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 Post subject: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 9:19 am 
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G'day, This is my beloved Strat which I bought new in the late 80s (sn E8xxxxx)
I often try to find out more about this model and since I took some more pics, here I go again.
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My research usually uncovers more questions than answers, but here's the facts. It has a factory fitted USA Made Kahler Spyder ( Floyd Rose Lic.) Tremelo and locking nut. The neck has 22 frets. The tuners are Gotoh and the serial number is on the headstock in grey, under the Fender logo. Nowhere on the guitar is any country of manufacture. This exactly as it was new. Here's another one I found on this forum (the only other one I've seen - ever)

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The consensus seems to be that it is one of the variations of the Contemporary Standard produced in Japan and many knowledgeable people ( including John C on this forum ) have confirmed this. I just don't understand why this model doesn't say MIJ on it.
Extensive searches have revealed other owners of this model - Jacktoz, fleagle73, firstmeasure, all say the same thing - no country of manufacture. Did they run out of stickers? This was bought in Australia, but they were sold in Europe and the US.

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I'm perfectly happy to accept the Japanese Contemporary Strat theory although I've not seen this exact setup on any specialist Japanese Fender site.
My favourite theory atm is that they were assembled in the US with Japanese necks and bodies and american parts. Wasn't the new Corona plant only making about 5 guitars a day around this time? What do you think? Does a look inside offer any clues? Can you tell if the pickups and wiring are US or not?

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Anyway folks,that's my 80s Strat. A flashback to another time, Fender's attempt to appeal to the growing army of big-haired, dive-bombing shredders of the era. I've copped a fair bit of ridicule over the years, but now I think it has a sort of classic beauty about it.
I would appreciate any input, comments and theories about this guitar. I'm not expecting anything conclusive, but maybe someone will know exactly what I have here.
Thanks .....Mark.


Last edited by boxbang on Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:01 am 
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Hi Boxbang, I can tell you for a close to a 90% certainty that this is a MIJ Strat. I recognize the stamp type on the backside heel of the neck. That was the common stamp type used on so many of the MIJ Strats. Even the 1990s Foto-Flames had numbers that corresponded with the same font and ID type as on your neck. Also the tuners are era correct for mid-1980s MIJ Contemporary Strats. But it is odd that an E serial number MIJ Strat does not have the MIJ logo right under the Fender name on the headstock (which was common on these all the way through 1988), so maybe you have a 1st issue or could it be that someone carefully removed the MIJ logo and sprayed some lacquer over the headstock?

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Here is another pict of a 88 for sale on the web:

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:20 am 
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G'day X, Yes I agree that the neck and body are Japanese. It's just that none of of these US made Spyder equipped Strats that Iv'e heard about have a MIJ sticker. I bought mine brand new with tags from a Fender dealer. There was no attempted deception. The man told me she was a Japanese Strat with US parts. It was priced midway between the US and
MIJ Strats of the time. I just wonder if it was assembled in the US.
I have seen MIJ Strats with other Kahler Trems, but not the ''Spyder". If the trem on the guitar in your post is a Kahler ( I can't tell), it's definitely not a Spyder.
There was a thread on this forum a few years ago, which I found in a Google search titled -" MIJ Strat with Kahler Trem" in which several owners had exactly the same setup as me with no country of manufacture.


Last edited by boxbang on Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:40 am 
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Ah, if that is the bottom line question, I can 90% for sure tell you (hey I need a 10% safety net in case I am wring! :lol: ) it was assembled in Japan. Here is some research I did and put on my website. I got some of this from a direct conversation with a Fender Rep who was involved in this process when it happened:

"The MIJ JV and SQ guitars, as well as some of the E series, had USA parts (mostly pickups, switches, and potentiometers) that were shipped over to Japan to help speed up production while the new USA plant was being set up in Corona, California. In 1984 CBS decided to sell Fender and finally, an investment group led by William (Bill) Schultz bought it in the month of March for twelve and a half million dollars. This investment group formally became the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation or FMIC. Bad news though, the sale did not include production facilities in Fullerton, California. Thus USA guitar production ceased between late 1984 till October of 1985 until the new factory was built in Corona, California. It has been estimated that 80% of the guitars sold during this time were made in Japan."

