First, there was the Musicmaster
In the spring of 1956, Fender released a pair of “student” electrics with 22-1/2″ scale and 21-frets. The one pickup version was the Musicmaster ($119.50) and the two pickup version was the Duo-Sonic ($149.50). Both of these guitars were equipped with anodized gold finished metal pickguards, a one piece maple neck and stark white pickup covers. Both models had one volume and one tone control and used the same knurled knobs found on the Telecaster & Precision Bass. The Duo-Sonic had a three position switch on the shorter horn of the body. These models were offered only in Desert Sand (sort of an opaque “Blond” color that was already being applied to lap steels). In mid-’59, the fingerboard was changed to a slab of Rosewood on these models, along with the rest of the Fender line. At that time the standard finish was changed to a tan color (name unknown), the pickup covers were changed to dark brown plastic and the pickguards were changed to a cream colored plastic. By mid-’61 the standard color was changed to Shaded Sunburst (sometimes called “Maroon Burst” or Sienna Burst) and the plastic pickguards became stark white. By mid-’62 the fretboard went from slab to curved Rosewood, and by mid-’63 the standard color changed from Shaded Sunburst to White. White guitars were fitted with Tortoise Shell pickguards with stark white pickup covers. These models were unchanged until mid-’64 when the overall design was upgraded to match the new Mustang. The Duo-Sonic’s selector switch was changed to two slider switches also found on the Mustang. The color availability was commonized with the Mustang offering also. These models were then made available with a 24″ scale and 22 frets and were reintroduced (at the same time as the Mustang) as the Musicmaster II and Duo-Sonic IIrespectively. The optional scale lengths (22-1/2″ and 24″) were shared with the Mustangs.
Check out the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic Photo Gallery for more info on these guitars.
The 1964 Fender Mustang
The Fender Mustang was introduced in August 1964. This guitar was essentially a Duo-Sonic with a Dynamic Fender Vibrato. It was available in three colors: Red, Blue, and White. Although similar to Fender’s custom colors of the time: Dakota Red, Daphne Blue, and Olympic White, these namings were apparently never used on the Mustang. They were just plain Red, Blue, and White. The Red and Blue ones came with white pearl pickguards (white pearl-black-white), black pickup covers with no pole piece holes, and black slider switches. The White ones came with red tortoise-pearl pickguards (red pearl-black-white) and white (creamish) pickup covers and white slider switches. The white slider switches were made of different material than the pickup covers and tended to stay whiter and not age to a greenish gray color like the pickup covers.
The specifications for Fender Mustangs change relatively little over the years. Here are the basic specs of the Mustang in 1964:
- Poplar or Mahogany slab body (Note: as of March 2000, I no longer believe Mustangs were ever made with Alder body wood.)
- “Patriotic Colors” Red, White, and Blue
- Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
- Two single coil pickups with black base plate
- Small headstock with Transition Fender Logo
- One string guide
- Kluson tuners with plastic oval knobs
- White dot finger board markers (sometimes Faux pearl dot inlays)
- White pearl neck side markers on the seam of maple and rosewood
- Brass shielding plate in the pickup, slider switch, and control cavity
- Two slider switch ON-OFF-PHASE for each of the two pickups
- 12 screw pickguard
- 3 screw control plate
- Dynamic Fender Vibrato
- White Tremolo Bar Tip
- L-series neck plate
- One volume one tone with black plastic knobs with white marker line
- Headstock numbers (early ’64): DES. 186,826 PAT. 2,960,900 2,741,146 & PAT. PEND.
- Headstock numbers (late ’64): DES. 186,826 PAT. 2,960,900 2,741,146 3,143,028& PAT. PEND.
- 24″ scale with 22-frets standard (optional 22-1/2″ scale with 21-frets). Most ’64 Mustangs appear to be shipped with short scale length necks with “A” neck widths (1-1/2″).
