Just a week ago, one of our members from our Facebook community (Nm Boliek) asked if there was a shell or coral pink Vintage Stratocaster. My straight answer was yes. It was a strange colour for a guitar and unfortunately Nm’s conundrum was all too familiar. Why did Fender use the colours that they did back then; pre-CBS? In this article we will look at why Fender did what they did in terms of the colour choices.
Back in the day, White, Black, Sunburst and Blonde finishes were the standard but in the 50s and 60s car colours were the main influencers. Guitar players wanted; nay; demanded guitars that were the same colour as their cars. GM had their cars painted with nitrocellulose lacquer; YES, the same nitro that was used by Leo Fender. Do you start to see a similarity here?
The first unusual colour was Shell Pink in 1956. The problem; as we all know from nitro; is that it reacts to the elements. It fades and checks. It happened to cars in the 50s and it had happened to the guitars as well. Shell pink was the official colour on Fender Vintage Stratocaster guitars or any other Fender model for that matter. Coral Pink or Salmon Pink were not Fender official colours but were faded Fiesta Red; which was the official colour during that time.
Then you had Lake Placid Blue. The blue yellowed as well and it became Ocean Turquoise! Since Lake Placid Blue was introduced in 65 and Ocean Turquoise in 66, there was no mistaking which colour it was originally if you could map the guitar’s manufacture date to 65 and 66 respectively. However, if the guitar was made post 66; that is; 67 onwards; you would not know what colour it was originally. Amazing really.
As though playing a guitar under mirror balls and a light show was not enough glamour, Fender decided to use Shoreline Gold as one of it’s official colours. Although it was saved for higher end models, that was not what stood out on these Shoreline Gold guitars. It was their white or mint green pick guard and matching Shoreline Gold headstock that caught the eye.
The CBS era brought on a whole new method of colour implementation. Fender used nitro no more and instead went the way of acrylic formulas. Acrylic being what it is was one of the contributing factors that brought on the birth of vintage guitars and in the future, the demand for Fender Relic guitars.
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