Old gold: 40th anniversary Fender Stratocaster

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(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Everyone loves a good birthday party, including Fender, who has been keen to celebrate the continuing appeal of its most famous son since the company’s Anniversary Series first appeared in the shops in 1979. 

On that occasion, Fender produced a ‘limited’ run of 10,000 special Strats commemorating 25 years of the sixstring icon. The first 500 boasted a white pearlescent finish with the rest donning a silver metallic livery with the word ‘Anniversary’ adorning the bass horn.

Pickup covers, scratchplate, etc were black, necks were maple and memory informs us that they were a little on the heavy side, with the finish prone to turning a disturbing green colour (with some owners noting some flaking as time passed, too).

Available only during 1994, the 40th had an enamel badge on the headstock

Moving swiftly on ten years, the 35th Anniversary model was a Custom Shop affair with a quilted maple/alder combo for the body, white plastics, a bird’s eye maple neck, Lace Sensor pickups and, somewhat contrarily, an ebony ’board. Other more modern fare included active electronics and locking tuners.

A mere five years passed before the next celebration, this time the Strat turned 40 and Fender released the model you see here, alongside another limited edition sunburst model, which was a faithful reproduction of the original ’54.

Available only during 1994, the 40th had an enamel badge on the headstock (see pic below) emblazoned with the words ‘40th Anniversary of the Stratocaster’, and a special neckplate inscribed “Fender Stratocaster 40 years … and still rockin”.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Since then Fender have released 50th and 60th Anniversary models, each with their own unique and, it has to be said, eminently collectable features. We’re wondering if there will be a 65th model - or if we have to wait until 2024 for the next party!

We would like to thank Bernie Marsden for giving us access to this guitar.

Fingerboard

A maple fingerboard with a modern 22 medium jumbo frets - and the 12th fret markers in the post-1963 close position.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Pickguard

A modern three-ply pickguard with 11 screws, five-way selector switch and three American Standard pickups.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Controls

The controls on the 90s Standard Strat feature Fender’s TBX system, which offers master volume, tone for the neck pickup and tone for the middle and bridge respectively.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Headstock

Standard fare for a mid-90s Strat, save for the enamel badge at the tip, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Strat in red, white and blue.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

Tremolo/bridge

By the 1990s the Strat’s bridge and trem assembly had travelled quite far from its original 50s appointments - gone were the bent steel bridge saddles and six-screw configuration in favour of what we see here: redesigned saddles and two-point tremolo.

(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

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A variation on the 40th Anniversary’s livery was a ‘Leo Fender Tribute’ edition, which featured the great man’s image alongside the 40th emblem on the guitar’s upper bout.

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