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In-Depth & Hands-On

REVIEW: Fender Classic ’60s Stratocaster

Disclosure Policy | Tue, Feb 27, 2007 | 418 |

Fender Classic 60s StratocasterModel Fender Classic ’60s Stratocaster

Intro The Classic ’60s Strat is Fender’s low-cost, Mexican made answer to the seemingly endless fascination we guitarists have with the Stratocasters of yester-year.

While far from being on a par with its costly American made counterpart––the American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster––the Classic ’60s Strat still manages to fill a particular niche, and does it quite well for its low-ball pricing (somewhere in the $600 to $650 range.)

The guitar definitely exudes a vintage vibe and sound, and while it may not fit the bill for the truly discerning musician, starving artists are likely to appreciate the pure aesthetic value that the Classic ’60s Stratocaster has to offer.

This thing looks and feels like a “real” Strat––no way around that.


  • Alder body
  • Maple “C” shape neck
  • Rosewood fretboard with 7.25“ radius and 21 vintage style frets
  • 3 vintage style single-coil Strat pickups
  • Master volume & two tone controls, and 5-way pickup switching
  • Vintage style synchronized tremolo, Fender/Ping vintage style tuners
  • Chrome hardware, mint green pickguard
  • Aged parts, including knobs, switch tip, and pickup covers, and a deluxe gig bag

The polyester finish comes in 3-Color Sunburst (it’ll cost you an additional $50.00,) Lake Placid Blue, Black, Candy Apple Red, Inca Silver, and Burgundy Mist.

What I Liked The Fender Classic ’60s Stratocaster is ample proof that a guitar doesn’t have to be built in America to be of high quality. While the cheaper hardware may leave a bit to be desired (some would call it ”room to grow,“) there are definitely a few places where this guitar absolutely shines.

Fist off, the ’60s Strat is just dripping with retro style. That old-school yellowed finish on the neck & headstock, not to mention vintage style tuners, a funky mint green pickguard, and of course those ”aged“ plastic parts, make for a great looking guitar all around. Definitely gets two thumbs up for visual appeal.

The ”C“ shaped maple neck is another stand-out, and I found it to be just plain comfortable in my hand, and fast, fast, fast… with one caveat: the glossy polyurethane finish is one of those things you either lover or hate–personally, I think it feels just like a great guitar neck should, but if you absolutely have to have a smooth satin finish, well, this could easily be a deal breaker.

While some folks don’t like the ’60s necks at all, to me they feel sufficiently chunky without getting in the way. This is one of those things you’ll really have to decide for yourself, as every hand is different, and every guitar is different as well––even those of the same model.

Another feature you’re either going to love or hate on the ’60s Strat is the vintage 7.25” radius rosewood fretboard. As a long-time player of much flatter fretboards I can say that while it does take adjusting to, that highly curved fretboard is a big part of what makes a vintage Strat feel so different than a modern one. I like it. You might not.

For those who don’t know, a tight vintage radius like the one on the ’60s Strat means that while chording is incredibly comfortable, action tends to require a bit higher of an adjustment––that is if you don’t want to be fretting-out during bends above the 13th fret or so.

In the end, if you’re obsessed with having super-low action, the reality is that a vintage-style guitar may not be for you–you’ll find that you have to “dig in” a bit to make a classic Strat really sing, but those who are in the know will tell you that it’s well worth the extra effort.

What I Didn’t Like Cheap hardware is where the Classic ’60s Stratocaster falls a bit from grace… in fact, it’s not really that the hardware is bad for a Fender in this price range, it’s just that there is so much better out there.

The two different guitars I played had moderate difficulty staying in tune with heavy tremolo use… now granted, this may be accurate to a period-correct instrument, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’m not even sure if this was a problem with the vintage style bridge or those Fender/Ping tuners, but these are the first two things I would upgrade if purchasing this guitar.

Pickup-wise, the ’60s Strat is kind of right in the middle––the pups can seem a bit weak and noisy (that’s vintage 60-cycle hum, folks!) but then again that weakness is fairly true to Strats from the ’60s, so its part of what makes this guitar sound different than a modern instrument.

Once again, you’ll have to make up your own mind about this one… luckily, pickups can be replaced!

Unfortunately, finish can’t… at least not very easily. Perhaps the biggest downside to the Classic ’60s Stratocaster is its polyester finish. You know the score––if you want a finish that will last a lifetime with out ever showing any wear and tear, then you’ll be more than happy with the finish on this guitar. If, however, you prefer an instrument that will age like a fine wine, becoming more tasty & comfy as the years go by, nitrocellulose is the way to go. Unfortunately, it’ll also cost you a premium.

The finish on this thing is downright plasticy, enough said.

Final Word All in all, while the Classic ’60s Stratocaster may not be the answer for everyone, it really is a quality instrument that sounds great and feels good in the hands. The decision to purchase one would really have to come down to exactly which features are required, and how much money one has to spend.

