Tag: Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters

1978 Fender Telecaster

Fender Telecaster Made in USA, Fullerton 1978Fender 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.

Fender Telecaster Made in USA, Fullerton 1978 Fender Telecaster Made in USA, Fullerton 1978

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

Fender Telecaster Made in USA, Fullerton 1978A Fullerton built Fender Telecaster from 1978-79. Body and headstock shows 1978, pots and neck stamp shows mid-1979.

3 original Fender Telecaster Made in USA, Fullerton 1978-79The three late 1970’s Fender Telecasters together, 1978 Fender Telecaster, 1978-79 Fender Telecaster and the now sold 1979 Fender Telecaster 

1979 Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtailFender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
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.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
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.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
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.

1979 Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
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.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail

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.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail 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 Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail 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.