The Fender Stratocaster "Strat" Plus Series
Going Nuts (Roller Nuts)
The Strat Plus Series was introduced by Fender in 1987 and was the highest end production model next to Fender's Custom Shop guitars. Production stopped in early 1999. There was some transitional Strat Plus' in 1999 that were a mix of the new DX Strat series and the Plus Series. You can tell by the serial number, which started with DN9XXXXX and they also had a chrome Fender logo on the headstock. While some were sold as a "Plus" they were sort of a hybrid.
The Strat Plus Series consisted of: The Plus, and then in July of 1989, The Plus Deluxe, and then the The Ultra in January of 1990. Also why you are at it, check out my wild and crazy Custom Strat Plus guitars! Each of these models are taken up on different pages on this website (just click on the names). The Plus Series was a very good attempt to reclaim Fender USA's floundering reputation, as quality had drastically gone down hill under CBS's ownership. All the Plus Series had similar features. This page features the Standard Plus, some specs and history.
Leo Fender's Stratocaster was his second guitar design after the Telecaster in or around 1953, with actual production beginning in early 1954. The model went through a series of changes through the years. Here's a few little tips to remember to help aid in dating those late 1970s and 1980s Stratocasters: Fender's three-way selector switch was updated to the 5-way in 1977. In the mid 1970s the "Thick Skin" high gloss all-polyester finish was introduced.
After CBS sold Fender in 1985, there was no production of Fender guitars in the U.S. from February, 1985 to October, 1985 (almost 8 months!). When the Corona plant was started up, only the Vintage Reissue Stratocaster models were produced between late 1985 through 1986. Finally, as we talk about the Plus Series, the Fender-Lace Sensor Pickups, invented by Don Lace, were introduced in 1987. A Lace Sensor "Dually" was also used in the Ultra and some Tele Plus' which is two Lace Sensors placed side-by-side looking like a humbucker but were actually two independent pickups.
The history behind the development of the Stratocaster Plus Series is quite interesting. As mentioned, the Series was going to be the first Fender Strats with the new Gold Lace Sensor pickups and the premier "roller-nut" designed by an English chap by the name of Trevor Wilkinson. As you look at the Yellow Plus below you will see the very first generation of this roller nut (we will discuss more about these nuts later!) This nut was design to reduce the friction at the nut when using the tremolo. Locking tuners were also part of the Plus Series. The first locking tuners on the Plus' were the Sperzel, then later Schaller.
Fender introduced an Deluxe American Standard Strat in 1989 and discontinued them in 1990—so they had a short production life of about one year. Take a look at the guitar below and check out the appointments:
Again, it looks like a Strat Plus, but it's not!!! ;-) Check out the neck in the pictures below. They came with all the features of a Strat Plus, such as Gold Lace Sensors, same bridge and body type, but no locking tuners or roller nut. They will often have the E4, E8 or E9 serial numbers too. What these really are is an American Standard Strat with Gold Lace pickups installed.
According to the Blue Book of Guitars, there was an estimated 400 instruments produced. Personally, I think many more than 400 were made as I have owned several and I have questions coming to me every few weeks about these by email. I see them from time to time on eBay as well. They are "some-what" collectable and are sometimes sold, mistakenly, as a Strat Plus. Over time, these may very well be quite collectable. I have one nice one tucked away just for as a collectable.
The very 1st Strat Plus models that showed up on Fender's "price lists" were dated for sale March 1st, 1987. But in fact they never became available till a few months later because of a short supply of certain components and for certain "marketing reasons." A. R. Duchossoir points out, in his book called The Fender Stratocaster, the reason for this "marketing" delay:
"A few months earlier (before March, 1987), JEFF BECK had asked Fender to make him a `62 Vintage model painted in the same yellow color as the souped-up Ford truck featured in the movie American Graffiti. The company obliged but seized the opportunity to talk Jeff into having a namesake Stratocaster model. The STRAT PLUS prototype was therefore put together with Jeff beck in mind, hence its yellow finish christened Graffiti Yellow. But Beck (temporarily) turned down Fender's proposal and the first Stratocaster with Sensors came out as the STRAT PLUS."
In 1990 Jeff Beck took up Fender's offer and they released the Jeff Beck Signature Strat Plus. Amazingly, it did not come in Graffiti Yellow! The Jeff Beck Signature Strat (not counting the Custom shop models) was released in Vintage White, Surf Green and Midnight Purple! The Midnight Purple is very close to the vintage color used by Fender in the 1960's called Burgundy Mist. These beauties belong to a friend of mine.
This Graffiti Yellow Plus has the split Wilkinson roller nut which was used only on the very first Plus’ and was discontinued late in 1987 or early 1988. The very first Plus' will have an E4XXXXX serial number, (as shown above and I will discuss this more later in this page) indicating they are from 1984. Truth is, it is a 1987 (and some early 1988s), as production for the Plus Series started in 1987, while the parts might have been from—who knows??? Odd thing is, when Fender introduced the the Plus Deluxe in 1989, they used the Split nut again, while the Standard models were already using the full-nut.
