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In-Depth & Hands-On

REVIEW: Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster Re-Issue

Disclosure Policy | Fri, Aug 24, 2007 | 755 |

Fender-American-Vintage-62-StratocasterModel Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster

Intro The American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster is a reissue of Fender’s now classic and highly sought after ’62 Strat––one of the true watershed instruments in Fender’s illustrious arsenal of six-strings.

Comfort-contoured, with a traditional Alder body, and Maple neck––not to mention an old-school nitro finish––the ’62 Stratocaster reissue really feels and looks the part of a true vintage instrument, albeit without the incredibly comfy “worn-in” vibe of the real thing… and without the aged wood.

With vintage Strats circa the 1960s running in the tens of thousands of dollars, it’s no wonder that the American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster remains so popular. For about $1400 you get a very reasonable facsimile of a guitar from Fender’s glory years, minus the heart-stopping price tag.

The guitar also happens to play like a dream.

Specs

  • Comfort-contoured Alder body
  • “C” shaped Maple neck with nitro finish (25.5“ scale length)
  • Rosewood fretboard with 21 vintage-style frets (7.25” radius)
  • Three American Vintage ‘62 Strat single-coil pickups (w/aged white covers)
  • Master volume and two tone controls
  • 3-way pickup switching (5-way pickup switch included)
  • American Vintage Synchronized Tremolo w/“Ash Tray” bridge cover
  • Fender/Gotoh vintage-style tuners
  • Chrome hardware
  • 3-ply Mint Green pickguard

The guitar ships with a Deluxe brown hardshell case, vintage-style guitar strap and cable, and a Meguiar’s “Mist and Wipe” kit. It also sports a nitrocellulose lacquer finish, and is available in Olympic White, Black, Ocean Turquoise, Surf Green, Ice Blue Metallic, and of course 3-Color Sunburst (shown here, and costing an extra $50.00.)

What I Liked Tone, tone, tone… the American Vintage ’62 Strat reissue does a very competent job capturing the sound and feel of a real vintage Stratocaster.

Is it a perfect recreation? Of course not. But short of shelling out a small fortune on an early ’60s Strat, or at the least dropping three or four Gs on a Custom Shop “Relic” model, you’re not going to get any closer than this––and this, in my mind, is as close as most of us will ever need to get.

If you’ve ever doubted the tonal effects that a quality nitro finish can have on a guitar––as opposed to the suffocating effects of pulyurethane––than I dare say you haven’t spent enough quality time with a nitro-finished Strat. There’s a singing richness to the sound of both the ’62 reissue, and its sibling the ’57 reissue, that simply can’t be replicated by a poly-coated guitar.

Add to this the classic tone of Fender’s reissue American Vintage ‘62 Strat single-coil pickups (they’re punchy, with a bit more emphasis on the mid-tones and a heckuva’ lot of “quack”,) and you get a guitar that just oozes with that warm, organic, early ’60s Strat sound.

Throw down some sweet fuzz and you can easily reach into “little wing” territory––mad Hendrix chops not withstanding––or plug her straight into your tube amp for anything from shimmering but deep clean tones, to dirty, guttural blues.

Of course, in the name of historical accuracy the ’62 Strat reissue comes with a traditional 3-way pickup switch already installed, but Fender was smart enough to include a 5-way switch as well for those who prefer the ease-of-use of the latter. And in case you’re wondering, yeah, swapping out the 3-way is a breeze if you’re comfortable at all with a soldering iron. This is really basic stuff. ../..

Playability-wise the American Vintage ’62 Strat is right where it should be… with a heavily curved vintage 7.25“ fretboard radius, chording is particularly comfortable pretty much across the neck, though if you like to bend strings (and who doesn’t!) you’ll find you need to run your action a bit high to avoid fretting out above the 12th fret.

This is perfectly true-to-form for a vintage Strat, of course, and for those of us who prefer to ”dig in“ a bit during solos it’s no big thang, but if you like your action low and fast then you probably shouldn’t be looking at a vintage-style Stratocaster at all––they simply weren’t built for it.

In my own humble opinion the vintage ”C“ shaped neck that Fender uses on their ’62 reissue is about as comfortable as necks get… not too fat, not too thin, and perfectly contoured for my hand. But as I always say, neck preference is a very personal thing. This one may or may not be for you, but for me it’s a dream.

When it comes to hardware, this guitar performs impressively well. The six-point vintage tremolo runs smooth, and seems to be particularly dependable. Even with string trees on the headstock, and a full six points of contact with the body, I never experienced any tuning issues with the ’62 Strat.

Likewise, the tuners on this thing are absolutely solid. To be honest, if there was going to be trouble with the hardware this is where I expected to find it, but much to my surprise I had no problems with string slippage or other tuning nightmares. In fact, when it comes to tuning stability the guitar performed as well as any I’ve played.

Moving on to aesthetics, well, the American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster is pretty much all that you could ask for if you’re enamored of the vintage vibe of a real early-’60s era Strat. Beyond its tonal value, the Nitrocellulose finish on these beauties is absolutely stunning just for looks. It doesn’t carry the hard plasticy shine of polyurethane, but instead exudes a subtle sheen that really accentuates the intricacies of the wood pattern beneath.

Being Nitro, that finish is going to age much more gracefully than Polyurethane––and indeed, over time the nitro will actually begin to react to the chemicals in your own skin, subtly shifting the colors of the guitar in completely unique ways. This is one of the reasons that original guitars from the early days of rock and roll look so incredibly cool today––every single instrument is a piece of art in itself.

The ’62s vintage vibe is rounded out with a “mint green” pickguard (really nice touch,) and aged plastic parts, including switch tip and pickup covers.

What I Didn’t Like While there isn’t a whole lot to dislike about the American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, I suppose I have a few minor gripes…

Though accurate to the time period, those skinny vintage fret wires aren’t something I would choose to put my fingers through if I didn’t have to. Certainly, thin frets are something you can adapt to, but my own feeling is that they just aren’t all that comfortable––heck, it’s one of the reasons that many big players who can afford to purchase real vintage Strats for actual playing purposes end up re-fretting as a first step.

Of course, you can’t fault Fender… the guitar is, after all, meant to be an accurate recreation of an already classic instrument.

The other obvious shortcoming of just about any old-school Stratocaster is its propensity to hum and buzz, and the American Vintage ’62 Strat is certainly no exception. Personally, I’ve never understood why Fender didn’t supply better shielding in its instruments, let alone adopt the much less noise-prone wiring of the popular modification.

In the end, while the ’62 reissue can be noisy, I certainly wouldn’t let that stop me from purchasing one of these otherwise excellent instruments. The mod mentioned above can pretty much erase most humming issues, and ultimately, well, a Strat will be a Strat.

A little bit of noise is nothing to be afraid of.

Final Word Ultimately, the American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster is a very formidable guitar, offering the vintage look, feel, and general mojo of an early ’60s era Strat at a price that’s literally tens of thousands of dollars less than a vintage original.

While it may not satisfy the top-shelf guitar collectors out there, folks who actually play their guitars will find that the ’62 re-issue offers a huge amount of guitar for a very small price tag. With a street price of around $1400 it seems like a steal.