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Mid-80s Tama Swingstar Rebuild

24 May 2023

Mid-80s Tama Swingstar Rebuild Roger Arrick Click images for larger view

I built this mid-80's Tama Swingstar kit from pieces of several sets to replace one I had then but lost due to income taxes :)

It all started in 1986

In 1986 I saved up enough to spring for a drumset after losing my Yamaha set a few years earlier to pay income taxes. I bought basically the cheapest set I could find - a Tama Swingstar in Misty Chrome. This is the lowest cost model Tama made at the time. Black badges, short tom sizes, and stair-step lugs. I bought it at Grant's Drum City in Irving Texas somewhere around the time that Van Halen was doing their tour in Dallas.

It started as a regular 5 piece kit and I ordered a 22" bass drum, 18" floor tom, and 8" and 10" toms on a stand. This made a pretty big kit. All the cymbals were pretty good Zildjian's. And eventually I added 2 timbales. In spite of this being the lowest quality set made, it was my favorite of all time. Here is the only picture I have of it.

Tama Swingstar
Original Drums (diameter x depth):
2) 22x14 bass drum
1) 8x8 tom
1) 10x8 tom
1) 12x8 tom
1) 13x9 tom
1) 14x10 tom
1) 16x16 floor tom
1) 18x16 floor tom
1) 14x5 steel snare
1) 14x6 steel timbale
1) 13x6 steel timbale

Here is the Tama Swingstar brochure for 1986.

Tama Swingstar 1986 brochure

So, this is what happened to it :(

In 1987 I was self-employed trying to keep a small tech company going while the computer industry was being commoditized with products flooding in from Taiwan. My memory is vague here: I think in 1987 I made a profit but that money went into inventory, not my pocket, and borrowing money was almost impossible. My tax bill was a few thousand dollars and I had no way to pay it. So, toys go first, and I reluctantly put this kit in the paper for a quick sale, probably the Star Telegram of Fort Worth. It would be cool to find that ad. Anyway, it did sell and a guy came to pick it up at my house in Colleyville while we ate dinner. I cried.

The Rebuild

In 2019 I decided to try and rebuild this kit. Come to find out, it's very difficult to find these old kits in Misty Chrome. Along with that, the short toms are much rarer than the deep toms which surprised me. I kept looking on ebay and Reverb and Guitar Center and Music Go-Around, nothing. So I decided to start buying pieces in any other color I could find then re-wrap them. Well, finding a Misty Chrome wrap turned out to be essentially impossible. I bought dozens of samples of wrap and vinyl and varous laminates - nothing came close to the brushed metal pattern and the sheen.

So, I ended up abandoning misty chrome in favor of another color that I really like which appears on Tama Imperialstar kits of that era called Royal Pewter. I've never seen this color in person but have seen it in the catalogs. After a lot of looking I found a vinyl car wrap that looks pretty close and bought it - it's called Metallic Light Steel Blue from Vinyl Frog.

Tama Swingstar Misty Chrome

Eventually I found all of the drums I needed on ebay and reverb, and most were original black wrap. In the process I found a 14x10 in Misty Chrome tom, those are kinda rare since they didn't come on any standard kit and had to be custom ordered. I left the black wrap on and covered each drum in the Royal Pewter vinyl wrap. It took a lot of time to remove each lug from each drum, clean them, wrap, reinstall the hardware.

Tama Swingstar black toms

I decided to build a 6x8 tom out of acrylic and harvested the lugs, mount and black tag from an extra tom I bought. Had to buy 6" rims from a drum supplier. The result was pretty good. This gives me 6 toms - 6,8,10,12,13,14 - more than I had originally.

The wrapping process takes 2 people. Bubbles in the wrap press out nicely. Leaving the orignal black wrap on gives a nice edge to ride a razor for a final trimming.

Swingstar Lugs

Lugs really matter for the looks of the set. My set had stair-step lugs and I think they are the best. Here's a montage I put together of various Swingstar lugs I've seen over the decades. I heard that the first lug in this graphic was too close to Sonor and they had to change it. The second one I call 'pointy lugs', and the third I call "rounded". There might be some other styles too that Tama used over the years on Swingstars.

Tama Swingstar Lugs


I totally admit picking the heads for this kit by looks and chose Remo Ebony, they look great and sound great. For the bass drum heads I bought vinyl Tama logos from ebay. They look fantastic.

The Final Result

I'm super happy with how this turned out. Now I have my kit back from 35 years ago, and it's much better! Lol

Tama Swingstar finished


DD wrote: Beautiful! If you told us it was new old stock, I would have believed you! Enjoy it!

KA wrote: Beautiful kit! Great job

DC wrote: Outstanding! Love the color

TR wrote: I'm not sure if you're Picasso or Rembrandt but you're definitely an artist and that IS a work of art. I remember the photo in the catalogue, I remember first seeing that colour. Just amazing purely amazing. Many of these younger Exotic SC freaks won't it get but I do. 😁 Well done mate!

DS wrote: That's a close match! Looks awesome! Royal Pewter is the GOAT!


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