Below is an original Fender advertisement from 1988 for the Strat Plus guitar. Note the variations in color for the Surf Green. I have seen this color be a milky green to a darker green, looking even a bit like Sea Foam Green. (We will talk about the color confusion a little later.)
One thing is for sure—even though these guitars vary, all Standard Plus guitars had: locking tuners, roller nuts (which means they will NOT have string trees, and for some dumb reason some people put them on, thus lowering the value of the guitar!), an American two-point floating bridge, with strings going through the body, a TBX lower tone control, swimming pool route and Lace Sensor pickups. (I have seen American Strats, or pieced together guitars (frankinstrats) with Lace Sensors that people try to pawn off as a Plus on eBay and other places. So beware!)
Here is another interesting advertisement that came out in 1995 about the Strat Plus series:
(Above) This was one of the 1st Strat Plus guitars to roll off the newly organized factory in Corona, California in 1987. A very sweet 1987 Candy Apple Red (CAR) Plus with a outstanding Maple neck that is dead mint. A find like this is very rare and this one sports a serial number that is very low which starts with a E44xxxx.
This is a dead mint Surf Green Strat Plus with a very sweet Maple Neck. Again, this has the split nut just like the CAR 87 Plus' above. This color is another controversial color, due to the fact that Fender's mix was not always the same and the clear coats on these yellow a lot. In fact if you look on this page you will see some Surf Green Plus' that are a lighter milky green and some that are like this one, with a richer color. This is not to be confused with Sea Foam Green with is much brighter and blue-greener in color. Or Bahama Green which is much richer and has a tad bit darker green, yet not as blue/green as Taos Turquoise. I have a lot about the colors on this page farther down!
Check out the neck manufacture date which is penciled on the butt end of the neck—it reads 12/4/87. This guitar is so sweet and plays wonderful. The E4xxxx 1987-88 Plus' are going up in value. Also the vintage color such as Surf Green, Graffiti Yellow, Shell Pink, Fiesta Red, Bahama Green, and Taos Turquoise, have really gone up in value over the last few years. I list the rarer colors in the Color Confusion section of this page.
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All Strat Plus’ have the “swimming pool” route in the body, no exceptions. You will also notice that the route cavity is first painted with a black, conductive paint to keep out unwanted hum and pickup noise. Fender placed a piece of tape over one small spot in the lower edge of the route to expose this conductive paint while the finish was being applied. Every Strat Plus will have a black ground screw in this area connecting a wire to the pickup's ground. Side note: I have also seen bodies that were painted one color and then painted again another color by Fender. I could tell by looking in the route (I talk more about paint later). (Example: the Blue Pearl Dust above had Arctic White under one of thr quality control stickers!) The Brown Sunburst models like shown above are solid Alder, while some of the other bursts (such as the transparent Blue Burst above) the will have Ash laminated front and back on Alder, thus the dark burst edging is used to cover up the lamination seams. Please note that pre-1997 bodies do not have extra holes in the neck socket or below the pickup route as shown below.
Most of the Strat Plus' are made with Alder wood, with the exception of the natural solid Ash models. Some models have Ash caps laminated on Alder with a transparent burst finish, like the middle and right pictures above. The "burst" is used around the edges to hide the lamination seam. I have found a few solid Ash bodies that were painted in a solid color—most likely there was some type of blemish that prevented them from being finished in Natural (clear) finish.
Poplar wood was also used on some bodies between 1990-1993. According to an interview with Dan Smith and George Blanda, two long time Fender employees, in The Fender American Standard Stratocaster: An Excerpt from The Stratocaster Chronicles by Tom Wheeler, it states (see below) about Poplar wood being used on some Fender guitars from 1990 - 1993/94.
QUESTION: Did Fender ever use it [Poplar] on their higher end USA guitars, such as the Strat Plus and the Strat Plus Deluxe back in 1990-1993???
Dan Smith: "For a while, the environmentalists didn't want us cutting alder. There was an endangered species controversy, with some logging restrictions up in Oregon, so we had to use poplar. Leo had used it on many guitars "— Musicmasters and others "— and we later used it for the Bullet guitars. It's a good wood. We used it on some American Standards in the early '90s. From the beginning, poplar was spec'd to be used on the American Standard as a substitute."
George Blanda: "All the Strat bodies were alder up until about 1990. When it got so hard to get alder, we were faced with either using poplar or not making guitars. There's a misconception that poplar is not a good tone wood. Actually, it's fine. James Burton actually specified it for his signature Tele in the late '80s, after trying a lot of different bodies. We never regarded poplar as a second-rate wood, but a lot of people preferred alder so when the restrictions eased, we were able to go back to alder in '93 or '94.
One way you can tell if you have a Poplar body is to look at the swimming pool route. Poplar is a stringy wood and when routed it does not clean up nicely like Alder or Ash, so there will often be fibers of wood sticking up through the finish in the route area. Frankly speaking, I really can not tell the difference between Poplar and Alder as far as "tone woods" go.
Here is an interesting little tidbit about extra holes found in some bodies: In 1997 Fender changed their jigs for holding the bodies for the manufacturing process. So while the Strat Plus body retained the all the features prior to 1997 there were 2 noticeable "extra" holes used to hold the body while it was being produced. You will find these holes located: 1) in the neck socket and 2) below the swimming pool route. This can be handy to know if someone tries to sell you a pre-1997 Strat Plus stating it is older then 1997 due to a body swap or something!
