Fender Telecaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant in 1978-79
Earlier this year I decided to buy a late 1970’s Fender Telecaster but ended up with three identical 1978-79 Fender Telecasters. The first 1978 Fender Telecaster was bought from a music store in Italy and served me really well during the summer but then I found this 1978-79 Fender Telecaster from Andy’s Really Great Guitars in Worcestershire, UK that I just couldn’t resist. I should of course have stopped there but stumbled upon a third 1979 Fender Telecaster from a record store in Southport, UK which I bought but now have sold. I’m planning to keep this 1978-79 Fender Telecaster since it’s lighter, 3.8 kg instead of 4.3-4.5 kg, the grain is amazing and most importantly it sounds awesome. It has a really nice full neck profile and I guess this is the Nancy I’ve always dreamt of. Well done me.
It’s always a bit disappointing to take a late 1970’s Fender apart since you realise that the headstock shows one year and all the other parts another. In this case the headstock and body sticker says 1978, #S840573, the pots say mid-May 1979, #1377920 and the neck stamp shows 17th of August 1979, #3395. Well done Fender, well done.
Neck stamps: MMNN*WWYD, Example: 0900*3893 = Week 38, 1979, Day 3
Neck / Body Stamps: WWYD, Example: 0304 = Week 3, 1980, Day 4
Pot codes: MMMYYWW, Example: 1377731 = 137 (CTS), 1977, Week 31
Pickup Codes: OOWWYY, Example: 202378 = Operator #20, Week 23, 1978Taken from Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters
A Fullerton built Fender Telecaster from 1978-79. Body and headstock shows 1978, pots and neck stamp shows mid-1979.
Fender Telecaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant on the 4th of July 1979
As usual when it comes to me and guitars I never just buy one, well I do at first but then I always end up with two or three in the end. Since I really liked my 1978 Fender Telecaster I started to search for others and ended up with three different 1978 Fender Telecaster. Now after serious consideration, and moving house and realising that I don’t have as much guitar storing space as before, I’ve decided to sell two of them. It was great in a way to get to explore three identical guitars from the same year, to compare the sound, build and feel of them and to learn more about late 1970’s Fender Telecasters. This one is great, it has a few battle scars and the frets are a bit low but that just builds character. All three of these Telecasters have a pretty chunky neck, something I love. They are around 23-24 mm on the first fret and about 24-25 mm on the 12th, not bad for a Telecaster. Unfortunately they weigh like a Les Paul, around 4-4.5 kg, perhaps that’s where the great twang and sustain comes from. As soon as I get the new flat in order I will make some videos of all three to compare them. This guitar is now for sale.
I took this guitar apart and checked all the numbers and this one was made in 1979 even though the S8 headstock serial indicates 1978. The neck stamp says #2794 which means week 27, 1979, day 4, that was Thursday the 4th of July 1979. Here are the basic numbers to check:
I filled all the dents on the back of the neck with Nitro lacquer so now you can’t feel them when you play. The volume pot has been changed at some point and the knobs are not the same as on the other two S8 Telecasters. The frets are quite low and I need to replace the first five since they are pretty worn but she plays fine as it is. Except for that, it’s all original and sounds amazing. If I had space for them, I would have kept all three.
