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Adrian Belew shows off two dazzling new Fender Custom Shop Strats built by Ron Thorn

Fender Custom Shop Adrian Belew Stratocaster
(Image credit: Facebook/Adrian Belew)

Adrian Belew has taken delivery of two new, heavily customized Fender Custom Shop Stratocasters, both crafted by the firm’s master builder Ron Thorn.

The guitarist already has a signature Parker Fly, which he uses in his usual, highly complex MIDI setup, but as Belew explains over on Facebook, he needed a non-MIDI option for the festival circuit and other gigs, and knew he wanted a Strat for the job.

As such, Belew reached out to Thorn at the Fender Custom Shop. 

“Ron Thorn is the Principal Master Builder for the Fender Custom Shop who crafted this beauty and is one of the good guys,” says Belew in the first of two posts about the instruments.

“Ron is held in high esteem throughout the known guitar universe. He is also a knowledgeable fan of my work which made the process easy and even more enjoyable.”

When it comes to gear, Belew is one of the world’s most innovative and demanding players. It follows then that the resulting instruments, one in Solar Red (based on a favored Mazda finish) and one in blue have a pretty astonishing list of features.

Thankfully for us guitar geeks, Belew goes into some detail about the builds, even posting the spec sheet.

At the heart of the build is a basswood body with Ultra contours. That’s paired with a quartersawn maple neck with medium jumbo frets and red Corian inlays. 

Fender Custom Shop Adrian Belew Stratocaster

(Image credit: Facebook/Adrian Belew)

Then there’s the hardware appointments, which include Sperzel locking tuners, Fender roller nut and a Vega-Trem bridge.

As Belew says: “One super-important aspect of playing this Strat is its ‘twang bar’. The Vega-Trem is fabulous! What a dynamic tremelo! Made in Spain this design pulls up or down and never affects the tuning. It has a delicate but springy feel that is just perfect for me.”

Fender Custom Shop Adrian Belew Stratocaster

(Image credit: Facebook/Adrian Belew)

The other headline grabbing element here is the pickup combination. There’s a DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker at the bridge, a Fender Texas Special single coil in the middle position and a Fernandes Sustainer at the neck (controlled by the two small toggle switches).

The pickup covers, ‘cupcake’ control knobs and pickguard area have been painted in an aluminum silver color to create a uniform look.

It seems there are currently no plans to reproduce the model on a broader scale, but who knows – that might change if there's enough of a demand. 

Belew also mentions that Thorn and he discussed the dream of one day producing a signature model based on his Twang Bar King Mustang. Another one we’d love to see hit the shelves. 

For now, though, we’re content to bathe in the (aluminum) reflected glory of Thorn’s masterful Custom Shop build.

Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.