Electric guitar review.A road worn ’50s strat by Fender
With recent Custom Shop relic releases like the Eric Clapton Blackie and David Gilmour’s Black Strat, Fender seems to be getting into its stride in the noir-abuse department. The ‘wear’ on this example’s alder body is what would be regarded by Fender’s Custom Shop as heavy, and is mainly concentrated around the edges. There’s a large section on the upper part of the body where the paint has been taken off down to the wood to emulate years of rubbing from a strumming arm, and more dents and scuffs around the bottom corner near the jack input. These marks do look pretty authentic and not too clean like some other relics we’ve come across. The addition of smaller, more random marks on the main body add the lived-in feel that the range is all about, and the back has more extensive paint loss which, again, looks genuine.
Whereas the Joe Strummer Tele, the first relic from Fender’s Mexican factory, side-stepped the tricky ageing process of the fingerboard by simply using rosewood, on a ‘50s Strat that would just be plain wrong. But in for a penny, Fender have aged the maple board quite eagerly. The results are passable to look at if maybe a little obvious, lacking the years of sweat to properly discolour the wood, but the reward is in the playing. With its rolled edges and smooth feel the ’50s Strat is a very pleasant place to spend some time, with a played-in vibe that usually takes years to achieve. The only real gripe, and it’s a small one, is the 7.25" radius (featured across the whole Road Series range). It’s the proper vintage spec, but the 9.5" of the American Standards and Highways seems a little friendlier to the modern player.
The hardware has all been lovingly distressed, again adding to the magic, with the only questionable blot on the landscape being the yellowing single-ply scratchplate which looks a little over-cooked. The wiring is standard modern five-way, with three Tex-Mex single coils just where you’d expect them. Overall it’s a very attractive Strat that looks as if it’s seen its fair share of action.
Build Quality 18/20
Value for money 17/20
Description: Solidbody electric guitar. Relic finish. Made in Mexico
Price: £889 inc. gigbag
Build: Alder body, maple bolt-on neck, 21 narrow-jumbo maple fingerboard, vintage style vibrato, Ping vintage style machineheads. All hardware is distressed to create an aged appearance
Electrics: Three Tex-Mex Strat single-coil pickups, five-way pickup selector switch, master volume and two tone controls
Finishes: Black, two-colour sunburst. Both have nitro-cellulose lacquer
Scale length: 648mm/25.5"
12th fret 52mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 25mm
12th fret 25.5mm
Action as supplied
12th fret treble 3mm
12th fret bass 3mm
Contact: Fender UK
Let's admit it we'd all rather have a guitar we'd reliced ourselves through years of hard gigging, but thanks to the thick polyester finishes of the last 30 years or so, the only way that's going to happen is if you attack your guitar with a pickaxe every night. Escalating costs in the vintage market also mean that to most of us a real knocked-about guitar is simply not an option. All praise to Fender, then, for coming out with affordable models that look good, play nicely, and sound great. At nearly 900 these guitars are not cheap. They sit between the USA-made Highways with their naturally quick-wearing nitro finishes and the USA Standards with their superior quality but those are a different beast entirely. When you strap one of these on, they seem to make you play differently. You want to attack them more, unafraid of damaging them, and they respond with the road-warrior spirit that they set out to emulate. Sure, they're not real, but after a few minutes you forget that and just get on with playing. In all honesty, who wants a shiny new guitar when you could have one that looks like this? I'm sold.