Price paid: £ 325
Purchased from: Ebay
Features — 9
This great looking guitar was built in Mexico between 2003/2004 and is crafted in the image of a classic 1970s era Stratocaster. Features include a beautiful natural Ash body with period correct shallow contours. A gloss polyurethane finished Maple neck with large CBS era headstock with standard 25.5" scale length and U-shaped profile. Also features a Rosewood fretboard with white dot markers, 21 vintage-style frets and 7.25" radius. 3-Bolt neck plate with Micro-Tilt neck adjustment and Bullet truss rod adjustment nut. 1 Volume and 2 Tone controls, 5-position selection blade with vintage-style synchronized tremolo and Fender/Schaller vintage "F" style tuning machines.
The guitar came equipped with a set of American Standard Single-Coil Strat Pickups from a 1994 "40th anniversary" Stratocaster which had been retro-fitted by the guitar's previous owner, although the original pickups were also supplied. Guitar came with tremolo arm and original pickups in non-authentic hardcase.
Sound — 9
As mentioned above, my guitar is equipped with USA-made pickups from a 1994 "40th anniversary" Stratocaster. Being 21 years old, these pickups have started to develop a vintage quality and produce a rich vintage single-coil sound. Having tried another Classic Series '70s model with the stock pickups at my local music shop, I can honestly say that USA-made pickups in my guitars produce a fatter, warmer tone than those supplied as stock, but having said that, the original stock pickups have plenty of warmth and character of their own and should not be overlooked! This guitar is perfectly suited for rock - plugged straight into my Marshall MG100DFX with the overdrive/distortion turned on I was able to recreate that lovely classic rock sound. Ritchie Blackmore tones aplenty here! By adding an Ibanez TS9 TubeScreamer I was able to achieve a convincing, Gary Moore-like sound and accompanied by my old Zoom 606 Multi-FX unit the guitar was more than capable of a decent metal sound and many others in between - I have to say I particularly liked the pairing of this guitar with either a touch of chorus, delay or phaser, the latter especially is very Pink Floyd sounding!
I play various different genres of music, especially when teaching, but I confess that my guilty pleasure when I get a bit of time to play for myself is classic rock and heavy metal bands like Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard (Steve Clark era only!) etc and blues. Played clean, the guitar has a lovely clarity especially in the middle or neck positions, however turn up the gain and they are clearly in their element and are more than capable of producing a quality, resonant rock tone with plenty of character and decent sustain - I would highly recommend taking the time to switch between the pickups and play with the tone controls until you find the sound you're looking for! I do this with all my guitars!
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
As I purchased this guitar second-hand I am not really in a position to comment on the guitar's original factory set-up. The first thing I did after purchasing was to have the guitar professionally set-up by my local guitar tech. I do this with all my guitars, so this is no reflection on the guitar's action when purchased. The guitar has been set up with a nice low action for 9-42 gauge strings as I use it for both lead and rhythm and is free of fret buzz or choking. The finish is in almost immaculate condition considering I purchased this second-hand and the frets feel well finished allowing for smooth playability during string bends.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Reliability plays a huge factor for me as I both teach and perform on a regular basis. This guitar may be heavier in regard to weight compared to my other Stratocasters but it is solid in construction and is likely to withstand the rigours of regular use. Any serious guitarist knows that you should always carry a back-up guitar when performing as one can never predict when a string is going to break, however having said that, I feel confident that I could rely on this guitar without the need for a back-up. The build quality and finish is of a very high standard and it easily rivals the USA-made '70s reissue models I have tried. I haven't used the guitar in a performance setting yet but have plans to take it with me the next time a performance opportunity reveals itself.
Overall Impression — 9
I have been playing the guitar for 20+ years in a variety of styles; classical, rock, jazz, blues, metal and other contemporary formats and have been teaching the instrument for half of that. During that time I have experimented with a large number of different guitars and I have to confess that I was very impressed by the quality of the Classic Series '70s Stratocaster. I will be honest, my guitar was a very lucky find as the guitar itself is 10+ years old but looks brand new and the retro-fitted US-made pickups are now 21 years old and developing a rich vintage tone that only comes with the natural passing of time. I will be the first to admit that the guitar's original specification (having played a stock model in a local shop) may not be as powerful as a USA-made model but at approximately half the price of a USA-made 1974 Vintage Reissue this guitar certainly packs a punch!
If this guitar was either lost or stolen then I would definitely buy another one. I have always liked the look and feel of '70s era Stratocasters despite their poor reputation, which in my honest opinion isn't entirely deserved, Fender produced some lovely guitars in the earlier half of the 1970s and if they're good enough for Ritchie Blackmore... However I appreciate that the heavier bodies, shallow contours and 7.25 radius is an acquired taste. I have played Gibson Les Pauls for the better half of my professional career and personally don't find the weightier Ash bodies on these Fenders an issue.
Fender have clearly gone to great lengths to set the record straight with both these Mexican-made (and US-made) '70s reissues, ensuring the modern player gets a period accurate guitar (minus the 5-way switch) with all the magic of the originals but without the faults that soiled Fender's name by the end of the era! My overall impression... the Fender Classic Series '70s Stratocaster is a fantastic instrument and I would highly recommend it!