The Strat Plus electronics has been basically the same from their inception, with a few minor variations. Knowing this info is good for determining if your guitar has been modified or to help date your guitar. Above you will see the progression of pickguard assemblies. The one to the left is off one of the very first 1987 Plus'. The middle pickguard is off a 1989 Plus and the one on the right is from a 1994 Plus. As we go on, I will explain a bit about the components, but do note the changes of the stickers, the wire spanning the back of the pickup and the addition of an extra green ground wire in mid-to-late 1993.
The Lace Sensors were a whole new design of pickups—having a unique radiant field barrier system that surrounds both the coil and magnets, eliminating annoying 60-cycle hum. The patented Lace Micro Matrix Combs replace traditional bobbins, yielding a wider tonal range and better string balance than traditional pickups. The Gold Lace were the pickups of choice for years by Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Guy on their Signature Series. It is important to note that the Strat Plus Standard uses 3 GOLD LACE PICKUPs. If your guitar has these Golds, then it is a STANDARD and not a DELUXE. One of the main differences between the DX and Standard are the type (color) of the pickups.
The Deluxe Plus, introduced mid-1989, at first used SILVER/SILVER/BLUE Lace Sensors and then in mid-1990 they changed over to the BLUE/SILVER/RED pickups. Some models used a Gold Lace in the middle. This is a pickup assembly above is off a Strat Plus Deluxe, but other than the color of the pickups, all Plus' are wired exactly the same.
These are the Mark of the Beast pickups! Yes... as the Gold Lace part number ends with a 666! Above you will see the progression of the Gold Lace Sensor pickups from left to right. The very first ones that came out had a square edge on the plastic cover on the bottom side. Also note the very old Patent Pending part number stickers on the back the pickups. These are off a very early Strat Plus from around mid-1987. These even have a number inscribed by hand on the mounting plate. I am thinking that these pickups were hand numbered as they were produced! Wow… Anyhow, up until 1993, the tops of the Gold Laces were smooth with the gold lettering on the top of the pickup—thus the letterings rubbed off pretty easy. Around late 1992 to early 1993, Lace then recessed the lettering in a oval-shaped area—protecting the lettering a little bit better. By the way, you can buy "Fender Lace Sensors" or "Lace Sensors" depending on if they are marketed through a Fender vendor or directly from Lace Music. The only thing that is different is the cover of the pickup. BTW these covers are glued on so you can't change them for a different color such as on standard single coil pickups. Again - Lace Sensors had only white and orange wires up till around late 1992 - early 1993, then the Lace Music Company added the extra green ground wire.
The Strat Plus used a different wiring schematics than the older American Strats. The TBX tone control was connected to both the middle and bridge pickups. Older Strats had the lower tone control connected to the middle pickup and the bridge pickup was bypassed all together. This newer design gives a person a lot more tone capabilities. On position #4 you can use both tone controls, one on the neck pickup and the TBX on the middle pickup while having both pickups on.
The Strat Plus used what was called a TBX tone control on the lower tone knob. Above you can see the progression of the TBX (again from left to right). The first one is off an very early 1987 Plus. Note the big resistor! Wow! The caps on the tone controls were orange up until around 1992-3, then they were a brownish color after that. The 2nd picture of a TBX is off a 1989 Plus and the last one off a 1994.
The TBX is not an active system, as some believe, (using a battery as found on the 25db boost on the Clapton Strats), but smiply consists of a 250k/1 Meg stacked set of potentiometers with a detent at 5, a .022uF standard film capacitor, and an 82k-ohm carbon-film resistor - which cuts either treble or bass, whereas a standard tone control (pot) only cuts the treble. So we have: T (treble) B (bass) X (Cut) thus = TBX. When you turn this knob, you can feel a halfway point (detent)—this is suppose to be tone neutral (#5 on the knob! duh!). TBX does NOT mean Treble/Bass Expander as some people say on the web. Expanding is a totally different thing altogether and is usually done in connection with an active system, again, like on a Clapton Strat. A TBX simply CUTS (X) treble or bass and does not expand either. The TBX control gives the bridge and middle pickup a unique variety of sounds! When the 5-way switch is in the 4th position, by turning the tone control you can get a bell like sound to a honking out-of-phase mid-range sound. Put the switch in position #2 and, you get a quack, or a hollow twang! The 1st tone control is a standard Fender 250 k potentiometer as is the volume control.
