OK, so as much as I liked the ASPEN Fakenbacker bass, I was two weeks shy of heading to London for vacation, so I sold it.
London was great. I spent time buying old 45rpm records, and even stopped into Denmark St: London's Tin Pan Alley which is still the home to a number of guitar shops. At one shop, I spied quite a lineup of Ric 330's, so I sautered over. Wait a minute! What does that truss rod cover say? "Rockinbetter"? So these were Ric copies. I tred one out, and was pretty impressed. It felt pretty good, and sounded Ric-ish, but not quite right. It needed the usual of setup of course, but was a pretty neat guitar otherwise. The clerk at the shop seemed anxious to sell me one (there were 6 afterall, plus a lefty), but I really was not too keen on schlepping a guitar on a transatlantic flight.
That night, I did some research on these Rockinbetter guitars. It seems they are produced in Indonesia by Tokai. They are copies of Rick 330's, and they produce 4001 Basses too! Due to Rickenbacker's strict persuit of their copyright, clones are not imported to the US.
A few days later, I stopped back in, and cut a deal. Now this guitar was no $200 ¢heapie, and it was brand spankin new. I ended up paying $450 US after all was said and done. The flight home was not anywhere near as bad as I thought. As soon as I boarded the plane, the flight crew directed me to place the guitar in a closet, which already had two guitar cases in it!
So after playing it a few days, knew I needed to do something about the sound. So I decided, if I wanted it to sound like a Ric, it needed real Ric parts. I ordered a set of genuine button top pickups, and a five nob wiring harness.
I drilled a fifth hole (the pickguard was drilled for a four knob setup), soldered everything together, and there she was!
After another setup, new strings, and some intonation adjustments, I have to say that I am very pleased. I am especially pleased to get the sound I have wanted for years, while spending only 1/3 of the money... So even though this was not super ¢heapo, it was comparatively ¢heapo, which does OK by me.