Fender Telecaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant in 1978
I sold my 1979 Fender Stratocaster a couple of weeks ago and managed to find myself a late 1970’s Fender Telecaster at the same time. This was my secret plan all along, sell the Stratocaster and get a Telecaster instead. I’ve dreamt of a 1970’s Fender Telecaster for over 20 years and now I finally got one. Ideally I would have loved an early 50’s one but I realised already at 15 years old that a late 70’s is probably all I could ever afford. I found this 1978 Fender Telecaster in Musicarte Strumenti Musicali, a guitar shop in Chiaravalle, Italy. I got a pretty descent price but you never really know what you are getting, unless you have seen all the numbers stamped on the guitar you are just taking someone’s word for it to be all original. I’ve also never bought anything from Italy, a lot of eBay sellers refuse to ship to Italy because of problems with the post and perhaps even more, Italian buyers. I just had to trust these guys and luckily it worked out fine. I really love this guitar, the neck is chunkier than the 1979 Fender Stratocaster which I love, the fatter the better. The colour will hopefully darken over the years from the sun which will make it even more Bruce Springsteen and Roy Buchannan looking. Actually, I guess this is my Nancy now, even if she is a late 1970’s natural Telecaster and not an early 1950’s butterscotch one like Buchannan’s. It weighs a good 4.3 kg but is so worth it for the feel of the neck and the sustain of the body. The pickups are pretty damn good too, I really like how sweet it sounds. Overall, an amazing Telecaster and a dream come true for me, even though my Japan made 1981 Greco TL-800 is almost as good. This guitar is now for sale.
I haven’t taken the guitar apart yet to check that all the numbers match the serial number. I managed to date my 1979 Fender Stratocaster via this site, Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters, I found it extremely helpful. Since the S7, S8, S9 etc stamped on the headstock are so inaccurate to show if the guitar was made in 1977, 1978 or 1979 you really need check all the other numbers to know what year the guitar was made. Here are the basic numbers to check:
Fender Stratocaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant in 1979
This weekend I restored my 1979 Fender Stratocaster to it’s original state. One pot has been changed at some point and I needed to put in a new 5 ways switch but the rest seems to be all original. Well the middle pickup is a bit of a mystery, I’m not sure if it’s a Fender pickup or if it’s something completely different, either way it sounds awesome. It has staggered pole pieces, something that Fender stopped with in the mid 1970’s so I would say that it’s either an older Fender or a newer Japanese pickup. I really like the look of the guitar now, a classic late 1970’s 3 tone sunburst hardtail Fender Stratocaster. The guitar is for sale here.
First I had to check that the original pickups even worked. After getting pretty strong readings I decided to install them, now I knew in which order to put them too since they weren’t marked with neck, middle and bridge.
I filled the old holes from the gold Gotoh machine heads with a tooth pick and normal wood glue, it worked really well. When I removed the terrible shielding job that was done before I could for the first time see the serial number, this body was made on a Monday in the 5th week of 1979. The neck is from 1978 which makes sense if it was put together early the following year. I have to go through the soldering again though, there is something that isn’t right. I noticed when I had put it back together that there something wrong with the middle pickup, it sounded like a wah wah stuck in one position. Well first thing I realised was that the switch was the wrong way around so that has been flipped now, then after a lot of detective work I figured out what was wrong. The middle pickups wires was the other way around, the white was the ground and the black was going to the switch. There was also an extra capacitor on the second tone pot that I had to remove. Now everything works perfectly and it sounds awesome, I really love this guitar. Thanks again to Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters for all the useful information.
Fender Stratocaster, made at the Fullerton plant in 1979
I have always loved the 1970’s Fenders with the classic 3-tone sunburst. I guess it started when I first picked up the guitar and fell in love with the big headed Strats but nowadays I’m probably more in to Telecasters, even though they are way to expensive and hard to find. That was the main reason why I put my Claescaster together, to have a Telecaster that looked like late 1970’s Fender but for a lot less money. I actually bought a Tokai Silver Star back in October for the same reason, that I’m completely gay for 1970’s Fender 3-tone sunburst. So when I was down south for Christmas and walked past a small guitar shop in Lorca and saw a 1979 Fender Stratocaster in the window I couldn’t resist. It was the only second hand guitar they had in the whole shop, vintage guitars are really tricky business in the south of Spain since people aren’t really used to pay more money for something old when they can get something brand new for less. The price was ok and I could even live with 1980’s looking Seymour Duncan hot rails, switches and all, and since I really like gold hardware that wasn’t an issue either. The problem was, is it real, is it a US made Fender Stratocaster from the late 1970’s? The man in the shop said yes, the serial number on the head starts with S8, that is 1978, and it says made in the USA under, what more do you need to know? I tried to explain that there are a few other numbers on an old Fender that you have to check to be sure, and that the decal on the head is very easy to fake and stick on yourself. The man would hear none of this, he was sure he knew more about old guitars that this weird foreigner that had just walked in to his shop, on top of that, he really trusted the guy that he was selling it for. I said I had to think about it and left. I went home and started to read everything I could find about late 1970’s Fenders and found this site, Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters, extremely helpful.