A couple of things changed in late 1965 to early 1966. The biggest change was the enlargement of the headstock, in line with the BIG HEADSTOCK found on other Fender guitars of the time. The tuners also changed to “F-keys” with sort of square-ish white plastic pegs. The neck plate changes to “F-series” plates. The pickup’s base plate changes to gray color. An additional patent number appears on the Headstock. So, to summarize the changes:
- Large headstock
- F-key tuners with white plastic squarish knobs
- F-series neck plate
- Single coil pickups with gray base plate
- Headstock numbers: DES. 186,826 PAT. 2,960,900 2,741,146 3,143,028 2,817,261& PAT. PEND.
Here’s the 1965 Fender Color Chart. On the bottom, it says:
“Not available for Mustang, Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster
Colors subject to change”
This indicates that the “Custom Colors” were not available on the Mustang of this era.
The 1967-1968 Fender Mustang
Around 1967, a couple of little details changed on the Mustang. First the “OFFSET Contour Body” decal on the headstock dissapears (this reappears somewhere down the road). Second, the “Dynamic Fender Vibrato” which used to say “PAT PEND” acquires a patent number. Third, the headstock patent numbers change again (I don’t know what it changed to since I don’t have a 1967 anymore, but it’s usually the same as Stratocaster of the same vintage).
- No OFFSET Contour Body decal on headstock
- Patent Numbered Dynamic Fender Vibrato: PAT. NO. 3,241,418
- Headstock numbers: PAT. 2,741,146 2,960,900 3,143,028 3,241,418 DES. 169,062204,098
The 1969 Fender Mustang / Competition Mustang
As I have not collected anything beyond a 1967 Mustang, I can’t speak with much authority on these later Mustangs. The biggest change to the Mustang occurred in 1969. The forearm contour and the back contour are added to the body. This marks the end of the slab bodied Mustangs. The “Made-In-Japan Fender ’69 Mustangs” are reissue of this era of Mustangs. Also, this is the year the Competition Mustangs were introduced. Basically, the Competition Mustangs are Mustangs with different paint scheme. They came in Competition Red (w/cream stripes), Competition Burgandy (Blue)(w/light blue stripes), and Competition Orange (w/dark orange stripes) colors with contrasting racing strips right around the forearm contour on the front side of the body. The stripes were “thin-thick-thin” stripes with the base body color showing between the stripes. The stripes were only applied on the front of the body and not on the back. The Competition models apparently came standard with matching headstocks. However, there are a significant number of these Competition Mustangs with non-matching headstocks, so it may have been sold both ways. My guess would be that the earlier (’69 through mid-’71) Competitions all had matching headstocks and the later (mid-’71 through ’72) ones had non-matching headstocks. The Competition “Burgandy” color has been puzzling to me for a while as “burgandy” to mean means a reddish color with a blue hue or something close to the color purple. Fender had a custom color called “Burgandy Mist Metallic” which would be described as “light purple.” But in my search on the web, I found a reference to the color “burgandy” being associated to a dark blue color in one of the car advertisement of the 60s. I guess that’s where the burgandy-blue color reference Fender used came from. I always thought somebody at Fender screwed up and accidentally called the dark blue guitar “burgandy”…
The 22-1/2” scale Mustangs were apparently phased out during the Competition era. I have yet to see a shortscale Mustang with a non-matching headstock, so I would guess that the shortscale Mustangs were phased out before or during ’71.
- Competition Colors phase in and replaced the Patriotic Colors
- Matching headstocks from ’69 to mid-’71. Non-matching thereafter.
- Headstock Fender logo gets “R” for Registered Trade Mark. Matching headstock versions get cream colored labeling.
- 22-1/2″ scale models discontinued (c. 1971)
The early ’70s Fender Mustang / Competition Mustang
Around 1970, the regular Mustangs were discontinued and replaced by the Competition Mustangs. None of the feature on Mustangs really change until about 1973 and since a ’67 Mustang isn’t really worth more than a ’72 Mustang, I don’t think anybody really took great interest during this era unlike the more expensive Stratocasters and Telecasters. Besides, Fender stopped dating the neck in this time frame and started using codes that require deciphering, making it doubly difficult to tell the manufacture date (yes, you can still look at the pot dates). Greg Gagliano has deciphered the neck coding of this era, check his article out in the link just below. I know as a fact that there are Red, White, and Blue Mustangs with body contours so my guess would be that the regular Mustangs continued into 1969 and was replaced by the Competition Mustangs sometime during 1969. The Competition Mustangs were made in lefty versions also, although they were probably a special order item.