With an excellent neck, and generally good vintage looks, this guitar is certainly a great buy for the beginner or intermediate guitar player, and with a plethora of great after-market hardware available, it would make a great jumping off point for the guitarist who wants to heavily customize their Strat without starting from scratch.

Heck, add a few hundred dollars in top-shelf hardware and you’d have a vintage style Stratocaster that just wouldn’t stop––at a fraction of the cost of an American Vintage Reissue. The finish isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but then you’re not paying out the nose, either.

Highly recommended for those looking to purchase a real Fender Strat while still staying within a very tight budget. If you have more to spend, take a look at the Classic Player ’60s Strat… if not, you could do far worse than one of these beauties.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Rick Says:

    When you factor in new pickups + new hardware + time/effort to install it all, you will be close to spending as much as a new American model (and certainly as much as a slightly used high end model). After having played this one and the 50’s model, I thought the 50’s model had “more” of a vintage feel (with a lot of the limitations you pointed out….although the one I played was setup with great action). When you are spending this little for the “feel” of a strat, you’re going to end up upgrading the hardware eventually if you plan on putting a lot of mileage on this guitar. What’s up with the cheap gig bag? You can pickup after market hard shell cases for $40…

    My suggestion (as said before), start with a high end model you like, then figure out what you lose with the Mexican models. In my findings, the 50’s model was closer to that pf the Eric Johnson model, which I think is Fender’s best production guitar.

    Also, FYI I played some of Fender’s newest American models last week, including the hot rod series Strats, the Hendrix reverse head stock model,the Standard Eric Clapton Blackie, and the updated American Deluxe…..which all seemed either gimmicky, or targeted at a very specific segment of the semi-pro market….all of them felt “new” to me. Funny enough when I mentioned the Bill Nash guitars to the sales people, they had all heard of them, and one sales guy even said that he makes better Relics than Fender at half the price.

  2. Dan Shubin Says:

    Now that was a great review, Cary!
    It had all that ‘rubber-meets-the-road’ stuff that you have to learn in order to buy a Strat these days. (and not turn around in two weeks and wish you would’ve shopped more). I learned alot and boy will I be smart after your 15th Strat review! haha.

    One thing–what are Fender/Ping tuners?

    And Rick–you so right about that “new” feeling. I didn’t impulse buy an AmerDeluxe because of that. It really turned me off.

  3. JP Stratoblogster Says:

    I played a new American Deluxe this weekend and liked it pretty much. It has the the little neck heel relief like the EJ, locking tuners, noiseless pups and the S-1.

    The one I played was a classic burst with rosewood. Not as light as the EJ’s I’ve tried, but looked like two piece (alder). This one had a tight bottom even in neck position. The S-1 is pretty boomy, but kinda creamy in the bridge position. The pickup covers were cream colored. Classic good lookin’ Strat overall. This one had a lot of integrity– good resonance from body to headstock.

    I know what the other guys mean by the “new feeling” thing. When it’s all shiny with no scratches, it lacks a certain character. However, if I bought a relic/aged guitar– I’d personally feel like a phony. My opinion, but it seems like you gotta make your own relic, either by living with one for a couple decades or doing the “quick-age” mod yourself.

    Nobody buys new jeans anymore. We get em already soft, faded and distressed. Remember the process and ritual of breakin in a stiff pair of Levis jeans or a baseball glove? It was a part of life. It’s the same thing with guitars. Funny how cars are the opposite though. When the new car smell fades away and you find chips & dings when washing it, you don’t consider the car to be gaining anything, much less “character”.

    Just close your eyes and use your ears, because a trophy Strat is a trophy Strat, a bowling pin is a bowling pin and a musical Strat is a musical Strat. And sometimes, a trophy Strat is a bowling pin to the ears.

  4. Rick Says:

    Well said JP…good bowling pin analogy…. although I disagree. Wood still thinks its a tree until it’s aged 25 years…. Aged authentic Strats are priced out of reach for most people….and are too valuable to be left on stage between sets. So guys like me crave the vintage feel…without the price tag. Sure you can get a new Fender to “sound” vintage or even “unique”…but the point for me is that a vintage “feeling” instrument inspires me to play a certain way. It’s not necessarily the “heavy relic” look that I crave. It’s the experience of the instrument….what it brings out in me. My “new” tele is in constant need of adjustment because the wood is still settling in. It doesn’t feel “real” yet (although the electronics totally rock).

    I would encourage you to go to a shop with lots of Fender gear (not just the “new” stuff like most Guitar Centers)….someplace that stocks lots of custom shop and relic stuff (and perhaps the production stuff for comparison). You’ll hear and feel that the relics are better instruments…. in all respects.

    I’d still take a convertible 65 Mustang over a new one, too! Although for most other cars, newer is definitely better….but their are exceptions (just like vintage Fenders).

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