“When I started collecting, the cut-off for desirability was 1965 – anything after that, forget it. That’s all changed completely”: The Fender Stratocaster is the most famous electric guitar of all time – but what was the greatest Strat ever built?

Vintage Fender Stratocaster in Sea Foam Green
(Image credit: Future)

Ever since its launch in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster has been, at once, the most recognisable electric guitar in the world and the most mercurial. While Telecasters tend to deliver a somewhat familiar ride every time you pick one up, when you try a Strat for the first time it’s harder to predict whether it will be light, pristine and bright – or dark, warm and gutsy. That’s partly because, beneath the skin, the model has changed like a chameleon through the different phases in its evolution. 

With the model’s eighth decade in production just around the corner, we began thinking about whether it’s possible to crown a particular point in the Strat’s storied life where it had reached perfection, the peak of its evolution as a design. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.