ICON: Kustom Instrument Amplifiers: 150, 250, 500 series

Download the twelve-page 1972 Kustom Electronics, INC catalog for their 150, 250, and 500-series guitar and bass amplifiers.

DOWNLOAD: Kustom_150_250_500_Catalog

Kustom amps, with their ‘tuck and roll’ sparkle-Naugahyde upholstery covering, are a true icon of the rocknroll amplifier.  Bud Ross took the idea of RocknRoll=hot rods to its logical conclusion with these things.

Tuck and Roll custom hot-rod upholstery (web source)

Interesting how well the Rock-Music/Hot-Rod connection worked in the 50s/early 60s.  Consider the Gibson Firebird and Fender Stratocaster guitars, both of which had direct aesthetic relations to youth-favored automotive designs of the times.  At right: the 1953 Buick Wildcat (source).  Below that, the Fender Stratocaster, designed in 1953 (source).

I wonder why no one has made a Honda Civic or Subaru WRX flavored guitar (or beat-making software interface WHOA maybe getting too far out there…)

The 1940 Chrysler Windsor, designed by Ray Dietrich (source)

The 1963 Gibson Firebird, also designed by Ray Dietrich (source)




From Wikipedia:

Rockabilly and Motown musicians originally used (Kustom) amps. Other artists known for using the Kustom brand for live applications are Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Altamonts, Dusty Murphy, 3 and Sheryl Crow. Some of the most famous Kustom P.A. users include Creedence Clearwater Revival, Leon Russell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, The Jackson 5, Carl Perkins,Alun Tan Lan(Y Niwl) and The Carpenters.”

All of the original 1960s and 70s Kustoms are solid-state amps, so their appeal nowadays is mainly for their cosmetic a(e)ffect.  These things were no slouches in the technical department, tho – the 250 and 500 lines shipped with optional JBL or Altec speakers (look for the silver dustcap on the drivers); furthermore, when you come across one of these things nowadays, they generally work well, which is more than can be said for most 40-year-old solid-state guitar amps.

Pictured above is a German 1972 pricelist for the entire Kustom line.  If there is enough demand I will scan and upload the entire thing.

(web source)

(Web Source)

A Kustom-Brand Police Radar gun.  Hot Rod Cars are still a focus here, but the situation has changed dramatically.  And yes the same man is responsible for both product lines.   (Web Source)

Since Kustoms are so iconic, there is a ton of information on the web regarding these artifacts and their very colorful and storied creator Bud Ross.   Ever wonder what the connection was between Kustom and Kasino?  And a gambling addiction? Promo branded halter-tops?  Unsavory-looking plush toys?  And police radar guns?  Yes folks it’s all true.  This is an American Epic.  Here’s my pick of the best:

History of Kustom/Kasino amps and Bud Ross

A great stockpile of vintage Kustom literature

Personal site of a Kustom super-collector

History of the various Kustom lines

Polymath Bud Ross on-camera delivering an oral history of Kustom and his later ventures

12 thoughts on “ICON: Kustom Instrument Amplifiers: 150, 250, 500 series”

  1. They were made in Chanute, KS and sounded absolutely godawful for rock…but held up forever and looked cool if you are into tuck and roll. The car radar units had tuck and roll covering too when they were dash mounted.

    I used to calibrate and fix police radar. Police radar was nothing but a revenue generator and Kustom’s salespeople sure as hell played it up to departments. That’s why I never had any moral compunction against building a police radar defeater that would make the radar read 30 or 50 when I powered it up.

    Every sales rep showed every department how to make a radar read whatever a cop wanted it to so as to stop anyone at any time on a speed pretext. Easy way was to point the antenna at the engine fan on the cruiser and rev the engine.

    They did make a few tube models which sounded about the same. The transformers were made by Enegren or Hisonic in Olathe, KS and were really beefy, the opt was copied from an Acrosound. Old Fenders had Triad OEM or Schumachers that were much less well interleaved and would distort nicely in the guitar frequency band whereas the hi fi ones only distorted with so much overdrive the screens were either clipping or white hot.

  2. Our Rock band from the 60’s had a PA system that was Kustom and it was blue and our Bass player had a double bottom bass amp and they sounded really good for solid state amps and they were awesome for looks on stage!

  3. I saw an ad for Kustom Arena and Coliseum 16 channel mixers. Didn’t realize they made anything bigger than the Kustom 600 PA which had 8 channels. Does anyone know if these units really got produced or if they were only available on special order ?

  4. I have an old Kasino amp in real good condition,where can I get info on this such as year made etc.

  5. I really need the Proce List of the KUSTOM Vintage (70’s) Guitar Amps.
    Would you please upload it or e-mail it to me.
    I ‘d appreciate it very much.

  6. Cool I’ve still got that same ad. I’ve got the 600 pa head & I thought it was the biggest that 16 channel, boy I can’t remember? I know my 600 weighs a ton,make sure to grab the light end when moving it ha ha one end has all the trans. & such.They’re cool old amps. Rock & Roll !!!!

  7. I just acquired a 1980 Kustom studio series valve 4. I need to confirm the power transformer secondary voltages, (there are 5). Here’s what I have so far: 1) +15 -15 VDC, powers the SS preamp and effects. 2) 6.3 VAC, tube heaters. 3) 450 VDC, B+ voltage. 4) 400 VDC, screen grid voltage and 5) 300 VDC, grid bias voltage? The schematic is a bit vague on #5. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  8. I had a Kustom Bass amp (black) that I bought in 1967 at Sam Ashe in White Plains, NY. Don’t know what happened to the head…but I used the cabinet as an extension years later w/ 2 15″ JBL d140”s w/my main an Acoustic 370 head and a Ampeg 8 10 bottom. Add a ’64 P Bass with Rotosounds and it was just a killer combo. Gave it to my younger cousin when I moved to LA.

  9. Where can I get out put transistors for my kustom 250g guitar amplifier 1970/71 vintage (or cross at least reference pages).

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