Fender has launched the American Vintage II Series, bestowing period-correct appointments upon some of its most iconic electric guitars and basses, and offering today’s player a taste of vintage without the vintage price tag.
When you have a storied history like Fender’s it pays to be Janus faced when it comes to product development, looking forward, sure, but also looking back at the past and taking seriously the business of servicing demand for retro-styled instruments. The American Vintage II models do just that.
Made in Corona, California, they reference some of the most important years in the Fender timeline, offering fresh editions of old-design Fender Stratocasters, Telecasters, a '66 Jazzmaster, plus Jazz and Precision Bass guitars.
Of course, retro instruments are not new to the Fender lineup. In recent years, the Vintera series offered Mexican built vintage-style instruments, with the Road Worn editions sporting subtle relic’ing and aged hardware. The Fender Custom Shop is replete with period restorations, too.
But many of these old-school designs sport relic’ing and artfully scuffed finishes, and are only approximations of, or inspired by vintage instruments. These arrive out the box fresh, just as they would have done in ’51, ’57, ’60, ’61, ’63, ’66, ’73, ’75, and ’77, the years Fender is referencing here with these new 21st-century replicas.
“The iconic models in the American Vintage II Series are a near 1:1 comparison with their original predecessors,” said Justin Norvell, Executive Vice President of Product, FMIC. “Today they are built with precise, modern manufacturing processes that weren’t available in the past. These original guitars and basses have long been coveted by avid players and vintage enthusiasts around the world for their aesthetic and tone that inspired some of the greatest music and most-identifiable guitar and bass lines of all time.
“Whether you’re after nostalgic guitar sounds in the studio, or a vintage-style instrument that can withstand the demands of the road, the American Vintage II series harnesses the best of Fender’s legacy and craftsmanship so modern musicians can innovate today’s soundscapes.”
To those ends, Fender has resurrected Wide-Range CuNiFe magnet humbuckers for the Telecaster Deluxe and Custom, which had been out of production since 1981, and only sporadically seen in recent lineups. Nitro finishes have been used where period correct – ‘70s-era guitars such as the American Vintage II 1977 Telecaster Custom have gloss polyurethane as the originals did.
Ash and alder has been used as standard for the bodies, with vintage-style neck profiles, hardware and cases enhancing the time machine vibe. Fender describes the electric guitar pickups as “heirloom quality”, and they are voiced specifically to match the year of the instrument.
So, let’s take a closer look, starting at the beginning of the story for Fender and the mass-produced electric guitar, the 1951 Fender Telecaster…
American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster
Available right or left-handed, the 1951 Telecaster should look reassuringly familiar. It has a solid ash body, finished in nitro, Butterscotch Blonde with the black single-ply phenolic pickguard. There is a bolt-on one-piece maple neck, with a 1951 "U" profile, 7.25" radius maple fingerboard and 21 vintage tall frets.
It has a pair of Pure Vintage '51 Tele single-coil pickups, a Pure Vintage 3-Saddle Tele with Brass Barrel Saddles, and vintage Fender Deluxe tuners. The eagle-eyed vintage enthusiasts out there will recognise the narrow dot marker spacing at the 12th fret.
Fifty-one of these Telecasters will solid at 1951 prices (just $229, yelp!) at the Fender Presents: American Vintage II pop-up event on 13 October at Austin City Limits Music Festival, and again in Tokyo. But if you miss out on those, they retail for £1,949 / $2,249.
American Vintage II 1963 Telecaster
Available in Crimson Red Transparent, Surf Green or the 3-Color Sunburst pictured above, this Tele takes us into the '60s with the red model sporting a mahogany body, the other two in alder.
By now, the dimensions of the neck have changed. We now have a C profile maple bolt-on neck which is topped with a rosewood 'board. The Pure Vintage three-saddle ashtray-style bridge has swapped out brass for steel.
The pickups have been updated to Pure Vintage '63 Single-Coil Tele pickups, and the price for this is £1,899 / $2,099 and £1,999 / $2,249 for the Crimson Red Transparent model.
American Vintage II 1972 Telecaster Thinline
Okay, it's 1972... Enter the CuNiFe Wide-Range humbuckers, the bullet truss road nut, the F-stamped tuners and three-bolt neck plate with Micro-Tilt. Let's have it in Aged Natural, Lake Placid Blue and 3-Color Sunburst, and doesn't that four-ply pearlescent pickguard look a treat?
These, of course, have a semi-hollow ash body, so if lightweight and resonant Telecasters are your thing, this Thinline is hard to beat.
It's priced £2,049 / $2,399.
American Vintage II 1975 Telecaster Deluxe
Responding to the rise of a classic rock sound that favoured humbuckers over single-coils, Fender's Telecaster Deluxe does as the Thinlines above do and doubles up on the CuNife humbuckers, presenting the duo with a three-way shoulder mounted switch and dual volume and tone controls.
It is a practical setup, ready for big rock tones, but versatile, too. By now, Fender was using six-block-saddle bridges, so the intonationally exacting player is in luck with this. Other highlights include a solid alder body, which is finished in poly, a C profile neck, F-branded tuners and the three-bolt neck plate with Micro-Tilt.
