Selmer used the brand-name "Futurama" on
guitars in the early 1960's, and also distributed a range of Futurama
amplifiers. These were Selmer's budget amplifiers at lower prices than
the Truvoice range, but they were well-made, valve driven, and sounded
The Futurama amplifiers were introduced in the September 1963 Selmer
catalogue. Four combos were initially available, two for guitar - the
15 watt Caravelle and the 6 watt Corvette, and two for bass - the 15
watt Futurama Bassist Major and the 6 watt Bassist Minor (discontinued
in Autumn 1964). The two Bassist models had detachable amplifier
sections; presumably an attempt to prevent vibration damage to the
valves. All models utilised printed circuit boards in order to reduce
the amount of hand wiring work and keep costs down. This is the main
feature that differentiates them from the standard Selmer amplifier
range at the time, which was of course entirely hand wired.
separate series of Futurama amps have been identified - those built
from mid-1963 to Autumn 1964, and those from Autumn 64 up to when the
Futurama Amplifier name disappeared sometime towards the end of 1965,
probably when the Crocodile Period amps were phased out. Selmer's
ex-Production Manager, John Weir, has helped in establishing further
details of Futurama amp manufacture.
- "In the Autumn of 1964, a
special assembly line was set up on one side of the Production Shop
(Ed: ....of the Selmer Holborn factory), to make a range of budget
price amps. These were the Corvette, Caravelle, and Bassist Major and
Minor. The idea was to run them along the line, Assemble - Wire - Test
- Box Up, so that complete combos came off at the end. I was asked to
take on the test position, which I did. Although they were valve amps,
they were built on paxolin printed circuit boards which were secured to
an aluminium front panel with brass spacers. I understand that they
were designed by Brian Davis"
These amps that John is
referring to were the second series of Futurama amps, i.e. those with
front facing control panels, black sides and crocskin around the
control panels. The first series were all black amps, with top mounted
control panels. These had obviously not been made in the Selmer
factory, but had been bought-in by Selmer from, we believe, a smaller
British manufacturer at the time called Fenton Weill.
(Henry Weill was an early partner of Jim Burns in Burns-Weill Guitars.
The more famous of the two, Jim Burns, was later responsible for some
of the best quality solid guitars made in the UK during the 1960's.
Henry Weill also later produced solid guitars, but was better known for
his range of Fenton Weill guitar amplifiers and later for lighting and
disco products. The "Fenton" part of the companies name was taken from
the model name of one of the old Burns-Weill guitars. Apparently, Henry
worked, for at least part of his amplifier production period, in the
downstairs basement of his London home.)
Interestingly, one version of the new Selmer designated Corvette look
almost identical to this Fenton-Weill
Cadet - the Corvette is identical internally to the
Cadet, and even has "FW" stamped on the circuit board. (Images of a Fenton-Weill
"Packaway" bass amp head have also been linked to
this page to again demonstrate the Futurama's close connections to the
standard Fenton-Weill range.)
Extension Speaker Cabinet was marketed as a Selmer
unit in the September 1963 catalogue, but which also looks very much as
though it is of Fenton Weill manufacture.
February 1964 Selmer advertisement for the first series Futurama
Both versions equipped with volume, tone, tremolo amplitude and tremolo
speed controls. First series has top mounted panel; second series has
front facing panel. Both provide 6 watts output through an 8" speaker.
Dimensions for identical for both - Height 12" x Width 17.5" x Depth
7". Price of both version was 18 gns.
(NOTE - Around the end of 1965, the Futurama brand name for Selmer's
budget amps was dropped. However, the Corvette continued to be
produced, but as a Selmer amp in its own right. See the Selmer Corvette
6 in the Blue/Black
Both versions had two channels with volume and tone controls for each.
Tremolo, with amplitude and speed controls, fitted on second channel.
Valves - 2 x ECC82; 2 x 6BW6; 1 x ECC83; 1 x EZ81 Rectifier. Output 15
watts. Dimensions - First Series: Height 20", Width 20.5", Depth 9".
Dimensions - Second Series: Height 19.5", Width 21.5", Depth 8.5".
Price for both versions was 39 gns.
Following the demise of the Futurama brand name, Selmer (in the shape
of John Weir) redeveloped the Caravelle by adding a simple reverb unit
and called it the Vanguard
15 - see the Black/Silver Selmer
Two inputs for a single channel, with separate volume controls for each
input and one tone control acting on both. Dimensions of first version,
with top mounted control panel and detachable amp section - Height 26";
Width 21.25": Depth 9.75". Dimensions of second version, with front
mounted control panel and detachable amp section - Height 27.25"; Width
21.25": Depth 9.5". Output of both versions - 15 watts, using 2 x
ECC83, 2 x EL84, 1 x EZ81 Rectifier. Single 12" Speaker. Price for
first version - 37gns. Price for second version - 39 gns.
Only made in the first Futurama (Fenton Weill) Series, up to Autumn
1964. Same format as the Bassist Major, but only 6 watts output through
a 12" speaker. Amplifier section again detachable from speaker unit.
Overall dimensions - Height 26"; Width 20"; Depth 9". Price 32 gns.
A small 3 watt practice amp, which was advertised in the main Selmer Electronics
catalogue during the mid-1970's.
Very basic, with single volume and tone rotary controls. Fitted with a 6"
speaker. Height: 393mm; Width: 342mm; Depth 142mm. The amp was
also referred to as the "Futurama 3" amp in the catalogues.
A Futurama Bassist Major (left) and a Bassist Minor (right), both First
Series, together with a Futurama/Hagstrom 6-String Bass. Courtesy of Matt