Here is a nice sample (above) of a 1989 Eric Clapton Strat in Pewter. Note the Gold Lace Sensors, which they used from 1988 till 2001 when the Vintage Noiseless were introduced on this model. I believe Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton models were the last two signature guitars to convert from the Lace Sensors. But why? There is an interesting story behind the change of the Clapton Strats from Lace Sensors to the new Noiseless Vintage pickups in the year 2001. I did an interview with Jeff Lace, son of Don Lace, the inventor of the Lace pickups. He told me that when Lace's (EGI) exclusive contract with Fender ended in 1996, there was a push to get the signature models guitars, which were using the Laces pickups, to move to Fender's newly designed Noiseless pickups. I simply think there was some turf protecting going on, so Fender decided to keep the pickups "in-house" with their own pickups and stopped promoting Lace pickups anymore (a secondary vendor) on Fender's top line guitars (AKA: Custom Shop, Strat Plus Series, Ultra, and Signature series). So it was just a matter of time before Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton Signature guitars moved over to use Fender's new Noiseless pickups. In fact, Lee Dickson, Clapton's guitar tech insisted on it for some reason and he said Clapton needed to make the change.
The question I have, is why would Lee Dickson insist on it? What was going on with that? Personally, and this is just my own preference, the Fender noiseless pickups are just too glassy and bright for me. I owned a 2000 DX Strat (replacement for the Strat Plus DX/Ultra guitars) and kept it like 2 weeks and then sold it. I tried to liked them but just gave up. There are a lot of other pickups I like, such as DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, etc.. which you will see me using these on custom builds on this website, but just have not been sold on the Fender Noiseless or the Vintage Noiseless—and I have had both.
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Many of the Plus Series, but not all, came with a Hipshot Trimsetter, which compensated for string tension. Once set up correctly, and after getting the guitar in tune, they stay in tune. If a string breaks while playing, the Tremsetter will compensate and the guitar will continue to stay in tune. (How to set one of these up will show on the "tips" page.) Please note the neck plate—all Plus' have the Fender logo written on it like the one above, except the Ultra's will also have the word on there too. If you get one that says Corona, CA on it, it has been changed! Like many of the later USA Strats, these necks have the micro-tilt adjustment, which is an Allen Screw under the Fender neck plate, which pressed against truss-rod grommet on the backside of the neck. This gives you the versatility of tilting the neck instead of the old method of resorting to shims.
The new, premier "roller-nut" designed by an English chap by the name of Trevor Wilkinson. The very first version of the Wilkinson roller nuts to be introduced (above, left) had the top 3 strings floating while the other strings had to feed through an upper pin. This was called the Wilkinson Split Nut and is more rare to find, being discontinued late 1987 or early 1988.
The other photos (above middle and right) show the regular Wilkinson nuts that had all the strings fed through a upper "roller" pin that the string rested on, while it went down under a 2nd pin. These were a problem if you wanted to use heavier strings as feeding them through the slots and the two pins was a real hassle if not in some cases impossible.
Mid 1993, Fender stopped using the Wilkinson nut and replaced them with the LSR Roller nuts (above). These made string changes much easier, as each string rode on top of a set of roller bearings—a great improvement over the Wilkinson nut. The idea with the roller nut was to improve tuning while using the tremolo as the strings could freely move. Some people, bless their hearts, just could not imaging having a Strat without string trees! So they put them on, not realizing this counteracted the whole concept of having the roller nut. A Strat Plus will NOT have string trees, and putting them on the guitar greatly lowers its value!
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The Strat Plus Series, as well as the American Standard Strats of the same era, use a Biflex truss rod system. this truss rod adjusted the neck in two directions, allowing for a more precise curvature adjustment of the neck. You can see by the picture above how this truss rod is different than a normal (vintage) type truss rod.
The Standard Strat Plus came with two basic bridges, both 2-point floating American types; one used a pop-in tremolo arm and the other a screw-in tremolo arm. On the top they basically looked the same, with 6 bushed offset saddles. It is easy to tell which you have by simply taking off the back Trem cover and taking a peek at the tremolo block. The pop-in type has a BLACK block and the screw-in type has a GREY block (see above).
The pop-in type has two Allen set screws. The top one adjusts the tension of the bar, so it will not hang too loose and swing around. The lower one sets how hard it is to push the arm into the catch spring. Now, saying this, I have seen where people, myself included, have tightened down the Allen set screws on the pop-in arm one so tight that one could screw in a tremolo bar! Not the best, but people have done it. I learned the hard way years ago. The pop-in block (BLACK) will always have a bigger hole. The screw-in tremolo arm is bigger than the vintage tremolo arm. If you need to buy one, you want to get the screw-in "American Standard Stratocaster Tremolo Arm" with a plastic tip. The pop-in type is called "Fender Deluxe Locking in solid chrome."
Now comes the 1999 serial number saga—more confusion with the Plus serial numbers. The date? 1990. Man, oh man! Fender used E9xxxx and N9xxxxxx and even a few N0xxxx serial numbers for 1990! Now N0xxxx makes sense because N0 = Ninety 0 or 1990. Truth is, I have not found a 1999 N9xxxx Strat Plus. There was a few transitional Plus’ made in late 1998, early 1999 and these had Fender’s new Noiseless Cobalt pickups, not the Lace Sensors pickups. All had DN9xxxx serial numbers. (Note the "D" See below, for a 2000 model!)