Here’s a 1970 Fender Color Chart. It shows the following colors for the Mustang:
- 510 Competition Orange
- 511 Competition Burgandy
- 512 Competition Red
This chart also shows the plain “Red” (color code 515) and plain “Blue” (color code 517) used on the Musicmasters and Duo-Sonic. These colors were used on the pre-’69 Mustangs and were not called “Dakota Red” or “Daphne Blue.” Competition Orange is not shown on the 1972 Color Chart so it looks like this color was dropped after one or two years.
70’s Fender Neck Code Deciphering
- Dating 1970s Fender Guitars by the Neck Code By Greg Gagliano
Around 1972, the Competition Mustangs were discontinued. At about the same time, the pearl pickguards were discontinued and the pickguard was changed to a regular white plastic pickguards (white-black-white). 3-tone Sunburst, Natural, Walnut, Black, White, and Blonde were colors available in the post-Competition era. The Fender Logo changes to the black modern logo in 1972. Around 1974, the second string tree was added to the headstock, a bit later than Stratocasters and Telecasters – Competition Mustangs (1970-1972) typically only have one string guides but black pickguard Mustangs (1976 -1982) all have two string guides. I owned a 1974 that had two string guides. Fender probably resisted adding the second string guide on the Mustang to save 10 cents on production cost…. The “F-key” tuners now have chrome squarish knobs and are commonized with Stratocasters and Telecasters. The body of this era can be Poplar or Ash. The Ash body is gradually reinstated on non-Blond Stratocaster from around this time. The Ash body appears to have been used on Blonde and Natural colored Mustangs only. The side marker dot changes around this time to black dots on the maple part of the neck.
- Competition Colors discontinued
- Poplar or Ash body
- Modern black Fender Logo
- White-black-white plastic pickguards
- Second sting guide on headstock
- F-key tuners with chrome squarish knobs
- Black plastic side marker dots
The mid ’70s Fender Mustang
Around 1976, the black pickguard (black-white-black) replaces the white pickguard, the volume and tone knobs are changed to black ones used on the Stratocaster, and the tremolo bar tip is changed from white to black. One piece maple neck is available as an option. Along with the rest of the Fender line-up, all Mustangs had Ash body around this time frame. I’ve owned a 1974 and 1978 Telecaster and a 1979 Stratocaster and they all had ash bodies and weighed a ton–reason I got rid of them. Mustangs should have come from the same cut of ash as it’s more expensive siblings, so there may be some real heavy Mustangs from this era.
- Black-white-black plastic pickguards
- Ash body
- Optional one-piece Maple Neck
- Headstock numbers: PAT. 2,741,146 2,960,900 3,241,418 3,143,028 3,290,980DES. 204,098
The late ’70s to early ’80s Fender Mustang
In the late ’70s, Antigua is added as a new color to the Mustang. In 1977, the serial numbers move to the headstock (from the neckplate). These have the “S7xxxxx,” “S8xxxxx,” and “S9xxxxx” serial number sequences. The “S” stands for “Seventies” (and later “E” stands for “Eighties”) and the second digit denoting the year of the decade (i.e. S7=77, S8=78, and S9=79). All Mustangs made in the ’80s wear the the “S9xxxxx” serial number. Fender probabaly made too many stickers in ’79 and didn’t want to waste it so kept on using them. Mustang line is discontinued around 1981 or 1982 associated with CBS’s sale of the company to Fenders’ management headed by Bill Shultz.
- Antigua Mustang introduced
- Serial Numbers on the Headstock
- Mustangs discontinued
Mustang Photo Gallery
- 1978 Mustang. photo courtesy Pat from Mexico
Apparently in 1984, Fender made one last batch of U.S. made Mustangs for Yamano Music Store (a major Fender distributor in Japan) as the 20th Anniversary of the Mustang. These Mustangs apparently had funky features as listed below.
