Jaguar Organ

The Jaguar Organ: V304

© 1996 - 2024 The Vox Showroom, all rights reserved. No use on online auctions, eBay or Reverb.
Vox was really selling the upper end of the combo organ market with the Continental and Super Continental. These keyboards were quite expensive - the Continental debuted in America at $999 in 1964-65, a stiff price indeed, yet with some reason. Compared to the competition, the Continental was a very complicated instrument.

The Continental Organ had a total of twelve tone generators which produced seven octaves of fundamental tones per generator card. This method of tone generation was designed to allow a Continental to have the tonal complexity of a Hammond organ.

The Continental also had variable "Hammond like" drawbars so that one could individually adjust and mix the volume of the 16', 8', and 4' tones from the tone generators. It also had a fourth drawbar called "IV rank." The IV rank drawbar was a mixture of 2 2/3', 2', 1 3/5', and 1' pipe tones. If all all four "footage" drawbars were pulled out, a total of seven pitches (five fundamental and two harmomic tones) were combined on every note. To accomplish the layered sound of the Continental, each key had four key contacts, one contact each for the 16', 8', 4' and IV rank drawbars. On a single Continental, there are 49 keys times 4 contacts each, or 196 key contacts!

All of the complexity of the Continental came at a high cost in manufacturing and materials.

JMI Vox in the UK recognized that the Continental Organ was beyond the financial reach of many people. They also recognized that a number of Italian manufacturing firms were producing much less expensive portable organs that appealed to the mass market, and Vox was missing those sales. In late 1965, JMI Vox approached Generale Electro Musica, or "GEM" of Italy to discuss the possibility of GEM producing a simpler and lower priced Continental style organ under contract for JMI Vox.

Thomas Organ, the US distributor of Vox, had a different and more extensive plan for Italian Vox production. Thomas Organ president Joe Benaron hatched a plan to consolidate all Vox organ and amplifier production into one plant in Italy. Benaron was unhappy with the high costs of labor in both the US and UK. He hoped to convince JMI to join Thomas Organ in closing their domestic Vox production plants and to produce all Vox organs and amplifiers at a consolidated facility in Italy.

In 1966, Benaron struck a deal with a large Italian musical instrument manufacturer, Electtronica Musicale Europea, or EME, to start this venture by producing all Vox organs for the US market. This meant that both the Continental and Super Continental Organs destined for America would be produced in Italy by EME. It also meant that the Jaguar Organ would be produced by both GEM and EME in Italy.

Even though JMI rebuffed the consolidated Italian production plan pushed by Benaron, Thomas pushed ahead with the project. JMI already had organ manufacturing facilities for the Continental line in the UK, and saw no need to send their production offshore. Ironically, the JMI organ plant in Erith, Kent, UK burned to the ground in 1967, shortly after the Italian production of the Vox organs had started.

As a sidebar, EME built only a handful of Vox amps in Italy, and these were mostly tube models. Benaron's plan to move all Vox amp production to Italy was abandoned when the worldwide demand for Vox amps dropped in 1968. The domestic production plants for Vox were retained.

In addition to production by both GEM and EME in Italy, the Vox Jaguar Organ was also produced in kit form by the Heath Corporation of Benton Harbor, Michigan under the "Heathkit" brand name. For $349, one would buy a very organized carton full of electronic parts and an assembly manual. The Heathkit TO-68 Jaguar appears to be the EME version of the organ. My dad and I built one of these TO-68 Heatkit Jaguar organs in a little more than a week of evenings and it always worked perfectly.

In the eight web pages to follow in the Vox Showroom you will find detailed information about the Jaguar Organ, including basic service tips.


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Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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