So THIS IS NOT REALLY A STRAT PLUS! (above) It is a 1999/2000 Deluxe Strat. The 1998-9's are are fairly rare and they where first marketed as a “Plus” and then in the middle of 1999, they were marketed as Fender's new Deluxe American Strat Series. These sported a chrome Fender Logo on the headstock and many of the Plus features, like locking tuners, LSR Nut, but had 2 Fender Noiseless Strat pickups and Fender’s Cobalt humbucker in the bridge which are powerful and very quiet. They carry the DN or DZ serial numbers. (DN9xxxx = 1999; DZxxxxx = 2000's).
So the Strat Plus’ with an N9xxxx serial number are a 1989-1991 manufactured guitar. (Hey, there might be some 1% fluke out there!) I do not know how many times I have sold a 1990 Strat Plus on eBay to have some “smart” guy tell me I am a dumb bozo for saying it was a 1990 and not a 1999. (I have owned a few of these as you can see in the above pictures). Well, here's how you can know if your Plus is a 1989-1991 with an N9xxxxx serial number: 1) The Wilkinson Nut (Fender changed over to the LSR Nut mid-1993;) 2) The serial number is on the FRONT of the headstock (Fender moved the serial numbers to the back of the headstock in 1995). So as you can tell by the above Plus’, all have a Wilkinson nut and serial number on the front, indicating that are ALL pre-1999….....except the pictures BELOW? Hummmm.
Ok. Here is something that even makes things more confusing. Some people will do the LSR Nut conversion on their pre-mid-1993 Plus. (I think I just invented a new word!) In other words, they convert their Wilkinson nut over to a LSR Nut. The way you can tell if your Wilkinson Nut has been converted is by looking for the small black strip of plastic on the headstock side of the nut that is used to fill the missing wood made for the wider Wilkinson Nut. For an example inspect the middle picture above.
ALSO, again, please note that in 1995 Fender moved the serial numbers from the front to the back of the headstock. (See last pict above).
I am putting both the DX and Standard colors on this page as many of these colors were used on both models. Also the rule of thumb is—inconsistency! Fender changed their color codes Suffixes in 1991 from 5XX to 7XX. Fender's summary list of the colors that were available for the Strat Plus models as: Black (506), Natural (521), Black Pearl Burst (591 sometimes called Black Pearl Dust or simply Black Burst), Blue Pearl Burst (591, sometimes called Blue Pearl Dust), Brown Sunburst (532), Caribbean Mist, Grafitti Yellow (570), Lipstick Red (515), (See-through) Blonde, Midnight Blue, Arctic White (580, a very white white), Vintage White (507, a very creamy yellowish white), Blue Burst (736), Antique Burst (737), Crimson Burst (728), Mystic Black (719, which was a black with a fine green flake in the clear coat and is pretty rare, BTW), Ebony Frost (which was a transparent Black Burst usually with Ash caps so one could see the nice grain through the finish), Candy Apple Red, Inca Silver, Sonic Blue, Vintage White, and Midnight Wine (575). Again, some of these colors were used on the Deluxe models as well.
THE COLORS MENTIONED HERE ARE RARE TO VERY RARE, MAKING THE GUITAR MORE COLLECTABLE: There were a lot of other finishes offered by Fender, especially early on (1987 to 1994) that are more rare to find. Color availability varied from year to year. Various Fender advertisements from 1988 and onward list these colors for the Strat Plus' Series. I will mention the rarity of these after the color name and will supply the paint code for those I know for sure. This is based on my years of ownership and watching guitars for sale on various venues on a weekly basis over the years: Bahama Green (517, rare), Dusty Rose (519, very rare), Torino Red (558, very rare), Ice Blue (583, very rare), Electric Blue (very rare), Graffiti Yellow (570, rare), Crimson Frost (761, very rare), Razz Berry (584, very rare), Surf Green (somewhat rare & there are variations of this color), Gun Metal Blue (568, not so rare), Root Beer Metallic (588, rare, not very popular), Burgundy Mist Metallic (very rare), Lake Placid Blue (rare), Pewter (543, not quite so rare), and Taos Turquoise (very rare). There are a lot of inconstancies in the materials one can read, so the proof is in the ownership, using the serial numbers and neck/body date stamps to confirm the date.
Mystic Black and Color Myths
The above picture is a close up of a hard to find color call Mystic Black. In normal lighting it looks, well, black. But under bright light or direct sunlight, one can see the clear coat has a blue-green pearl flake in it. Very subtle, thus the reason is it mystic I suppose. :-) This color was used between 1990 to around 1996 on some Plus Deluxe models and Ultra guitars.
There are also some myths that have been created about colors. I think part of it is the lack of knowing what to call the color of one's guitar—like on a eBay sale. Ok, I have been guilty myself of this color mischief. Back several years ago when I started this website I had a Taos Turquoise Strat Plus (see above-right). I had never seen one of these before and for a couple years tried find out what color it was called (they are pretty rare). So on my website I called it Aqua Blue! Ok, ok, I know I should not have just made up a name! But after a couple years went by I started to notice other people on the web called their Plus', which were this same color, Aqua Blue. Ummmm.... In my digging around I found that some of the early Plus' followed the vintage color tradition and that this color was actually called Taos Turquoise (and then corrected it on my website...glup!) So you can see how easy a myth can get started. After years of researching these guitars and getting help from Fender as well as the guys on the Fender Forum, I have tracked down (I think) almost every color that the Plus series came in and have them listed here (and even shown most below).