- No serial numbers (usually, this era Fender had the “S9xxxxx..” serial number on the headstock)
- Cremish white body color
- Two string guides
- Brownish “Red Tortoise Shell” pickguard
- White pickup covers with rosewood fretboards or black pickup covers with one piece maple neck
- Black pickup selector switches
Fender Mustang Photo Archive
Here you will find the photo archives of detail changes to the Mustang mostly though the Competition Era. Tim Pershing gets full credit for this section:
Fender Mustang Headstock Labels
- A very early ’64 (July-September ’64) Mustang Headstock Label with 1 DES, 2 PAT, and PAT PEND photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A late ’64 (October-early ’65) Mustang Headstock Label 1 DES, 3 PAT, and PAT PEND photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- ’65 Mustang Headstock Label with 1 DES, 4 PAT, and PAT PEND.photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- ’67 Mustang Headstock Label with 4 PAT and 2 DES.and no “Offset Contour” decal photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- ’69 Matching Competition Mustang Headstock Label with 4 PAT and 2 DES.and no “Offset Contour” decal photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- ’72 Mustang Headstock Label – Left over Competition Label used on non-matching headstock photo courtesy Tim Pershing
Fender Mustang Neck and Body Dates
- A pre-Mustang 3/4 (22-1/2″) scale Fender “Student” guitar. This “3/4” stamping was never used on the Mustangs. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- An early short scale (22-1/2″) Mustang neck. The early shortscale necks had a “9” prefix and usually an “A” suffix indicating a 1-1/2″ neck width at the nut. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- An early long scale (24″) Mustang neck. These early “8” prefix necks usually had “A” suffix neck widths. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A late ’65 long scale (24″) neck with slab Rosewood fingerboard. Slab Rosewood fingerboards appear on Mustangs from around SEP65 to JAN66. The “B” suffix necks have 1 5/8″ neck widths at the nut. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A “16” prefix long scale (24″) neck which appears with the institution of change from Kluson tuners to F-Key tuners. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A side-by-side comparison of curved and slab Rosewood fingerboards.photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- Body date (OCT 68) found on the neck pocket of some late ’60s Mustangs. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
Fender Mustang Pickups and Body Route
- Early ’64 gray bottom bobbins with dates penciled in.The pickup on the top of the photos is the “Bridge” pickup. Note that the leads have changed(?) to almost dark blue and yellow compared to black and white on the neck pickup. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A ’65 pickup with the yellow date stamps on the “face side” of the pickup. Note that the pickup magnets are almost flush with the face bobbin, just barely protuding. The “AY” initial is for Abby Ybarra who still winds pickup at the Fender Custom Shop. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- Gray bottom bobbins with the dates marked with felt tip marker. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A black bottom bobbin on a ’67 Mustang with the full electronics assembled on the back of the pickguard. photo courtesy Greg Gagliano
- Black bottom bobbin with black stamp used from 1969 through the 70’s. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A photo of the Mustang body with the pickguard removed to show the body route. photo courtesy Tim Pershing
Miscellaneous Information on Fender Mustang
“The Pickup Controversy.” The Mustang rear pickups were Reverse-Wound Reverse-Poled to get a noise cancelling effect when both pickup are in the “ON” position in-phase. This probably explains why the front pickups have white/black wires while the rear pickups have yellow/blue wires.
The pickups on the Fender Mustangs are not the same as that on the Stratocaster or Telecasters. They were unique pickups made for use on the Mustangs and probably on the Musicmasters and Duo-Sonics. The pole pieces of these pickups are flush on both the front and the back face of the pickup bobbins. The dating on the early pickups are sometime stamped and sometime handwritten.
Fender Mustang Pickup Switching Configuration
Mustang Setup The Mustangs are strung by inserting the strings into the tailpiece from the bridge side. The strings then come out of the tailpiece on the bottom strap button side and is wrapped around the underside of the tailpiece and over the bridge and then onto the tuners. Here’s a jpeg that shows a side view of a properly strung Mustang. If the strings are threaded incorrectly through the bottom strap button side of the tailpiece and over the bridge, the tremolo arms will be way low against the body.
