pilotjones, you've got it right about the tone of the thing. Do you know which patent no. is the one with slidable polepieces?
Italia had a series of basses like these, I think they were called the Modulo series. It had four lipstick pickups along the length of the strings, one for each string. No idea how it sounded, but apparently, it worked.
Squier VM Bass VI club member #19