So some trems and other parts would have been shipped over too, especially specialty parts that would have been too cost prohibitive for the companies in Japan to make dies and casts for and manufacture. This is all IMHO! You could have one of the first productions of this model....maybe??? What is the serial number agaim

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:09 pm 
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I've heard that these may have had "Made In Japan" stickers on the back of the headstock that were easily removed - little black foil stickers like on this MIJ EVH Wolfgang Special:

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Also Fender used the Kahler Spyder bridges on the HM Strats and on a more "deluxe" version of this guitar that had a figured top and HSS pickups - all of these are kind of "grey area" guitars because they don't always have the "Made in Japan" either on the headstock decal or on the back of the neck (for those models that have serial number on above the neck heel).


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:47 pm 
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It is a Japan made Fender Contemporary Stratocaster. That's what it is :)


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 3:37 pm 
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That's my sunburst the OP posted, Definately never had MIJ or CIJ or any other country of origin anywhere on here. I helped unbox it at Jims' Guitars in Bowling Green Ohio in the late 80's and have been the only owner. Shoot, I'm pretty much the only guy that's ever player her other than a couple of buddies for a few songs. IIRC it was in the spring of 89 that I bought it, the first year Kahler made the spyder trem. Kinda makes the Fullerton-Corona transition moot. Since I have never had the neck off, or even the pickguard off (!) I can't provide pics of any neck or pocket stamps or even of the pickups. She's due for a string change so I'm thinking it's a good time to check what's under the hood pickup-wise. I can tell you that unplugged she rings like a freakin' bell though, and plugged in sounds like the 67 Mitch (the guy whose twin reverb tried to kill the barmaid) played on the other side of the band. The intonation on mine blew his away; for years he has been offereing his 74 tele as a straight-up trade because of the intonation and sustain on the old girl.

Hey, just realized she's old enough to drink in bars now! Damn, can't believe a guirtar I bought new is that old now....


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:19 pm 
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Guess I'll throw my 2 cents worth in here. Those saying this is a Contemporary Strat are not exactly correct. A Contemporary Strat would have a side mounted input jack, and more than likely a black headstock, black pickguard and on some models black hardware.

HOWEVER There was a "Contemporary Standard 22" that was made from 1985 - 1989 that had an alder body, 22 fret maple or rosewood fretboard with a 12" radius, a string clamp at the nut and a redesigned bridge/vibrato unit. Everything else was Standard Stratocaster (body shape, 3x single coils, 3 ply pickguard, etc.)

As to why it has no country of manufacture I have no idea. Have you checked the serial on The Guitar Dater Project?

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:35 pm 
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G'day cjpeck, Yes mate, I did steal your pic. I hope you don't mind. (after all, we are on the same mission) I couldn't remember your name. Your pics helped me enormously in restoring an original looking pickguard with the proper trem rout- I think I did a reasonable job.
I'm the dude who tried to convince you to take her apart so we could compare stamps, electrics etc. Now would be a good time mate. I agree that the build and sound quality are as good as any Strat, US or MIJ.
G'day Steve-oh-no, Your post was short and sweet and you're probably correct. If only it were that simple. I'm just fascinated with this grey area of Fender's history and this guitar represents over 20 years of my playing life.
Thankyou John C and Xefri for your input. It's great to have contributions from forum members for whom I have a great respect.

My next step will be to take a more detailed photo of the electricals. I guess my main questions are -
1) Where was this model assembled ???
I'm now leaning more towards Japan, mainly because the tremolo rout in the body is neatly painted. The neck is purposely built for the locking nut and the stamped numbers match those of the body.
2) Are the pickups,pots etc US or MIJ ???
I'm hoping that a more detailed photo of the insides will give a clue to someone who knows about such things.
3) Why no "MIJ" or any other indication of origin ???
It's easy to say that a temporary sticker may have been removed from the back or that part of the decal was sanded off and refinished, but in my case and every other case I've heard of, this is simply not true. I think that this omission was deliberate, probably because of the high US content.

I know I'm like a dog with a bone, but I need to know more. I "Made History" when I bought this thing :?
Time to charge the camera. Where did I leave that screwdriver ?

GOODONYAZ .....Mark.

PS. G'day CA Feathers. Results from the guitar project are inconclusive. THE number is E819948. IT gives dates for both US and Japan. :?


