Jimi Hendrix. David Gilmour. I grew up admiring both of these artists…and their Stratocasters. Hendrix is most famously known for his late ’60s white “Woodstock” Strat, while Gilmour is best known for his black Strat (now a signature Fender model) which is a “mutt” of various parts – but started out as a circa 1968 stock model.
These late ’60s Strats are most easily identified by use of the large headstock design that originated after the CBS purchase of Fender musical instruments in 1965. Hendrix can be seen with his favorite Strat (he preferred his black one over the white he used at Woodstock) in his famous performance captured on video at The Isle of Wight in 1970. Gilmour used an identical black with maple board model in the Pink Floyd “Live at Pomeii” film shot in 1972. These classic performances, and those Stratocasters, left an impression on me that continues to this day.
Playing a vintage Stratocaster is quite different than a modern model however. Although a timeless design in and of itself, today’s modern Stratocasters have been refined through the years for improved playability. The necks are commonly a slimmer “C” shape, the frets are larger, and the neck radius is flatter to facilitate wider bends and lower action. Modern Strats also deploy a seemingly endless variety of pickup and electronics options to suit anyone’s musical styles and interests.
I’ve owned many Strats over the years and have become accustomed to the modern features that indeed help make my playing smoother. But I’ve still held onto my desire to obtain a late ’60s Strat.
Fender’s Custom Shop offers its Time Machine Series and has a 1969 model reissue Stratocaster for those looking for a replica. However, since I’ve been playing modern Strats for years, I do prefer the playability of these instruments over their vintage counterparts. If I could only get that ’69 model with just a few changes, it would be perfect…
Fortunately, the Fender Custom Shop offers custom-ordered guitars in both “team built” and “master built” forms. A team built instrument is one that can be ordered from a Fender custom shop dealer using a form with various options to choose from – starting with your choice of several base models. From there, you select the wood type, finish color, neck shape, bridge, nut type, electronics and more. Essentially, if the option is on the list, it can remain team-built. If you have a specific option you’d like that is not on the list, it goes into the hands of a Fender master builder.
My dream guitar fortunately was an easy build and one that could be ordered as a team-built instrument (this keeps the costs down). It started as a 1969 Time Machine Series model in black finish with a maple board. The neck shape went from the stock thicker “U” shape to a “Modern C”. The fret board radius changed from a rounder 7.25 inch to a flatter 9.5 inch radius like what is used on the current American series models. The small vintage frets of the stock model were switched over to 6105 (a tall, narrow fretwire). To keep the costs down, I ordered it in NOS (New Old Stock) finish rather than go with any aging treatment. Although I do like the Closet Classic treatment personally, I figured I’d be playing this guitar enough and it would age naturally over time.
Now the big question at the end was of course, “What’s it going to cost?”
I was pleasantly surprised as it came in at about the same cost as what a stock ’69 model runs. But now I had it configured exactly how I wanted and the wait time was a very reasonable 3 months. Your price and wait time may vary depending on what instrument you’re after, but it’s nice to know that custom orders from Fender’s Custom Shop are available.
Your guitar will come with all the case candy, Certificate of Authenticity, and lifetime warranty just as any Fender Custom Shop instrument would. Take a look at the option sheets below and see if your dream guitar can be found on these pages. Then it’s just a matter of visiting your Fender Custom Shop dealer (http://www.fender.com/customshop/dealers/) to turn that dream into reality!