Martin’s prewar dreadnaught-size guitars are considered by many players to be the pinnacle of guitar design, and the fanciest model available from Martin during that period, the D-45, has become the Holy Grail of the vintage guitar world.
Martin initially offered only Styles 18 and 28 in the dreadnaught size, but cowboy singing star Gene Autry was so impressed with their performance that he special-ordered one in 1933 in the abalone-trimmed Style 45, with the added feature of his name inlaid in the fingerboard. The production version that followed initially had the snowflake fingerboard inlays that were standard on Style 45 guitars in smaller sizes, but Martin quickly changed to the larger hexagonal inlays that had just been introduced on it’s high-end archtops.
Martin made only 91 D-45s before discontinuing the model as America entered WWII, and it wasn’t reintroduced until 1968. Although the company has since offered more highly ornamented models in limited editions and has also given some models higher style numbers, Style 45 remains the fanciest standard ornamentation of any regular-production Martin model.