I spent the whole Christmas just thinking about the guitar, was it worth it even if I couldn’t know for sure that it was made in 1978, or if it was even a real Fender? On the morning of the 26th we got the seller to travel in to the guitar shop with the original pickups, that was my first demand, if I saw them then hopefully I would be convinced that it was real. When we arrived to the shop the guitar was still there in the window and I was presented with a shoebox with all the original hardware, machine heads, bridge and pickups. I felt fairly sure that it was the real deal, I mean who would bother to bring in a box with old Fender stamped hardware for a fake guitar? I asked one last time if the old man in the shop had any proof that the guitar was real and he got really annoyed, saying that I could either take it or leave it. I managed to calm him down and explained that it would be a fairly common procedure to take the neck off if you sell old Fenders, or at least show the bottom of the pickguard, especially since there are a few questionable late 1970’s Fenders circulating in Spain that I’m 99% sure weren’t made at the Fullerton plant in the USA. The man just kept saying that it says USA on the head, that means it’s not made in Mexico, I had to explain that they didn’t start to make Fenders in Mexico until 10 years later, after the Fullerton plant had closed down and Fender had moved to Corona. He wasn’t convinced, and neither was I, but after seeing the pickups which pointed at 1979 and seeing the original hardcase which is the type Fender introduced in 1979 I felt that it was close enough, and bought it. I’m glad I did because as soon as I returned to Barcelona and I could take the guitar apart I found the proof needed. Even though I really like this guitar I have it listed for sale if anyone is interested in buying it.
Ideally I would have liked to find a few more stamps in the neck pocket but they have either been sprayed over or there used to be a sticker that have fallen off. The neck has a serial number on the end that points at 1978 so together with the S8 serial on the head I guess it was made in 1978. The serial number under the pickguard points at 1979, just like the original pickups. The pots are unfortunately the general CTS pots that can’t be traced and the body has been shielded, which I didn’t want to remove, so I couldn’t find any numbers there. The matching stamp on the heel and neck pocket is the quality stamp Fender used in the late 1970’s. The Seymour Duncan pickups sounds way better than I expected, a bit too hot for more liking perhaps but still pretty nice. I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep it like this for a while or return it to it’s former glory with it’s original pickups and hardware.
Fender had grey bottom pickups up until 1979 and then introduced black bottoms without serial numbers in 1980. I’m not sure if the bridge pickup is from 1980 and the others from 1979 or if it has been changed sometime in the last 35 years. The 3 screws neck plate and the saddles has the correct numbers and they machine heads looks like they should too. The original hardcase is actually way lighter and easier to carry than I expected, it has grown on me even if it looks a bit plastic and 1980’s for my normal taste. My first guitar was a Japan made 1993 Fender Squier with a rosewood fretboard and even though I prefer maple fretboards these days, there is something quite nice about a rosewood Strat. I also really like that it’s a hardtail, I never use the tremolo so I prefer a hardtail any day of the week, they feel more like a Telecaster too. All in all, this was not only my first USA made instrument but a pretty awesome guitar on it’s own that made me fall in love with Stratocasters again. Thanks again to Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters for all the useful information.
The Claescaster, put together in May 2013 out of a Mighty Mite Swamp ash body, Tonerider Vintage Plus pickups, Wilkinson hardware and a cheap but fairly fat China neck.