The tremolo arms of a Mustang according to Fender specs should be parallel to the strings. In the jpeg the two blue lines (one for the tremolo arm and the other for the strings) should be parallel to each other. However, I personally don’t like Fender specs on this matter and have the tremolo arm angled further away from the body then called for by the Fender spec. The tremolo arm angle is adjusted by raising or lowering the tail piece. The tremolo arm will be more parallel to the strings if the bridge is set higher or it will be angled away from the body if the bridge is set lower.
So, how do you adjust the tailpiece height? There are two holes on the tailpiece marked by the red arrows. You stick a .050″ allen key wrench into these holes and fish around to find the screw head. You turn the screw to raise or lower the tail piece. Same thing with the bridge. You stick the same allen key wrench in the two holes on the bridge marked by the blue arrows and try to find the screw head. Turn the screw to raise or lower the bridge.
Fender specs call for a string height of 3/64″ on the treble E string and 5/64″ on the bass E string at the 12th fret. The neck relief should be .012″ on all strings at the 7th fret. You can try to make it lower than this, but it becomes a delicate adjustment trying to get the lowest string height without getting the strings to “fret out” when you choke them.
Typically, you will experience the “Fender Kick” on the neck above 15 fret that had the shim installed in the neck pocket to raise the end of neck to allow for proper string height over the bridge. Necks with this condition will fret out when you choke around the 12th fret. Otherwise, the neck in a true Fender fashion is relatively trouble free.
Mustang Neck Dates I have neck dates from four ’65 to ’66 Fender Mustangs I have owned. The neck dating on these guitars are:
Mustangs come with neck code of “9” (short scale), “8” (early long scale), or “16” (later long scale). The change from “8” to “16” is a wierd one since nothing really changed for all I can tell. This change occured around the time of change to F-Key tuners (from Klusons). “3/4” used on short scale MusicMasters and Duo-Sonics were never used on Mustangs. The neck dating on Fender guitars were stopped around 1972. To determine the dates of these later guitars, you’ll just have to compare the features of the guitar and look at the pot dates to determine the birthday of your guitar. Or, you can go to Greg Gagliano’s site and use his deciphering method.
“The Body Color Controversy” The clear coat (usually lacquer) yellows on Mustangs through the Competition era. This results in “rare” Surf Green color — which is just an yellowed blue Mustang — and the Sonic Blue color — which is just a Blue Mustang faded to a lighter color. The “rare” Metallic Green Mustang, I believe, is just an yellowed Competition Blue. I believe the “rare” Competition Copper is a faded Competition Red and the Competition Burgandy (which may really exist) is a yellowed Competition Red. Don’t be fooled by the “rare” nomenclature used on occasions.
- A Blue ’66 Mustang that turned green…. The original blue color is visible under the control plate.
The mythical Purple Burst Mustang seems to be a regular Competition Blue Mustangs with too much clear coat near the edge of the body. The edge of the body needs to be painted with clear also and there will be overspray to the surfaces of the body when they are trying to paint the edge. This causes the clear coat to build up near the edge. This thick layer of clear coat will yellow a lot, much more than a thin coat of yellow making the Mustang look like it was painted in “Purple Burst” color. But look closely to the headstock of this guitar. It really looks like somebody painted this to look like a burst to begin with….
- A Purple Burst Mustang from the early Competition era.photo courtesy John Cola of New York.
“The Body Wood Controversy.” Through the Competition-era, Mustangs mostly used “Poplar” as the body wood and few were “Mahogany.” As or March 2000, I’m reversing my earlier opinion that “some Mustangs were made with Alder” to “No Mustang was ever made with Alder.” It has been over two years since this site first went up and I have been getting lots of information from you all. I’ve also been looking closely at every Mustang I could find at guitar stores and shows. It’s hard to know which wood was used as all Mustangs through the Competition era were painted with solid color paint. I can now say conclusively that all the Mustangs that I have seen (hundreds of them) were Poplar (very common), Mahogany (very rare), or Ash (Ash was introduced starting around 1974, all were ash by 1976). Pretty much every Mustangs that I have played over the year (none of which are “Ash”) sounded the same, so I don’t really think body wood affects the tone of this guitar. However, I have occasionally noted lighter weight Mustangs over the year (but the guitar is already light to begin with so it doesn’t matter much) so it is possible that different type of wood caused the difference in weight. Given the wide availability of Alder in the 1960’s as well as their relatively low cost, it is hard to imagine that Fender would need to use different types of wood for the Mustang such as Poplar or Mahogany — Mahogany would need to be imported from Honduras or somewhere. But then again, poplar is a lot cheaper than alder on any given day, even back in the 1960’s. To the best of my knowledge, the only Fender guitar or bass that did not use either Ash or Alder bodywood in the late ’60s is the Fender Telecaster Thinline which had a choice between Mahogany or Ash body. Oh, yeah, and there are those 1964 Strats that were made with Basswood…(look at page 48 on “Guitar Graphic #6–A Photographic History of the Fender Stratocaster” by Rittor Music). However, given that Fender never wasted anything, it is entirely possible that they just used any left over body blanks to make the body of a solid colored guitar like the Mustang, Musicmaster, and Duo-Sonic…
Here are some photos of Mahogany bodied Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster and Mahogany and Poplar bodied Mustang.
