Before there was the iconic Ibanez JEM, Steve vai was working on a prototype with Hamer named the SV 81. You can’t exactly go out and buy an SV 81 these days, except for right now when there’s one up for auction.
The SV 81 offers the Vai monkey grip and comes with a letter straight from Vai himself certifying its authenticity (as well as a Gotta Have Rock and Roll Certificate of Authenticity). The SV 81 comes with the original travel case, stickers put on by Vai during his ownership, and of course is signed by the man himself.
You can bid on the guitar here starting at $20,000, which it seems nobody has taken up yet. On creating his own signature guitar with some interesting physical features, Vai offered the following in a 2022 interview with Guitarist:
“I was fortunate working for Frank Zappa because one of the things I learned from him is if you want something, just do it. So Frank was molesting his guitars with electronics and putting things in them, like frequency modulators and parametric EQs, and I’m changing the necks, changing the pickups.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s what you do. You find what you want.’ I loved Strats because they had a whammy bar, but I didn’t like the way they sounded. They weren’t rock ‘n’ roll enough to me. I loved Les Pauls because Jimmy Page played a Les Paul and they had a better sound for me, but they weren’t sexy to me. They felt awkward and none of them you could really comfortably play in the high register. I don’t know why they give you the frets when they don’t give you the access to them.
“I knew that I wanted to have something that was not necessarily one of those. Edward [Van Halen] came out with a humbucker on a Strat-style guitar, that was perhaps the first SuperStrat. That was fantastic because now we can get a really good, big fat sound with a whammy bar. But there were things about that guitar that were very limiting to me. So very innocently I decided, ‘What do I want? I could have anything made.'”