These are offered in Mocha, pictured above, Black, and 3-Color Sunburst, and are priced £1,999 / $2,299.
American Vintage II 1977 Telecaster Custom
Rounding out the American Vintage II's new Telecasters, we have a '77 Tele Custom, which deploys a CuNife Wide-Range humbucker at the neck position, with a Pure Vintage '77 Tele single-coil at the bridge.
Once more, it has a solid alder body, is finished in poly, you've got the six-saddle bridge but this time with barrel-saddles just like Chrissie Hynde's signature Tele.
This is offered in Wine (pictured) and Black with maple fingerboards, or in Olympic White with a rosewood 'board, and it is priced £1,899 / $2,199.
American Vintage 1957 Stratocaster
The 1957 Strat is offered in right and left-handed models, with a trio of finishes to choose from. There's Sea Foam Green, 2-Color Sunburst, and Vintage Blonde, the latter with ash, the former two with solid alder bodies.
Necks are period-accurate V profiles and are topped with 7.25" maple fingerboards. A trio of Pure Vintage '57 Strat single-coils offers the old-school spank and bite, while a synchronized tremolo with bent-steel saddles offers the wobble.
As with its siblings in the series, there is no shortage of vibe here, and these come priced £1,949 / $2,249. For reference, you might be expected to pay north of 30 grand for an original.
American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster
The Fender Stratocaster's best year? Some might say. Here we have a '61 repro offered in Olympic White, 3-Color Sunburst and Fiesta Red, with left-handed models also available.
The recipe should be familiar now. There is the Pure Vintage trio of single-coil Strat pickups, the synchronized tremolo. The slab rosewood fingerboard has a 7.25” radius and tops a C profile neck. Nitro makes the colours pop – particularly noticeable on the 3-Color Sunburst.
This model is priced £1,899 / $2,099.
American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster
By 1973, Fender had graduated to the larger headstock with dual string trees. There were new finishes, with gloss poly replacing nitro. All three models here feature an ash body and have a C profile neck.
Period-identifying features include the vintage-style F stamped tuners and a synchronized tremolo with bent steel saddles and cold rolled steel block. Once more, the Pure Vintage pickups have been voiced for this early '70s era, a time in which the Strat was as popular as ever thanks to disco and popular culture's growing love affair with its sound and style.
These are priced £1,999 / $2,279, and your finish options include Mocha, Aged Natural (as pictured above), and Lake Placid Blue. The Lake Placid Blue and Mocha models have rosewood fingerboards.
American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster
The ’66 Jazzmaster is a real doozy. With the painted headcap and block inlay bringing a touch of class to proceedings, the classic offset as scarcely looked so good – though the Mocha Burst American Ultra Jazzmaster might have something to say about that.
Here we have a solid alder body, a 7.25” radius bound lam rosewood fingerboard on a 1966 C profile neck.
The hardware is made just like the originals, and on some instances on the very same machines as used in the ‘60s.
Fender gives you a choice of Dakota Red, Lake Placid Blue and 3-Color Sunburst finishes, all of which are dressed in nitrocellulose. The American Vintage II ’66 Jazzmaster is priced £2,049 / $2,399.
American Vintage 1954 Precision Bass
The 1954 Precision Bass takes the mass-produced bass guitar back to the beginning, offering a living, breathing and thumping take on an instrument that looked very much like a Telecaster redrawn for the bass register.
The Precision Bass has a solid ash body, a bolt-on maple neck with Tele-style headstock. It has a serialized Pure Vintage 2-Saddle Precision Bass bridge with Fiber Saddles, a nitro finish, and comes in Vintage Blonde or 2-Color Sunburst.
And it's only got one single-coil pickup 'cos that's all you needed back then to revolutionise low end. A finger rest is provided for comfort.
It is priced £2,049 / $2,249.
American Vintage II 1960 Precision Bass
The Precision Bass came a long way in just a few short years, with a newly revised body and headstock, a split-coil pickup and fresh finish, tonewood and fingerboard options.
Here we have it in the newly inaugurated (for the era) 3-Color Sunburst, Daphne Blue and Black, with the four-ply tortoiseshell pickguard giving it an aesthetic flourish.
Alder bodies and rosewood fingerboards were the order of the day. Other appointments include reverse open-gear tuners and a four-saddle bridge. It is priced £1,949 / $2,099.
American Vintage II 1966 Jazz Bass
Finally, we have the American Vintage II 1966 Jazz Bass, available in right or left-handed models, and bearing the much copied, never bettered offset double-cutaway shape and dual-pickup configuration.
These have solid alder bodies, bolt-on U profile maple necks, bound fingerboards of round-laminate rosewood, and boast a narrower nut, a speedier feel, and has 4-saddle bridge with threaded saddles and lollipop tuners.
The 1966 Jazz Bass is offered in 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White and Seafoam Green, and it is priced £1,999 / $2,299.
- The American Vintage II Series is available now. See Fender for more information.