- A ’64 Duo-Sonic with Mahogany body photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- A ’64 Musicmaster with Mahogany body
- A ’64 short scale (22-1/2″) Mustang with Poplar(?) body photo courtesy Tim Pershing
- Richard Rutenbeck’s 1966 Mustang with Mahogany body photo courtesy Martin Willis
- Fact of fiction? A late 50’s Musicmaster with Pine(?) body. Its got knots and everything (including some charming ornament).
“Rarity” As far as rarity is concerned, my vote would be for Long Scale “B” neck Mustangs with neck dates in 1964, especially in blue or white color – I have yet to see one as they all seem to be Short Scale or Long Scale “A” neck for ’64. Second to that would be the Long Scale Competition Orange Mustangs with matching headstock which has the shortest life of any Mustang configuration (there seems to be quite a few Short Scale Competition Oranges).
Fender Patent and Design Number Guide
- PAT/DES # (grant date) = Description on Application — What it really is.
- DES 186,826 (??/??/??) = ???
- PAT 2,573,254 (10/30/1951) = “Combination Bridge and Pick-up Assembly for String Instruments” — Telecaster Bridge Plate
- DES 169,062 (3/24/1953) = “Original and Ornamental Design for a Guitar” — Precision Bass Body Shape
- PAT 2,741,146 (4/10/1956) = “Tremolo Device for Stringed Instruments” — Stratocaster Synchronized Tremolo
- PAT 2,817,261 (12/24/1957) = “Pick-up and Circuit for Stringed Musical Instrument” — Humbucking Pickups used on Lap Steel Guitars
- PAT 2,960,900 (11/22/1960) = “Guitar” Contour Body
- PAT 3,143,028 (8/4/1964) = “Adjustable Neck Construction for Guitars and the Like” — Adjustable Neck
- DES 204,098(?) (??/??/??) = ???
- PAT 3,241,418(?) (??/??/??) = ??? — Dynamic Vibrato (probably)
- PAT 3,290,980 (?) (??/??/??) = ???
- PAT 3,550,496 (12/29/1970) = “Tiltable Guitar Neck Incorporating Thrust-Absorbing, Pivot and Locking Element” — Micro Tilt Neck
Fender Mustang Copy Guitar
Yes, they exist. I’ve recently discovered a guitar called the 1965 Kalamazoo KG-2A. As you all know, Kalamazoo was a “budget brand” for Gibson in the 1960s and 1970s. The KG-2A looks to be a blatant and direct knock-off of the Fender Mustang and is probably the first “copy” of the Fender Mustang. So, don’t mock only the Japanese for copying US guitars, here is an example of a US maker copying a competitor’s design. Since the Fender Mustang debuted in August 1964, Gibson was quick to make a copy as the KG-2A linked below dates to 1965. I’m guessing the Fender Mustang was wildly popular in it’s debut year since Gibson was quick to copy it. If you think there was very little written about the Fender Mustang, there’s hardly any information readily available for Kalamazoo guitars. It is entirely possible that the Kalamazoo KG-2A preceded the Mustang, and the Mustang was a copy of the Kalamazoo (but I highly doubt Leo Fender would do something like that).