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:31 pm 
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I'll try to get a string change in this sunday. Got a gig tonight and tomorrow is date day with the wife, going to head down to Pik.e Place market and have some fish and chips then toss down a couple Guiness' and a nice 18 yr Laphroiq over at Kells. Any particular pics you need/want? Still not separating the neck, but I'm planning on pulling the pickguard and seeing what the pickups really are.

just wondering, is yours a 3 piece alder body? mine is, you can see the joinery through the burst and you can id the wood in the chip that I put in it when I fell off the bar back 95. Def. a 12 inch radius neck, just checked a little while ago.

Btw I get both american and japanese dates from multiple sources with my serial number too... go figure.

I don't think they are mij contemporary strats. production on the contemp. strats ended prior to 88 and the spyder came out in 89. Contemporary strat 22, I think that's a good bet. at least as good and probably better than anything else I've heard.


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:15 am 
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Boxbang wrote:

1) Where was this model assembled ???
I'm now leaning more towards Japan, mainly because the tremolo rout in the body is neatly painted. The neck is purposely built for the locking nut and the stamped numbers match those of the body.
2) Are the pickups,pots etc US or MIJ ???
I'm hoping that a more detailed photo of the insides will give a clue to someone who knows about such things.
3) Why no "MIJ" or any other indication of origin ???
It's easy to say that a temporary sticker may have been removed from the back or that part of the decal was sanded off and refinished, but in my case and every other case I've heard of, this is simply not true. I think that this omission was deliberate, probably because of the high US content.



1) Japan...I don't think that's really a question...walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...you get the point. All signs lead to Japan.

2)Most likely US pickups based on the timeframe.

3)That is the mystery, and your theory is a good one. So many US parts, Fender probably didn't want Japan getting all the credit...lol.

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:30 am 
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G'day cjpeck, Yes mate, I'm guessing it's an Alder body, but mine is at least 4 peices. They must have used ones with less for the sunbursts. The neck is also 12 inch rad.
I'd be happy to see any photos you care to post. Still reluctant to remove the neck huh? Ah well. Personally removing the pickguard makes me more nervous. It's like pulling the dashboard out of your car,a lot of delicate stuff there. To me changing necks is like changing a flat tyre. Any photos would be appreciated, inside or outside.
I also like the Contemporary 22 info in CA Feathers' post. Hmm 85-89, sounds good to me and if you're reading this CA, I'd really like to know where you got this rare information.
Anyhow, since my last post I have taken these pictures of the underside of the pickguard.

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I'm hoping someone will recognize the workmanship and/or components as being US or Japanese. The pickguard is not original and the 5-way switch was replaced many years ago. I hope someone can enlighten me. And to leave no stone unturned, I even removed the locking nut.

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Timdrakemusic, G'day mate, I believe my first question is valid because just maybe Fender were a little short on bodies and necks during these times of change and used some imports to produce some low budget models to fill the demand. This would also explain them not wanting to label the product as US. Maybe far fetched but still a valid question, is it not?
Thank to everyone. GOODONYAZ ....Mark.


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:39 am 
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Here is where I got the Contemporary Standard 22 info:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.blackman4/st22.htm

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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:39 am 
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Fender came up with a US-made version of the Contemporary Stratocaster in the mid-1990s, however it's important to note that the USA Contemporary Stratocaster is a totally different beast compared to the 1980s MIJ Contemporary models in terms of features and construction.

I believe these guitars were hand-crafted by John Suhr during his days at the Fender Custom Shop.

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The first USA Contemporary Strats were equipped with Lace Sensor pickups and a 3-way toggle switch to split the dually humbucking pickup. Later versions such as this 1996 (?) example sported two Texas Special single-coils paired with a Duncan '59 Trembucker - all mounted on an aged white pearloid pickguard - and the coil-split toggle switch has been deleted.

Other features included a premium ash body with a bookmatched flame maple top, a 2-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard and a Fender Deluxe Locking bridge system with LSR roller nut and Schaller locking machine heads.


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 Post subject: Re: Eighties Stratocaster Identity Crisis
PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:52 pm 
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Thanks for that link CA. Yes I have read through that manual before and the Contemporary 22 comes damn close to what I have. The difference is the tremolo. Iv'e seen those System 1-3 before ,played a few (not quite sure which one). They are stamped Fender and i found them to be quite useless and cheap, nothing like the Spyder.

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However, our mystery model (with no MIJ decal) could be based on these, maybe towards the end of the run. I have yet to see the Kahler Spyder on any other Fender product (somebody please prove me wrong).

G'day Chromeface, those US Contemporaries are nice :)


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