Last night I decided to change the pots and install a treble bleed on my new Claescaster, I never liked the feel of the CTS pots I had on. I’m still not sure if I like the new changes or not, in my head it sounded better before but I stupidly forgot to record it so I can’t compare the before and after. I think it had a clearer sound with more highs, now I feel that the neck pickup is more muffled. I’m not sure if this is down to cheaper pots, the treble bleed or the wiring. I changed the wiring too from a more standard wiring to Seymour Duncan’s suggestion for a ’66 wiring which matched what I had seen for the treble bleed. Maybe it has more to do with the changes in wiring than the actual treble bleed because before I had an old 50′s vintage wiring to help with the lack of treble at lower volumes and I was pretty happy with that. I’m so confused with all the different wiring options, I have no idea who’s doing what to whom, and where? I might just have to redo it again and copy the original wiring on my Greco TL-500 or my Fender TL52-75, they both sounds great.
The new Claescaster got a treble bleed and the ’66 wiring, bottom right photo shows the original wiring on my 1979 Greco TL-500
Update: December 27, 2014, Since I had the soldering iron out to fit the electronics in my new home built Claescaster I took the treble bleed out in this one and changed the wiring back to it’s original 50′s vintage wiring
The old Claescaster before and after the transformation, well I just changed the pickguard.
I recently did a little order from my favourite Hong Kong site, EY Guitars. I wanted to change the pots on the new Claescaster, I’m really not happy with the fancy CTS pots I got and decided to put on some Asian ones instead. I also ordered a new black pickguard for the old Claescaster for 5€, I had grown tired of the cheap looking tortoise that has been on for 4 years. I also changed the knobs for flat topped gold ones so now the old Claescaster looks just like the new Claescaster, if it wasn’t for the Fender logo and the beautiful wood grain on the swamp ash body on the new one.
Now I have two Claescaster’s that looks pretty much the same. Boring perhaps but I really love the look of the 1970’s Fender Telecasters with their 3-tone sunburst, black pickguards and maple necks.
How to change a switch I spent Saturday doing my new favourite thing, soldering. How could I have lived for thirty two years without realising how exciting this is, well maybe not, but still. It’s a nice past time and probably healthier, even with the fumes, than spending Saturday afternoons in the sun drinking beer in a terrace, that tends to happen when you live in Spain. First I changed the old 3-way switch on my Westone Strat from 1979 to a fancy US made 5-way switch that I got from Swivel Electronics on eBay Japan.
Note how bent the blade of the old switch was
I fitted the new switch and then started to unsolder one cable at the time and moved it from the old to the new switch. Unfortunately I managed to fit the switch the wrong way around so when I was done and had put the pickguard back on and strung up the guitar again I had to take it all off and redo it. I turned out that a 5-switch wasn’t that much more complicated than a 3-way switch for a Telecaster and I know those by heart now. Suddenly I have a fully functioning 70’s Japanese Strat and who knew that the in-between pickup sounds would be so amazing.
New 5-way switch fitted
How to change a potentiometer When I ordered all the electronics needed for the new Claescaster I bought two new pots for the old Telecaster as well. I found this great guitar shop in Valencia called Stringsfield with super cheap and quick shipping so I got two Alpha 250k audio pots for my old one and two CTS 250k for my new Claescaster project, my Mighty Mite Swamp ash body that is still stuck in customs in Madrid.
It was time to change the old mini 500k pots for a full size Alpha 250k
I fitted the new pots on the control plate and then started to move all the cables around
The old electronics was such a mess so I changed the pots but kept cables, switch and my Orange drop capacitor. I figured there was no point buying any better cables since I wasn’t going to change the pickups yet. I might change all of that in the near future, as soon as the new Claescaster is done. I’m tempted to get the Artec Vintage Style AlNiCo Telecaster Pickup Set from Northwest Guitars, they sound really good for the price, £29.99. Of course I did the old 50’s vintage wiring again, I really liked the tone of that modification. I haven’t had time to rehearse with this guitar yet but I’m pretty sure that the new pots will make it a bit less treble sounding and hopefully make it sound a bit warmer.