Some believe 1957 to be the year when 1950s maple-’board Strats reached the pinnacle of their development, and the same may be said for 1963 and the rosewood-’board models. All pre-CBS Stratocasters are collectible, especially when the guitar in question is in near mint original condition.
Even so, Fender was producing Stratocasters in significant numbers during 1963 and they’re not especially rare. Factory custom colours do command a premium and this guitar’s metal flake finish must be one of the rarest. It features on page 31 of Norman’s Rare Guitars: 30 Years Of Buying, Selling And Collecting by David Swartz (Alfred Music), where the colour is described as Blue Metallic Flake.
Norman Harris purchased this guitar from the original owner’s son, and the late John English, a master builder and founder member of the Fender Custom Shop, later confirmed the paintwork’s originality. Fender bought the paint from a company called Metalflake Corporation, and since the company remains in business, this ‘Royal Blue’ is still available to buy.
Fender did contract out some metallic finishes to auto body shops with specialist spray equipment, but it seems this one was done in-house. Several dings reveal a darker base coat around the edges, which suggests the metallic finish was applied over a sunburst.
But most remarkable of all, with its pristine hardware, unworn frets and factory fresh fretboard and marker dots, this guitar provides a rare opportunity to experience how a brand-new Stratocaster would have played and sounded 60 years ago.
It’s loud, bright, clear, dynamic and full of life. By any measure an outstanding Stratocaster, but playing a guitar such as this back in 1963 must have been truly mind-blowing.