Price paid: $ 599
Sound — 6
I think this will be great for blues and classic rock. I have a stable of fine Jacksons for metal. I use this with my Tech 21 Trademark 10, which I sometimes run through a Marshall 1960A 4X12 cab. It sounds like a classic Strat. It does offer some piercing feedback sometimes (sounds microphonic). I like the sound, but I'm getting used to it. It doesn't have near the sustain that I'm used to, but it's not really fair to compare this to my neck-through Jackson with EMGs.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing for over 20 years. I have 7 electric guitars (4 Jacksons, 1 Kramer, 1 Squier Strat, 1 Highway 1 Strat), 3 amps, a few effects, etc. If this were lost or stolen, I'd be interested in getting another just like it. I enjoy it. I had a beautiful Fender Custom Shop Strat with a gorgeous cherry sunburst (my favorite color) flame maple top, flame maple neck, pearloid pickguard, etc., that I never felt comfortable playing. It was like driving a Cadillac. Not as much fun as a VW, IMO. I love the stripped-down aesthetic this guitar has. It's a player, and that's just what I wanted. I think it was so cool of Fender to offer this at a reduced price, instead of calling it Vintage and jacking up the price, like they do on their Closet Classics and Relics. This is just what I wanted. A quality USA Strat with the important stuff included and the frills left out. Thanks, Fender!
Reliability & Durability — 10
This thing is heavy, solid and built to last. The finish may well wear off. It already had a ding in it when I bought it brand new from the store (I live in a small town - they had a total of 1 to choose from). I hope the finish does wear off. I love seeing those worn-looking Strats, like the one Kenny Wayne Shepherd has. I think I could depend on this. Though I'm used to Floyds, this vintage-style trem stays in tune very well.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I'm reminding myself that I didn't buy this for metal. Nevertheless, I think I'll replace at least the bridge pickup with a DiMarzio Virtual Vintage, as the soundclip for the Virtual Vintage Blues on DiMarzio's web site sounds the way I want this to sound. I also may get GraphTech String Saver saddles for it, as they are said to improve sustain, and they appear to have flush adjustment screws that won't poke my picking hand like the Fender screws do (these are nowhere near as sharp as the screws on my Squier Strat's bridge though).
Features — 8
2004 USA Highway 1 Strat, 22 frets, S/S/S "Vintage" Fender pickups, tobacco sunburst alder body with maple/maple neck/fretboard, vintage-style tremolo, modern sealed tuners, 25.5" scale. Fender includes a gig bag, but I paid extra for a case instead. The rolled-edge fretboard feels wonderful. All the typical features of a Strat, which add up to a very flexible guitar, thus I'm giving it an "8". It would be nice if they included strap locks and a case - and I also really like the slotted backplate Fender uses on some Squiers (lets you adjust the claw screws without removing the backplate), but I'm happy.