The STRAT (1980-1983)

Model info: The “STRAT”, a customized and souped-up variation of the Stratocaster, was introduced by Fender at the 1980 NAMM Show. Designed by Gregg Wilson, then chief of guitar R&D at Fender, with the help of the late Dan Armstrong serving as a consultant, the STRAT tried to blend classic features with modern electronics to rejuvenate the Stratocaster concept. With the STRAT model, Fender gave a nod to the past by reinstating the smaller 1954-1965 pre-CBS headstock design (however, since the original worn-out tooling was used, the STRAT headstock, though smaller than the CBS era design, was not an entirely accurate re-creation of the pre-CBS model); 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. Looking forward, in addition to offering a matching headstock (the headstock painted to match the guitar’s body color), the STRAT incorporated several noteworthy features: a hotter lead pickup (branded the X-1) with a much stronger output than the standard Stratocaster pickup (various X-1 pickups tested were between 6.0 and 8.5 ohms); a new wiring circuitry delivering 9 different basic tones – a twin mode 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 (tones) but also 4 “new” tones never before available on a Fender Stratocaster; and, 22 carat gold electroplated brass hardware including a re-designed extra massive(sustain) bridge and vibrato block, tuners, and volume/tone knobs that were officially dubbed the “Brassmaster Series”. According to Fender, the hardware was actually plated with a 100 micron gold coat (the same as fine jewlery) and for that reason it’s rumored that the company lost money on every unit sold. Some very early models are missing the gold tuners (same tuners but in chrome) and the gold plated pickup selector tip because of a delay in parts delivery. For more information about the STRAT, read this article: The 1980-83 Fender “STRAT”.

Despite several design changes during the CBS period, the Stratocaster had remained a single model product since its inception in 1954, with the exception of the 1979 25th Stratocaster Anniversary model and, arguably, the walnut Strat of the ’70s. However, this would change radically in the ’80s and the “Stratocaster” would never again be a one trick pony but would evolve into a multiple product line. By the year 2000, “multiple”, in fact, would seem like understatement. 1980 saw the beginning of Fender’s commitment to the belief there should be a Stratocaster built to satisfy the demands of virtually every conceivable player. This pursuit of model diversity is a little on the strange side though for a “component-based” assembly line-style instrument. Why offer so many models when a basic unit could be so easily modified in the aftermarket to suit a particular player’s taste? Perhaps the question supplies the answer – the Strat was so easily modifiable Fender in fact had to compete with its own after-market.

1954 Stratocaster - Strat Collector News