Fender has sent Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat acoustic guitar back to the paint room for a fresh new Checkerboard finish, and while it might be a new-for-2023 aesthetic it looks like it has been around forever.
But then the Hellcat’s new black-and-white Checkerboard paint job has long been subsumed into pop-culture short-hand for punk rock, and was inspired by the British two-tone movement of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that in turn inspired so much of Armstrong’s sound.
“I love how that music combined traditional ska with punk rock energy,” said Armstrong. “All those bands and that sound has been an inspiration to me since I was a teenager.”
The Hellcat in one form or another has been with Armstrong since he was a teenager. Now Fender has been making Armstrong’s Hellcat signature guitar for so long that even the Rancid and former Op Ivy punk pioneer is taken aback that it has become an institution, a staple of the Fender catalog.
“The fact that Fender is so passionate about making the Hellcat – a guitar based off my Fender I picked up when I was a teenager and have written so many songs on over the years – still blows my mind,” said Armstrong. “One thing I really love about Fender is that they have become my friends. The whole company top to bottom plays guitars and loves them as much as I do.
“I feel that they are the greatest guitar company in the world and working with them across these projects has been so fulfilling.”
Fundamentally, the Hellcat is based off an old Fender concert acoustic guitar and it comprises a solid spruce top, scalloped X-pattern bracing underneath, with laminated mahogany on the back and sides. The neck is satin-smooth maple. The fingerboard is walnut and has custom Hellcat and double-skull inlays.
Armstrong also has an onboard Fishman CD pickup and preamp system, which has its volume and tone controls mounted on the shoulder of the instrument. And while Armstrong might be total punk, he’s nothing if not a humanitarian when his audience is concerned – because this has an onboard guitar tuner too. Tune up, fret those open G chords with confidence, people!
The Checkerboard finish does draw focus. But look closely and you’ll see single-ply black binding, matching the black pickguard. This Hellcat has a ‘70s F style rosette. Other vital statistics include the 25.3” scale, 11.81” fingerboard radius, 43mm nut width, and the price is $459/£429.
See Fender for more details.