- A ’65 Kalamazoo KG-2A photo courtesy Rob Wesley
Here is a look at the Fernandes Mustang from the ’80s in a kind of a Burgandy Metallic Color. Why buy a real one when you can buy a copy for more? Mustang copies of various qualities were made by Greco, Burney, Frescher, Tomson, Memphis, and pretty much all major Japanese brands. Mustangs were “BIG” in Japan in the late eighties which leads to Fender Japan’s reissue of the Mustang as we know it, which were later exported all over the world with varying market success.
Japan’s Atama Kikaida has an impressive Japanese Mustang Copy Guitar collection. He’s got El Maya, ESP/Navigator, Fernandes, Fresher, Gibbon, Hisonus, Teisco, Thunder, Watson, and Westminster copies. Check it out from the link below.
- Japanese Mustang Copy Guitar Collection photo courtesy Atama Kikaida
Reissue ’69 Mustangs — Fender “Collectibles”
Fender Japan started manufacturing the ’69 Reissue Mustangs sometime in the late ’80s to the early ’90s as part of their “collectibles” series. These Mustangs have the 24″ Long Scale with “A” neck width. Two colors – Vintage White and Sonic Blue – were offered with the correct trimming – well sort of – for the White one. Because of that, all the pieces were the wrong color for the Blue one. Besides, the Blue one isn’t even the right color for vintage Mustangs. As of March 2000, these Mustangs are still made and are available in Japan. These bodies are made of the dreaded Basswood. Basswood has a bad name as they are commonly used on low-end Fender Japan and Ibanez guitar and perceived as “cheap wood” (which is true) and “Wood without Tone” (which is mostly caused by other cheap parts on the guitar such as the pickups). In reality, Basswood is not a bad wood, it just has a bad reputation. By the way, I have a book that shows photos of ’64 Fender Strats that were made of Basswood. In my opinion, these reissue Mustangs are no where near the vintage Mustangs in vibe, feel, tone, etc., (not that the real ones really amounted to much either). For example, the US made reissue ’57/’62 Strats and ’52 Tele are pretty good guitars, but they don’t live up to “real” Fenders from those year. The reissue Mustangs don’t do as good a job as the US reissue Strats and Tele in replicating the original vibe, feel, and tone, etc. But then again, many of today’s Fender Custom Shop guitars are much better than the originals they depict – such as the “Relic Stratocaster” series which is truely an amazing guitar – although the concept of selling “beat up guitars” as new may baffle many people. Reissue Competition Mustangs were also offered for the Japanese market only. These guitars have the “Made In Japan” decal on the back of the neck just above the body joint so it’s easy to distinguish from the “real” ones.
Other Reissue Mustangs
Fender Japan made quite a few limited edition Mustangs exclusively for the Japanese Market. This includes the Custom Mustang, the ’66 Mustang Reissue, and the ’69 Competition Mustang Reissue. The ’66 has been reissued in both the Blue and White around 1992 and the ’69 has been reissued in Blue, Red, and Orange Competition models with matching headstocks around 1996 (although the Orange was more of a Capri Orange used as part of the International Color series in Fender in 1981). All of these reissues are based on the 24″ long scale with “A” neck width. There is also the reissue Mustang Bassfrom Fender Japan.
Around 1999, the “Silver Mustang” was produced as a limited edition model for the Japanese Market. The body is silver as is the headstock as is the back of the neck. Everything is painted silver!! Also, in 1999, a music store chain in Japan called “KEY – Music Land” had a limited run on Competition Mustangs made in Orange and Blue Competition. These don’t have matching headstock like the earlier “Fender Limited Edition” and has “Crafted in Japan” decal on the back of the neck instead of the more common “Made in Japan” decal. Too bad all these reissues are made with “A” neck width, just the same as the regular Reissue Mustangs, which is too narrow for most of us with regular sized hands.
Several of the readers of this site have attempted to contact the shops in Japan that carry the Reissue Mustang and the Reissue Competition Mustangs. But nobody seems to have gotten a reply from any of the stores. I guess they won’t reply unless you send them e-mail in Japanese. Maybe, this is reason enough to learn how to read and write Japanese? Don’t bother asking me how you can get one because I can’t help you.
