Fender Road Worn Stratocaster and Telecaster
Originally published in Guitar World, October 2009
If you love the look and feel of a more than slightly used guitar but feel squeamish about buying an instrument with a secret past life, the Road Worn Series is for you.
Normal people love things that are shiny and new. Guitarists, as we all know, are not normal people. We generally prefer things that are broken in and have seen more than their fair share of wear, tear and abuse, including aged leather jackets, tattered jeans, Econoline vans with 300,000 miles and strippers. This is particularly true when it comes to the instruments we play, as a well-worn ax just seems to sound, feel and look better than a brand-spanking-new guitar.
Fender was the first major guitar manufacturer to offer pre-aged guitars when its Custom Shop introduced the Relic Series in the mid Nineties. Now Fender is using the same proprietary finish and hardware aging processes to produce the new Road Worn Series guitars and basses, which provide the vibe of a well-loved ax while selling for considerably less than Fender’s Relic models. While the Relic Series consists of accurate reproductions of Fender classics, the Road Worn Series starts with a vintage-inspired foundation but adds player-approved modifications, like bigger frets and hotter pickups.
Fender currently offers three different Road Worn model guitars, each with two finish options: the ’50s Stratocaster, ’50s Telecaster and ’60s Stratocaster. For this review I checked out a Road Worn ’50s Tele with a blonde finish and a Road Worn ’60s Strat with an Olympic White finish.
At first glance the Road Worn ’50s Tele looks like a genuine vintage Telecaster circa 1954–58. Period-correct features include an alder body (ash on the blonde-finish Tele), five-screw single-ply white plastic pickguard, three-saddle string-through-body bridge, one-piece maple neck and maple fingerboard with a 7 1/4–inch radius. The body is even sprayed with nitrocellulose lacquer just like in the good ol’ days.
The Road Worn ’60s Strat offers similar period correct, circa 1960–62 pre-CBS features, including an 11-screw three-ply pickguard with a mint-green tint, a vintage-style synchronized tremolo with bent saddles and a slab rosewood fingerboard with a 7 1/4–inch radius. The ’60s Strat features an alder body with a nitrocellulose lacquer finish.
The Road Worn models have undergone a few cosmetic and structural alterations to make them more appealing to players. The Strat and Tele both feature Dunlop 6105 jumbo frets with a narrow, tall profile that provides accurate intonation and helps “flatten” the round feel of the 7 1/4–inch radius. Tex Mex Strat and Tex Mex Tele pickups with Alnico magnet pole pieces provide fat, warm tone with slightly hotter output than standard vintage-style pickups. The ’60s Strat comes with a five-position pickup selector instead of a vintage-correct three-position switch, and its controls include master volume, neck pickup tone and middle pickup tone controls. The Tele features standard wiring—a three-position bridge/both/neck pickup selector and master volume and master tone controls.
The Road Worn Series instruments are made at Fender’s Ensenada factory, and according to Fender, master builders from the Fender Custom Shop taught the Ensenada crew the secrets and art of their finish and hardware aging processes. As a result, the Road Worn guitars have the authentic aged look and feel of Fender’s Relic guitars, including details like simulated arm wear on the lower bout and slight amounts of corrosion on the bridge.
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