I do not know how many times I have seen someone call an off-white Plus Olympic White. There was no Olympic White in the Plus Series. What this is 99% of the time is Vintage White that has yellowed. You will see a sample below. So if you see a color not listed here, it most likely is mis-named, or the body was swapped, or maybe a custom order and then there is that weird fluke out that sometimes too.
Then there is the Sea Foam Green myth. The Strat Plus never came in Sea Foam Green! Yes there were some odd variables of the Surf Green from dark to a milky green due to mix variations and yellowing clear coats, but Sea Foam Green was never listed for any of the Strat Plus colors, at least that I have found anywhere.
Color me with Confusion! Ummm... With some of these colors there is a lot of variation due to paint mix and more overly, yellowing of the clear coat. This is especially true of the 87-91 colors. Take a look at the Vintage White above. This went from a nice creamy white to a very yellowish white. I have seen these yellow to the point where people mistakenly called then Graffiti Yellow! Look under the hood of this Bahama Green (above-center) and you can see the true color underneath. It is no wonder why there can be a lot of confusion when trying to identfy colors! Also Fender sometimes did odd-ball stuff, like adding metal flake in some clear coats on some guitars and not doing it on others of the same base color.
The picture, upper left, shows a lineup of the three "greens" that often get confused with each other. And then add to it yellowing of the clear coat and, as I mentioned earlier, Surf Green comes in several shades, so — Yes more confusion to the conclusion! ;-) These colors (1st pict) from left to right are: Bahama Green, Taos Turquoise, and Surf Green. The second picture shows a Bahama Green (left) next to a Surf Green (right) on my work bench. Again the upper picture (right) shows the same two colors side-by-side. Surf Green on a Plus can be a lighter milky color or a richer color as shown in the samples above.
The Surf Green Strat Plus looks to it like it should be sitting in the back seat of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air hardtop! WELL...The truth is, Fender used General Motors paint color "GM111" which, by the way, was called Surf Green, on their Stratocasters! FACT: Over the years Fender borrowed many colors from General Motors. Look at the 57 & 55 Bel Air hardtops above and note that, just like a Strat Plus, they can come in various shades of Surf Green. Then note the 56 Bel Air Wagon (right) is in Taos Turquoise. NOTE: SURF GREEN or BAHAMA GREEN often mistakenly called SEA FOAM GREEN. Don't fall for that one, even if Wikipedia says so! The Strat Plus and the Jeff Beck models NEVER came in Sea Foam Green.
Candy color complications: The Plus series came in several candy Colors. Candy Apple Red, Midnight Blue (aka:Candy Apple Blue or CAB), Electric Blue (a bright blue), Midnight Wine, and Lipstick Red. If one understands how Candy colors are applied, then one would know why this color varies so much and why some of these colors get mistaken for each others such as with CAR and Midnight Wine.
Here are how candy colors are made: Candy colors are a three step process. They start out with a fine metallic base coat, such as silver or gold. Sometimes they even use a solid color such as vintage white on the Lipstick Red Strats. In any case, the base color can affect the final outcome of the finish color. To give you an example, a gold base coat will cause the guitar to have a slightly darker finished look. The "candy" name and look comes from the fact that the next coat is a transparent color coat over the base coat. With CAR, the color coat is red of course. Here's the thing, if 4-coats are put on compared too 6-coats, the final color will be lighter. The color gets darker with each additional color coat applied. Then after the color coat comes several coats of clear. This too can cause variations in color because as it ages it can yellow by being exposed too light (UV). So a CAR Plus can have a gold base coat and an aged clear coat making the guitar look almost like Midnight Wine—thus the color debates begin! Truth is Midnight Wine is made the same way as CAR, but Fender used a darker red color coat, sometimes having almost a slight purple tint to it. 7-Up Green (aka Candy Apple Green, which was NOT a Plus color) is done the same way, FYI.
Another interesting Candy Color is Lipstick Red. This color is obtained the same way as CAR or Midnight Wine, but the Fender finisher put down Vintage White as the base coat instead of a metallic color. Then they used the transparent red color coat over that, followed by a the clear coats. The result is a very deep red that looks like it has water on top of it. Fender also had CAR Bursts Blue Bursts and Lipstick Red Burst—which the color coats showed the nice Ash grain through the tops and bottom of the guitar and became a solid color around the edges.
Now on to Midnight Blue (CAB). It was done with the same process as CAR and Midnight Wine but Fender used a dark transparent blue color coat. This finish is often pretty thick and you will find that they chip and get neck socket cracks quite easy. Look at the pictures below. Over the years I have refinished a few guitars and I had a CAB that had chips all over. I decided to strip the body and refinish it. To my surprise I found 17 coats (not counting the clear coats) of finish. I also found that the fine sliver base coats were extremely hard to remove! This guitar started out as CAB (3 times) then was CAR (3 times with a black sealer coat between the CAB and CAR) and ended up being CAB again! What in the world was going on at Fender's paint shop??? So now if you want to talk about thin skin verses thick skin....we will not even go there. But one thing about these pictures, they do show the process of how Candy Colors are made!