Also, over at Ikebe Gakki, they have their Fender Japan Limited Edition Kurt Cobain Mustangs. It’s basically a reissue Mustang with a humbucker pickup in the bridge position. It comes in the slab body style ’66 model and the contoured body style ’69 model. You can get this guitar with an optional Tune-O-Matic bridge!! I think that makes it just like Cobain’s, but I doubt that your tremolo will work with a fixed Tune-O-Matic bridge (normal Mustang bridge rolls with the tremolo)… If you want one, you can try contacting them, but I doubt you’ll get one unless you can read and write Japanese and live in Japan. In any case, don’t bother asking me about how to get one because I can’t help you. They also have the Kurt Cobain Jaguar with double humbuckers and a Kurt Cobain Strat with a humbucker in the bridge position.
Fender Mustang Phenomena in Japan — Char
As you can see from all the Fender Japan reissues of the Fender Mustang, something caused a strong demand for these guitars in Japan. Char is a Japanese musician who’s first album was released in 1976–and yes he was using a white or blue Fender Mustang. So, there was a high demand for the 1965-1967 white and blue Mustangs in Japan (just likeChar) and also impacted the Mustang prices in the US as many of these guitars were exported to Japan. He never used a red one, so the demand for the red ones were weak and were priced several hundred dollars less than the white or the blue ones. Here’s a You Tube video of Char playing his “signature song” SMOKY with a Mustang. The Mustang in this video is his white 1966 Mustang he is known for (he also used a blue one). Listen to how he uses the tremolo in the introduction and then the same song played by the same player but with a Stratocaster. You can hear the tremolo works completely differently between the two guitars, and he can’t tremolo down on his Strat like his Mustang can. His typical pickup selection on the Mustang is both pickups ON in the hum cancelling configuration–a very distinct Mustang tone. He seems to be playing on position 4 on the Strat. The Mustang tremolo is unique in that the tail piece is suspended on tall legs, the bridge is also suspended on tall legs, and the scale length is quite a bit shorter than a Stratocaster. That give the movement of the tremolo a lot of leverage compared to a simple pivoting tremolo like that on a Strat or the Floyd Roses. Now, only if it’ll stay in tune…
The Fender Mustang Bass
Here are some photos I found on the web to look at. No text here since I’m not a bass player and don’t really care about this brother of the Fender Mustang.
- 1967 Fender Mustang Bass – Red
- 1967 Fender Mustang Bass – White
- 1969 Fender Mustang Bass – Competition Red
- 1970 Fender Mustang Bass – Competition Orange
- 1971 Fender Mustang Bass – Competition Blue
- 1973 Fender Mustang Bass – Sunburst
Well, that’s it. This is pretty much everything I know about the Fender Mustang. As it isn’t a very collectible instrument, not much has been written on this guitar and nobody really seems to care. I’ve been on search of information about the Fender Mustang for a while because I just love this wacky guitar. It’s light, it’s small, it plays well, it’s cool looking, and it’s got good vibes. I’m sure that the Stratocasters of the same era has more of that, but enough has been written about that guitar.
As of 2008, I have sold all of my Mustangs on ebay. Some of you noticed my mrmaxima ebay handle and contacted me. Among the many things I do, I am a guitar builder. I’ve taken a liking to real wide fret boards with 1-3/4″ width at the nut and really chunky necks–which is something a Mustang doesn’t have. Also, it became really difficult to switch between my other guitars with the longer scale neck and the Mustang as the short scale on the Mustang creates low string tension and a very loose feel with the strings. So, the only constant in life, “change” happened and my period with the Fender Mustang has passed… This website was put back up on the internet in memory of my Mustangs.
- Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars by George Gruhn and Walter Carter
- The Fender Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day
- The Fender Stratocaster by A.R. Duchossoir
- The Fender 1 STRATOCASTER by Rittor Music
- The Galaxy of Stratocaster by Yasuhiko Iwanade
Special thanks to John Cola, Greg Gagliano, Bernardo Cocco, Richard Rutenbeck, and Mike Stroud for their contributions to this website. Extra special thanks to Tim Pershing for all the time he spent helping me add depth and accuracy to this site.
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REVISED – March 21, 2015 [JTM]
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