The Difference Between Zephyr, DeLuxe & Regent
For many people not intimately familiar with vintage Epiphones, there seems to be some confusion between the Zephyr, DeLuxe and Regent guitar terminology. In this article I will attempt to clear up the confusion between the guitar models and the terminology surrounding them.
Most people relate the terms "Zephyr" and "DeLuxe" to specific Epiphone models. Though not exactly incorrect, as they are in fact seperate Epiphone guitar models, at some point in history, these models criss-cossed each other and created a bit of confusion between the two: Is it a Zephyr or a DeLuxe? I will also include the term "Regent" just to round out the information as it applies to the guitars being covered in this article.
So, what do they mean?
First, lets look at the terms "DeLuxe" and "Deluxe". Note the capitalization differences with the "L". The word "DeLuxe" is used only as a name for specific Epiphone guitar models, while the word "Deluxe" is used to denote a higher-end or a special version of a particular model, mostly used in modern Epiphone terminology and usually regarding models with higher appointments like gold hardware and special finishes.
This is the term that usually confuses people the most. But first, lets talk about early Epiphone electric guitars prior to the Zephyr and DeLuxe. It was typical for early Epiphone electric instruments to carry the "Electar" prefix in their names, thought the only spanish-style guitar to have the Electar prefix was the 1935 Model-M and Model-M Tenor. By 1939, Epiphone started producing three new electrified archtops: The Century, Coronet and Zephyr. The bluegrass genre instruments retained their "Electar" designation for some time, but the newer spanish-style guitars did not use this term.
Here is where it gets confusing. In 1941 Epiphone released an electrified version of the DeLuxe archtop, called the Zephyr DeLuxe. The term "Zephyr", in this case, refers to the fact that the DeLuxe had been electrified, though may still have some relation to the actual Zephyr archtop model. It could be said that the new Zephyr DeLuxe archtop was a variation or higher-end model of the Zephyr, as they shared similar body sizes and electronics. Another possibility is that the Zephyr DeLuxe was a cross-over guitar meant to bridge the gap between the popular Zephyr electric guitar and the mighty DeLuxe acoustic archtop.
One thing to note, is that in the 1954 catalog on the page for the Zephyr DeLuxe, Epiphone claims that it is built to "look like" a DeLuxe, but with electronincs instead of being acoustic only. This verbiage is a little vague and implies that the guitar is actually a Zephyr built to "look like" a DeLuxe. But upon further inspection, we can see that both construction and appointment-wise, it is a DeLuxe model. From the neck materials to the inlays, hardware and even the binding plies, it is more DeLuxe than Zephyr in every way with the exception of being electrified.
Though the Zephyr and Zephyr DeLuxe are similar in many ways, the Zephyr Deluxe and its predesessor, the DeLuxe acoustic, are practically identical. Furthermore, upon Gibson's acquisition of Epiphone, the Zephyr was renamed to "Zephyr Electric" and the Zephyr DeLuxe to "DeLuxe Electric", showing that, most likely, these two guitars were meant to be a different species for the most part, or at least from Gibson's perspective. In modern times, Epiphone has muddied the waters a bit regarding the terminology of the two models by producing the Zephyr Regent in 1999, technically in the original Zephyr category, and the Zephyr Blues DeLuxe (also in 1999) that falls under the DeLuxe category.
This term isn't a confusing one, but since it has been used for decades on the aformentioned guitars, I felt that it was only prudent to include the term in this article. The term "Regent" simply means that the guitar has a cutaway on the upper treble bout and is always attached as a suffix to the model name of the guitar. There are no Epiphone models that bear the name of just "Regent". Aside from the Zephyr and DeLuxe models, the term was used to describe the pre-Gibson Emperor cutaway version from 1952-1953 before changing the name to simply Emperor Electric just prior to Gibson ownership. Epiphone produced a modern Emperor Regent from 1995-2011.
If you ever need to figure out if a guitar is a Zephyr or a DeLuxe, simply look at the fingerboard and headstock inlays. Its that easy. Does it have cloud or V-block fretboard inlays and the Vine of Life on the headstock? Its a DeLuxe! Does it have small notched-block inlays and a metal bikini plate or a silkscreen headstock logo? Its a Zephyr. Another way to tell the difference, assuming that parts have not been changed over the years, is to look at the tailpiece. A Zephyr will have a trapeze, while the DeLuxe, both acoustic and electric, will have a frequensator.
One exception would be the modern Imperial Series 1950's Zephyr (1993-1994). On this model, Epiphone seems to have included V-Block inlays and the Vine of Life, as well as a frequensator tailpiece. Maybe it was supposed to be a DeLuxe, or maybe the designer didnt realize the difference between the guitars. I dont exactly know. There was apparently an Imperial Series DeLuxe as well, but none have surfaced, so I cannot tell you the differences between the two guitars. The 1994 catalog has a guitar that looks like a DeLuxe and labled as a Zephyr. It is quite possible the the Imperial DeLuxe was meant to be an acoustic version of the Imperial Zephyr. If any ever surface, I will be sure to update accordingly.
This is a list of all Epiphone models using the terms "Zephyr" & "DeLuxe" and how they are categorized on this wiki. We felt that because of the similarities between the Zephyr DeLuxe and DeLuxe models, that the Zephyr DeLuxe should be categorized under the DeLuxe name, especially considering the subsequent name changes under Gibson's ownership. This seemed the only way to categorize the models with the least amount of confusion. The term "Regent" is self-explanitory and not needed as a seperate entry in the list.