OK! NOW TO ACTUAL COLORS! I have pretty much every color ever made in a Strat plus, minus a couple maybe! Anyhow some of these guitars have been modded but are still shown to give you the actual color. So if you see odd pickups on these, they are a Plus guitar that has been modified. Also there was BLACK and Mystic black, which are not shown here, but I do talk about and show a close-up of Mystic Black if you scroll up a little!
1) Dusty Rose 2) Shell Pink 3) Razz Berry 4) Lipstick Red
1) Rare Red Burst on Ash (Lipstick Red burst) 2) Candy Apple Red 3) Midnight Wine 4) Midnight Wine (variation)
1) Fiesta Red 2) Torino Red 3) Crimson Burst 4) Crimson Frost
1) Surf Green 2) Surf Green (another variation) 3) Bahama Green 4) Taos Turquoise
1) Caribbean Mist 2) Lake Placid Blue 3) Gun Metal Blue 4) Electric Blue
1) Blue Pearl Burst (Dust) 2) Blue Frost (on Ash) 3) Midnight Blue (AKA - CAB, Candy Apple Blue)
1) Sonic Blue 2) Ice Blue
1) Arctic White 2) Vintage White 3) Vintage White (aged, variation) 4) Graffiti Yellow
1) Root Beer 2) Natural Ash 3) Ebony Frost 4) Black Pearl Burst (Dust)
1) Inca Silver 2) Pewter 3) Transparent Vintage White (Butterscotch)
1) Antique Burst 3) Antique Burst (variation) 2) Brown Sunburst 4) Brown Sunburst (variation)
Some of the Sunbursts will have a more distinct red band, some will have a darker center tint (even reddish), some have gold metal flake in the clear coat, and some are produced with Alder (finer grain) and others have Ash caps on Alder which makes for some nice bolder grain top and back.
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Another unique finish on some of the Plus, Plus Deluxe and Ultra Strats and Teles is the Firestorm finish. It is somewhat rare, but available. This color is also not listed on Fender’s sales charts for the Plus series. :-) Lets talk about this guitar for a bit. This is a 1991 Strat Plus Deluxe in the are Firestorm finish. More about the Deluxe’s on my Deluxe page.
Now there are all kinds of stories about these finishes. One is that a guy worked at Fender for about 1.5 years and he was the only one there who knew how to do these finishes. He quit so they stopped....so the legend goes. Mike Eldridge at Fender, at one time, stated Fender could still do these finishes but would charge a whopping amount of money to do so. So??? Ummm.... Also to clarify a few things I have read online, and other forums, about these finishes, they ARE NOT Foto-flame finishes like used by Fender Japan in the mid-1990s.
I have noticed that there are variations of this finish as well, since each one is unique and hand done. Some of the very first ones to come out had less black between the red and was not so pronounced. The later ones had a deeper look to the finish with wider black streaks. Because of these variances, there is a less than scrupulous fellow obsessed with the idea that these posted on my site are fakes (and they I even finished them myself!). Hardly. If you look carefully, it is obvious these are stock finishes. I will be posting more about these finishes soon, after I get more feedback from some well known people in the Fender community.
One person said this is done with aluminum foil, hinting to the idea that there is foil under the finish. I don't think so! However it is done, it is very cool looking!
Now that you have looked over the Firestorm Plus, here is a rarity you will find no where else. This is, from what I could gather, a 1989 Icestorm Strat Plus and was the prototype to the Firestorm. (Serial number E922222 !!!) I talked with Rob Schwarz at Fender and he related this too me about the Icestorm Plus': "I searched through all of my database files as well as some old memos, I have around and price-lists that I keep in a binder and did not find any evidence of that color. Firestorm Red is indeed in several price-lists especially 1991-1992 but no blue to go along with it. Personally, I remember the Firestorm Red...do not remember the same in blue. So...no records of that color...no pictures that I can find.
"What I CAN say is that according to my records as well as the records we keep on hand (which are pretty extensive---but not totally infallible), that color does not "officially" exist, nor did we ever officially sell it to the best of my knowledge... That blue is growing on me...sweet. It being a prototype sounds like a likely version to me. Just like Leo Fender did with Bill Carson, the "try this" tradition lives on..." So far i have not found any more information on these and it always seemed they were just a legend, that is till I found one. This is for sure the rarest of all the Strat Plus guitars. If anyone ever finds another one or gets a picture, please let me know! This one was found in a garage where there was an estate sale. We were told the owner was friends with people who worked at Fender in the early 1990s.
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Limited Edition Aluminum Body Stratocaster Plus
In 1995-96 Fender produced the Limited Edition Aluminum Body Stratocaster Plus' (U.S. Mfg. No. 010-7500/7502) which were a spin off of the Strat Plus, except they had a hollow aluminum body. They were available in Blue Metal Burst, Stars and Stripes, and Violet Metal Burst finishes, some with Rosewood fretboards and some with Maple. Fender says there was a total production of 120 instruments (40 in each color). Here is the statistics from Fender:
(751) Blue Metal Burst: Rosewood @ 20 made, Maple @ 20 made
(752) Violet Metal Burst: Rosewood @ 20 made, Maple @20 made
(753) Stars and Stripes: Rosewood @ 20 made, Maple @ 20 made
So this make about 120 total. Fender used these bodies on a couple other guitars as well, such as the Harley-Davidson Strat and a other few Custom Shop models. There have been a few bodies floating around too, so there are some home-brewed Strats out there as well. I am trying to limit my research to the Strat Plus series, but it is hard!
