Thursday, July 27, 2006

Review: 1960 Fender Stratocaster Relic

Fender Musical Instruments Company was the first to realize that, silly as it seems, people were willing to pay top money for bashed up guitars, that is, new guitars that have been artificially aged. And so, the Time Machines series was born. Fender's Custom Shop Time Machine series comprises a number of models built to exacting specifications of their respective vintages, including: body contours and radii, neck shape, fingerboard radius, pickups, electronics and hardware. Original materials, tooling and production techniques are employed wherever possible.Each model is available in three distinct finish packages:
NOS (New Old Stock): as if the guitar were bought new in its respective year and brought forward in time to the present day.
Closet Classic: as if the guitar was bought new in its respective year, played perhaps a dozen times a year and then carefully put away. Has a few small "dings", lightly checked finish, oxidized hardware, and aged plastic parts.
Relic: shows natural wear and tear of years of heavy use - nicks, scratches, worn finish, rusty hardware, and aged plastic parts.

I have, the most bashed up of the lot, a 1960 Fiesta Red Relic Stratocaster with gold hardware. I really don't know how they 'age' it, but the guitar is incredibly light and the wood showing through the paintwork looks and feels very dry and 'brittle'. Only the neck, frets and tuners give you a clue that this can't really be a 1960 guitar.This guitar has got character, not only in it's looks but the sound too. It has the sound of a vintage Strat, not the modern Strat. Its like analog versus digital. The bridge pickup is bright, but has sweet overtones, thus making it practical for use in a wider range of musical styles. The neck pickup gives a good fat tone suitable for fusion jazz. What I like about this Strat is that you get a fat tone, unlike many Strats which have tones which lack 'body' and cannot be a serious solo guitar without adding effects. Wherever and when ever you plug it in, it never fails to give a grand, full-power sound, and you don't have to spend a lot of time twiddling the amp settings. Some people say that it is because of the thin paintwork and the nitro-cellulose coat that old guitars like this give a great tone. The neck is Rosewood and the action is set quite low. The frets are new, but the fingerboard feels like it has been played a zillion hours, I don't know how they do that. The end result is a very playable guitar that looks cool. Wherever you bring it, younger kids like to have a look at it, and try it and you have to explain to them that, no, this is not really a guitar that was made before they were born, and no, its not worth US$30000

* This article was written in 2005. In Dec 2005 I sold this guitar for US$3000 . I bought it in July 2002 for US$1300.

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