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The story of the Fender Splatocaster, the surreal Custom Shop creation born from a Guitar World competition

Fender Splatocaster
(Image credit: Fender/Future)

#GuitarWorld40In 2020, Guitar World marks its 40th anniversary. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’ll be sharing key moments from the magazine’s storied history, taking you inside the guitars, the stars and the bizarre from 40 years of the world’s biggest guitar magazine.

In the July 2004 issue, Guitar World announced what would ultimately prove to be the most successful contest in the magazine’s history: The Design Your Dream Guitar contest. Readers were asked to submit a drawing of their dream guitar, with the winning design to be built by the Fender Custom Shop.

We knew we’d get at least a few pro-level renderings (as well as some angry prisoner art, crayon sketches and grade-school illustrations), but what we didn’t expect was the sheer number of entries. By the time our New York City mail carrier delivered the last envelope to our doorstep, thousands of submissions had been received.

The winning design, which was announced in the Holiday 2004 issue, was by reader Jimmy Stout, whose “Splatocaster” featured a Strat-shaped aluminum body with clear, fluid-filled cavities.

(Image credit: Fender/Future)

The concept was so complex, it ended up taking Fender Custom Shop veteran Scott Buehl nearly two years to build the one-of-a-kind axe.

Reflecting in an interview with Fender (opens in new tab), Buehl said, “The aluminum body was actually the easy part for me; the fluid concoctions were the wrench in the gears…’ Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a chemist!’

“I thought about quitting my job several times… That was easily the most difficult guitar I’ve ever done.”

Thankfully, the results were clearly worth it to Stout, who commented to Guitar World, “I’m totally ecstatic about winning, man. I wouldn’t sell it for a million dollars.”

Make it more like $30,000... some four months after taking possession of the Splatocaster, Stout – who had come under some debt – attempted to sell the guitar on eBay for 30 grand.

“I will hate myself five years from now, I know, but... it’s my only way out of this situation,” said Stout in the May 2007 issue.

We’re not sure of whatever became of the Splatocaster, but one thing is certain: the Design Your Dream Guitar contest still reigns as the mother of all Guitar World contests.

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As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.