Here is a nice sample of an Aluminum Body Violet Metal Burst Strat Plus that is New Old Stock. I picked this up from a dealer who bought it new and then tucked it away. When I got it it was unplayed and still had the plastic on the pickguard and trem plate cover. There were about 20 of these made in this color and with a maple neck.
The Aluminum Body Blue Metal Burst Strat Plus with a rosewood neck (above) belongs to a friend of mine named Eric Liquori, who also provided information from his research to the Blue Book of Guitars. Again, only 20 were made in this color with a rosewood fretboard.
This is a fine example of a 1995 Midnight Wine Strat Plus. You can clearly see the Gold Lace Sensor pickups and the American 2-point floating bridge. I have owned many Midnight Wine Plus' and have noticed the color can be a little lighter on some models. These are darker and more purple than the Candy Apple Red, but has the color applied like the Candy Apple Red, which is a silver or gold base coat, followed by several coats of transparent color and then the clear coat. Candy Apple Red, Midnight Wine, 7-Up Green (Candy Apple Green) and Midnight Blue were all candy color finishes. This is why they can have such a deep look in direct light.
Again, notice that the serial numbers started to appear on the back of the headstocks in 1995.
This is a excellent condition 1990 Gun Metal Blue metallic Stratocaster Plus. (I have one of these on my Deluxe page too). This guitar sat unplayed and was owned by one person most of its life. Gun Metal Blue was used on some of the very early Strat Plus guitars between 1987 to 1991, but was not listed on the colors available in the Plus Series. They, along with a few other colors are rarer to come across. This one has the E9xxxxx Serial number. The E9 serial number was a crazy time for Fender because E9, N9, and N0 serial numbers can all be 1990. E9 is also 1989, of course. The paperwork that came with this beautiful Strat says it was made in 1990.
This is a fine example of a beautiful 1993 Vintage White STRATOCASTER PLUS that has faded to a really cool cream color. Now Fender does not list Vintage White as available till 1997, even though it was used on their Strats since 1987! This is not the Arctic White which is lighter and whiter. So, go figure! As stated earlier, in the middle of 1993 Fender changed the nuts from a Wilkinson Roller nut to the LSR Roller nut.
This Strat Plus has been completely rewired using TFN Technologies custom wiring system, which provides 10 different pickup tones. With TFN Technologies custom wiring, using a 3-way rotary knob and a 5-way Super Switch you can get humbucker, Strat and Tele tones, plus some.
This 1997 Natural Plus in ASH. Most of the solid colored models were made from Alder and in the ealy 1990s some were made from Popular, when there was an Alder shortage. Most of the burst type transparent colors had Ash sandwiched-laminated on Alder thus the dark color around the edge to produce the "burst" effect. it was to hide the laminated edge. Sometimes, Fender used solid Ash for some of these burst finished Plus', perhaps if the body was slightly defected and not good enough to use for a clear finish like this one.
The Natural Ash Plus', both the Deluxe and Standard issues, came with either a white or tortious shell pickguard. As you can see this one has the tortious shell both front and back. This one has outstanding grain on it. I have customize quite a number of these over the years, with Chrome Domes and even Chrome and/or Nickel plated Humbuckers.
This is another Graffiti Yellow Strat Plus with a Maple neck from 1991. I have seen these both with Rosewood and Maples necks, BUT it does seem the Maple necks are more common. These along with Surf Green and some of the other vintage colors are becoming more and more in demand and prices have gone up like crazy the last few years. they ARE a good investment.
This 1988 Plus in a very rare Taos Turquoise in mint condition which had the pickguard changed to the pearoid type. This color is very hard to find on a plus and was not listed in the colors available. It was a vintage color used in the 60s Strats and was only used on the Plus series from 87-90, along with colors such as Shell Pink, Gun Metal Blue, Burgundy Mist Metallic, Sea Foam Green and a few other colors. (Do a Google picture search for Taos Turquoise, and you will find out more about this color.)
This is a 1997 Sonic Blue Strat Plus that is a Closet Classic—the guitar has rarely been played. 1997 was suppose to be the the first year for this beautiful color, which is very similar to the Daphne Blue of the vintage Stratocasters, but there were some that came out mid-1996. The three Gold Lace really do put out that 50's vintage sound!
One of my favorite playing Strat Plus' is this 1996 Anniversary model in slightly aged (yellowed) Sonic Blue with an aged Maple neck. This color was used on a lot of the Jeff Beck Signature Strats. The color is not represented well in these pictures. It is actually a little greener, but not much.
On this Strat you can see the 1996 Anniversary sticker on the back of the headstock and can tell the pickups have been change over to the Hot Gold Lace. These really screams with the vintage sound of a 1950-60s Strat but with more power and a hotter bridge pickup.