playing a Shorty takes a little getting use to. This is because of the very small body, which means that one has to ensure that ones plectrum arm does not un-intentionally dampen the strings. Also, the balance of the guitar is a little neck-heavy, although this is easily sorted by the use of a strap. A Shorty must however be the most comfortable guitar ever to play when slouched in a deep easy-chair or sofa. Back to that "travel guitar" description again!
The guitar comes complete with a very practical padded carry-bag, which has a hand grip and a shoulder strap plus accessory pocket.
The Shorty is one of those pieces of gear that "does what it says on the packet". It is small, light, and rugged, and hence an ideal guitar for taking on one's travels. However, it is no toy - it can put up a very impressive performance. And at that price ?? !!**