Go inside the most ambitious new offerings from the Fender Custom Shop Master Builders.
By Mike Duffy
Every year, the Fender Custom Shop Master Builders work for months on what they will show at the annual NAMM Show as part of Fender's Prestige Collection.
The challenge is this: Create something that pushes all boundaries of craftsmanship.
The result? From exotic woods to intricate carvings to eye-popping finishes, the Prestige Collection showcases the unique talents and creativity of these skilled artists, all coming together in a set of instruments truly unlike any other.
Get a closer look at Fender's 2020 Prestige Collection.
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The Argyle Telecaster was conceived in collaboration with virtuoso Fender painter Jay Nelson. Designed to bring out anyone’s internal hipster, this Telecaster features a sparkle paint job along with an argyle pattern.
“We have an amazing in-house painter in Jay and I am a total sucker for sparkle paint jobs and patterns within a sparkle,” said Galuzka.
John Cruz’s Custom Griffin Themed Leather Carved and Covered 612 Doubleneck Tele is a custom-themed guitar that has never been created before. In addition to a 612 Doubleneck feature, the guitar also features painted artwork with a 3D effect.
“I wanted to create something that looked beautiful, but also be totally playable and sound amazing,” he says. “This guitar is for anyone who dares to be different.”
After 16 months of work, the Coronation Stratocaster was Yuriy Shishkov’s “most complicated and intriguing project” to-date, he said. This guitar was inspired by the Coronation Egg made in 1897 to commemorate the inauguration of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra on an Imperial throne. Given its historical significance, Shishkov said this is the most famous and most valuable egg created. It was even a part of a heist plot in the popular movie Oceans 12.
The guitar design includes a gold leafed surface with an “on-wood” Guilloche and gilded silver artwork. It also features custom fabricated diamond eagle medallions, along with hundreds of diamonds throughout the instrument. The neck has distinct “trellises” with diamond patterns found on the egg’s “hidden surprise” coach.
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Another Esquire to round out the Prestige Collection, Dale Wilson's take on this model was inspired by a piece of tamo ash that is showcased with a Honey Burst finish.
Paul Waller’s Carved Top Telecaster is a semi-hollow, double “F” hole Telecaster made from swamp ash and a book matched quilted maple top. The custom-made Curtis Novak P-90 style pickups are covered in tortoise, which is accentuated by the tortoise double-bound body. A true one-off, the guitar's color is hand-mixed Teal Transparent, as well.
Todd Krause’s Swagger guitar is based on the Fender Swinger, but takes on a different name due to the various changes he applied to the model. Krause used roasted figured maple for the neck and gave the headstock the same curves as the body. The guitar also features a full 25.5” scale length, a custom bridge, custom top mount and high output silver foil pickups from Curtis Novak.
Said Krause: “This is a great guitar for a Swinger collector or collectors looking for something a little different."
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Carlos Lopez’ Sugar Skull Strat is entirely painted by esteemed artist Pamelina. As Lopez created the guitar, the building part was secondary to the painting, which transforms this instrument into a work of art.
“When I was an apprentice, I told myself I was going to work with Pamelina when I became a Master Builder," said Lopez. "I hope this guitar will remind everyone that we are more than just guitar builders.”
Hand-painted by artist Sarah Gallenberger and with custom inlays from Master Builder Ron Thorn, the Atomic Bass boasts a Telecaster-style headstock with a slab Precision Bass body - reminiscent of the original 1951 P Bass - covered in an NOS urethane finish that gives the design a three-dimensional feel. The Atomic Bass is also outfitted with a Curtis Novak Bi-Sonic pickup for even more spank.
Greg Fessler’s Boutique Telecaster celebrates the 70th anniversary of the esteemed model. As he mapped out the concept for the guitar, he was focused on showcasing beautiful figured wood but used in a “boutique” version of a Telecaster.
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Acclaimed for building high-performance guitars even before his arrival at Fender, Master Builder Ron Thorn has always loved fast cars. Struck by the similarities in sleek design and high-performance between the Fender Stratocaster and the Saleen 1 super sports car, Thorn conceived of a one-of-a-kind Stratocaster combining elements of both. The result is the Stratocaster 1. This supercharged guitar is finished in striking Saleen Candy Apple Red.
And to make matters more awesome, the Strat 1 was displayed at NAMM alongside sleek red and black Saleen car at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Kyle McMillin’s Vineyard Tele is made from reclaimed wood from the wine barrels of the Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford, Calif. Through the decades, the barrel wood developed a natural red stain from the wine that was made within it.
To showcase the old wood and its character, McMillin finished the guitar off with a super thin permalac finish. Adding to the wine theme, the Telecaster also features cork knobs and tarnished raw hardware.