In the summer of 1989 when I was eighteen years old I decided to pick up my Dad’s nylon stringed classical guitar and see what I could do with it. As a kid I have a few vague memories of my Dad playing the guitar but it had mostly been sitting in our house untouched. I had never shown any real inclination to play a musical instrument before except for brief spells playing the recorder and later the violin both of which I showed no particular talent or enthusiasm for. I can’t remember why I picked up that classical guitar after all that time but I did and I found that I really enjoyed learning chords and trying to figure out my favourite songs.
One year later with calluses on my fingertips and a lot of practice under my belt I felt the time was right to stop playing heavy metal riffs on guitar that couldn’t be less suited to the genre and to purchase an electric guitar. So off I went to Paul’s Music shop in Scunthorpe (it is still there 29 years later) to see what was available for around £250. I remember trying two guitars – one was brand new though I can’t remember anything else about it, the other was a second-hand and slightly scruffy looking Fender Stratocaster. I chose the Strat and I made the right decision that day as I still own, play and love it.
As good as this particular Strat sounds I have always been a bit dubious about its pedigree. The headstock states that it was made in Japan; it was fitted with a locking nut though the bolts to lock the strings were missing; the scratchplate had obviously been replaced because a couple of the screws were missing, not all of the holes lined up, and a hacksaw had been used to get it to fit properly; and it had a type of tremolo (albeit Fender branded) which I have never seen on any other Strat. Was this Strat cobbled together from various bits and pieces? It was even possible that the neck and tremolo were the only genuine Fender parts on what was a great sounding mongrel. Twenty six years after I originally purchased the guitar I decided to try and investigate using a method which was not available back then – Google.
The starting point was to try and identify the tremolo which was a genuine Fender part but which was unlike any other I had ever seen on a Stratocaster. After searching through a few hundred images of Strats I finally spotted one that looked similar but not identical. On closer inspection I could see that the image was of an identical model but the missing piece of the jigsaw was that my tremolo was missing the six fine adjustment screws. This was not surprising and explained why the locking nut bolts were also missing – without the fine adjusters having a locking nut is just a pain in the backside when you need to retune. Whoever had removed the fine tuners had also removed the locking nut bolts.
I could now identify the tremolo as a Fender System 1 tremolo and this was the crucial piece of information. Searching for this tremolo on a Made In Japan Stratocaster allowed me to identify the guitar as a Fender Contemporary Standard Stratocaster which were made in Japan in the mid-eighties (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Contemporary_Stratocaster_Japan for more information). Indeed from the serial number on the headstock I could identify that my particular guitar was made in 1986, only three years before I bought it. The original owners manual can be downloaded from here and shows that my guitar is model 25-4302 which is probably the most traditional of these Contemporary Strats due to the three single coil pickups, the maple neck, and the output jack being on the top of the body rather than the side.
So rather pleasingly my guitar was not cobbled together from spare parts at all – the locking nut and fine tuners are missing (which is fine with me) and the original scratchplate has been replaced with a standard scratchplate (and hence needed to be hacked at to fit around the Contemporary’s tremolo). I could if I wanted easily buy the parts to put it back to its original condition but I see no need – I am more than happy with it as it is and have been for over 25 years.