The STRAT, a customised and souped-up variation of the Stratocaster, was introduced by Fender at the 1980 NAMM Show. Designed by Gregg Wilson, then chief of R&D at Fender, with the help of Dan Armstrong serving as a consultant, the STRAT was a blend of classic features with modern electronics, with the aim of rejuvenating the Stratocaster concept.
With the STRAT model, Fender gave a nod to the past by reinstating the smaller 1954-1965 pre-CBS headstock design and, like the 1979 25th Stratocaster Anniversary models, the STRAT was fitted with the popular pre-CBS style truss-rod adjustment and four-bolt neck plate, replacing the CBS Bullet truss rod adjustment and three-bolt neck plate.
In addition to offering a headstock painted to match the guitar’s body colour, the STRAT incorporated several noteworthy features –
A hotter lead pickup branded the X-1 with a much stronger output than the standard Stratocaster pickup
New wiring circuitry delivering 9 different basic tones. A two position rotary selector switch replaced the bottom tone control which when used with the five-way pickup selector switch allowed not only for your standard 5 Stratocaster positions, but also 4 “new” tones never before or since available on a Fender Stratocaster –
Neck and middle pickups in series – humbucking
Middle and bridge pickups in series – humbucking
Neck and bridge pickups in parallel
Neck and bridge pickups in parallel, with the middle pickup in series
Thus, the STRAT delivered nine (5+ 4) different basic pickup tones by combining the 5-position switch with the twin rotary selector tone knob. Otherwise the STRAT was fitted with the standard 250k ohm audio taper pots and the master tone control carried a regular .05 MFD capacitor. This unique wiring design delivers many tones not usually associated with a Fender Stratocaster and makes the STRAT one of, if not the most, versatile of any era Stratocaster produced by Fender prior to the later S-1 switching system.
The controls and hardware were 22K gold plated and included a heavy “Brassmaster” tremolo bridge for extra sustain, gold plated knobs and tuners.
What makes this one particularly interesting is that it has a standard style Stratocaster bridge instead of the massive production line STRAT “Brassmaster” bridge. And the control knobs are the standard Fender plastic units rather than gold “top hat” style units featured on the STRAT models.
While Candy Apple Red was a standard colour for The STRAT models, we believe this one is finished in the little used Fender colour of Midnight Wine.
Which leads us to think that this guitar could likely be a prototype unit that predated the first run of STRAT instruments. There are records and photos of other prototype STRATs from late 1979 & early 1980 with a standard bridge & different knobs and colours, and we believe this is one of those.
It is actually a great guitar in so many ways. The pickup switching options are quite unique – no other Stratocaster past or present has featured the 9 sounds available on this guitar. And they are all very useable. Some are great – all your classic Strat sounds plus super thick, humbucker type tones available at the flick of a switch.
There was no standard neck for The STRAT, but three shapes were available: C, D, and U. This one features a slim C style neck contour – very comfortable in all positions.
These guitars were notable for their weight, which is almost in the Les Paul zone. This one tips the scales at 9.2 lbs, but the added weight is likely the reason for the big, fat, chunky tones available from this guitar.
It is in very good overall condition – a few marks & dings here and there as would be expected on a 38 year old guitar. Some lacquer chips have been touched up with the correct colour. The neck is clean, the gold plated hardware is still gleaming, and everything works as it should. Frets show very little wear, action is slinky low, and the plastics are original and unmarked.
The STRAT listed for US$995 in 1980 – a significant premium of US$250 more than a standard Stratocaster. This was raised to $1,095 in 1981 and was priced at $1,150 in 1982 and 1983.
The high production costs of The STRAT led to it being discontinued in the course of 1983. According to Fender, the hardware was actually plated with a 100 micron gold coat (the same as fine jewellery) and for that reason it is believed that the company lost money on every unit sold.
The STRAT pre-dated the establishment of the Fender Custom Shop, but in every way it matches the standards of Fender CS. This one is a really well kept example of Fullerton Fender at its best.
Comes in a later non-Fender hard case in good condition.