The Robin Ranger from Texas

The Robin Ranger from Texas

The latest Guitar Gavel podcast takes us on a journey to Italy on a tour of Franchin Guitars. 

In the show, company founder Mattia Franchin, gives a full tour of the company’s “lab” and walks us step-by-step through the build process. Franchin specializes in reliced and hand painted bodies all the way to complete guitar builds hand assembled by their luthier team including custom wound pickups engineered in-house.  

Some of the most striking guitars we see include gold leaf or bronze leaf which require 20-25 hours of artistry work on the body alone.  

You may find their work online from the company’s website,, or via their Reverb and Ebay storefronts. 

David Wintz and Bart Wittrock opened Rockin Robin guitar shop in Houston in 1972. They built a solid reputation doing repair work and specializing in selling used instruments. 

In the early 80s the guys hooked up with Tokai at a NAMM show in Chicago and bought all their on-hand inventory of Love Rock’s and Springy Sounds to sell at their store. 

Those sold through quickly so they reupped an order for about 100 Springy Sounds and they showed up without a Tokai logo. The guys whipped a Robin decal and stuck it on the headstock! 

And the brand was born…

Robin then contracted with Tokai to produce some of their own designs and in 1982 the first shipment landed. The more progressive, superstrat models- RG, RV & RH, sported a reverse headstock which was arguably the first. 

Also that year came the Robin Ranger. It invoked the best of Fender in one guitar. An asymmetrical double cut, and a Tele-esque pickguard extended into the Tele-esque control plate with volume and tone. For added flair it sported a reverse headstock as well. 

The earliest examples were a two single coil configuration with the pickup selector on the bass horn. The original Ranger lasted until 1985 when production moved from Tokai to ESP. 

The ESP model is known as the Ranger Custom and it’s the more familiar of the two. 

Instead of 21 frets like the original, it had 22 and an added humbucker in the neck position making it an SSH arrangement.  

Like its simplified sibling, the Custom also had a reverse headstock, but it was a more conservative Fender style.  

The one pictured is a more “recent” release with a standard headstock.  It’s actually called the Robin Standard, but it’s based on the 1985 Custom. Being a boutique shop Robin got carried away with their headstocks at times and even issued a few with a 4x2 split (yuck).

The relationship with ESP ended in 1987 and Robin started building guitars domestically in 1988. That lasted until 2010. In the process, however, Robin began winding their own Rio Grande pickups in 1993 and that business still continues to this day. -

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