In just the first few months of 2021 we’ve already seen some ridiculously sweet six-string releases from Fender, including the Mike McCready 1960 Stratocaster, 1969 Ford Mustang Resto-Mod and the Spark-O-Matic Jazzmaster. But the company may have outdone itself with the new Prestige Collection, an annual exercise whereby the Fender Custom Shop’s Master Builders are given a challenge to “build a guitar with no boundaries.”
The result is the Prestige Collection, consisting of one electric guitar or bass creation per Master Builder. This year’s lineup features mouth-watering models with enticing names like “Leaves of Tears,” “Sugar Surprise Strat” and “Tapestry Telecaster,” among others.
To get the lowdown on all the Prestige models straight from Fender, head below.
Paul Waller: Sugar Surprise Strat
Paul Waller’s Sugar Surprise Strat was inspired by LA-based artist Pamelina, who approached approaching Waller with a project of a guitar that lights up. The idea was to create something that would take on a different feel once illuminated. The Sugar Skull theme of the guitar ties together the idea of artwork having two different looks. What looks like simple and beautiful scrolling art turns into a sugar skull with flowing hair. This guitar will be the envy of any collection, complete with Josefina hand wound pickups.
Regarding the Sugar Surprise Strat, Waller told Guitar World, "My biggest inspiration for this project was the fact that it lights up. What a cool concept! Immediately I wanted to use this concept to create a piece that would have a subdued overall feel (artistically), but turn it into something completely different once illuminated.
“Pamelina and I have worked together a lot over the last few years, and we’ve really connected artistically. She was able to take that direction and turn this guitar into a beautiful sugar skull, cloaked by natural light. All the detail in the skull comes alive when the Lumilor brand paint gets illuminated. A seemingly benign paisley bandana becomes a colorful sugar skull with flowing hair, and it’s absolutely stunning."
He continued, "The biggest challenge with this project was getting the power source to work within the limited space. I ended up creating a foot pedal to activate the light, eliminating the need to carve out a cavity to accommodate the additional electronics, and keeping the weight within acceptable specifications. It’s a very unique piece that will be the envy of any collection."
Yuriy Shishkov: Leaves of Tears
Built with the luxury taste in mind, Yuriy Shishkov’s Leaves of Tears is a delicate and elegant guitar, another example of Yuri’s alternative inlay and decor approach to a handmade embellishment.
It has a “wrapping” silver wire inlay pattern around the body, which delivers little sparks with diamonds and diopside stones on each of its branches. The quilt maple wood is well known for its beauty and one of Yuri’s favorite materials for this type of instrument, the contrast between the hand stained purple burst and precious stones give this guitar its unique look.
This guitar ticks the boxes of not only a great playing guitar, but also a unique art piece. While the guitar has all exotic, and lavish features, it will also play like any other high-quality Stratocaster.
Scott Buehl: Acrylic Jazzmaster
Scott Buehl’s Acrylic Jazzmaster is his first incarnation of an acrylic guitar in the offset platform. Having built acrylic Strats over the last couple of years, and with increasing requests, Buehl says “it seemed like it was time.” The clear acrylic lends itself to the contours of the Jazzmaster, and having the parts and wiring visible contributes to the look.
With Acrylic weighing more than wood, Buehl employed tactics such as routing the entire pickguard perimeter clear of material which not only shed valuable pounds off the guitar, which features Josefina hand-wound Jazzmaster pickups and an RSD Jazzmaster Bridge, as “an attention getter and it’s brought a lot of compliments.”
Dale Wilson: Tapestry Telecaster
Dale Wilson’s Tapestry Tele is a collaboration with artist Pamelina, who had the initial inspiration for this guitar. She brought the idea to Wilson to collaborate on the specifics. He was originally drawn to the idea of Pamelina incorporating the wood into the artwork. Wilson says, “I’m always drawn to guitars that have wood as a canvas.”
He describes the artwork as “a beautiful combination of scrolls against a backdrop of flame maple with a barely noticeable burst on the edge.” The guitar features a flame top, back and neck, which contributes to the playing comfort and sound, and features Josefina hand-wound “OBG” (bridge) and Twisted Tele (neck) pickups.
Jason Smith: Custom ‘60s P Bass Special
Inspired by the 70th Anniversary of the Precision Bass, Jason Smith’s Custom ‘60s P Bass Special is a celebration of both the Precision Bass and old western ghosts towns.
The design of this P-Bass based around an early P-Bass vibe with modern playability and weathered old western appearance. Featuring a rustic, reclaimed, roasted pine body with nail and bolt holes, the wood has lived a life as an old grain elevator in Minnesota before becoming an instrument.
The tooled leather hand-painted pickguard gives the instrument a look of elegance paired with the weathered body. A Josefina hand-wound PJ pickup set is slightly over-wound for higher output and deeper bass tone.
Carlos Lopez: Double Neck Marauder
Carlos Lopez’ Double Neck Marauder was inspired by the possibility of combining two of Lopez’ favorite guitars, the Electric XII and the Marauder. The guitar was designed in collaboration with Paul Frank, who shares a very similar taste in guitars with Lopez.
Speaking about his creation, Lopez said, “Love the fact that the 12-string is on the top side, just how it should be.” All pickups on this guitar were designed and built by Curtis Novak, and according to Lopez, “the color and feel of the creation just has to be experienced in person.” Designed to appeal to anyone who loves to think outside the box and can appreciate the mystique and obscure guitar such as the Marauder.
Kyle McMillin: Custom Burled Redwood Strat
Kyle McMillin created the Custom Burled Redwood Strat taking inspiration from woodworking and resin art on social media and using techniques more associated with furniture and home decor.
The resin top is a new feature for guitar builders, and is one of McMillin’s favorite aesthetic features along with the inlays which ties the look of the guitar together.
Flashy and exotic guitars have always been a love of McMillin’s in guitar making, and he set out to create something that had never come out of the Custom Shop before.
Describing the guitar as “stunning and beautiful in both appearance and sound,” this is one of McMillin’s favorite builds to date.
Todd Krause: Box Top Tele
Todd Krause’s Box Top Tele is inspired by the construction of an amplifier cabinet. The maple top is inset into the body of the guitar with a box joint, which is a personal highlight for Krause and a technique not often employed in guitar building.
Contrasting woods give the appearance of checkered binding here, and the light honey color shows off the joint and the AAAA Birdseye top.
Despite its unique appearance, Krause’s Telecaster still features traditional specs, while pickups are a Josefina hand-wound “OBG” in the bridge and a ‘55/’56 Tele in the neck.
Greg Fessler: Tamo Ash Tele
Greg Fessler’s Tamo Ash Tele is an exotic take on a classic design. Being a fan of figured wood, the Prestige collection was the perfect opportunity to use a Tamo Ash top that Greg had been saving for a special occasion.
The guitar features a highly figured Tamo top and a flame maple U-shaped neck with abalone dots, as well as Seymour Duncan Vintage P90 pickups, a “Sawed-Off” Vintage-Style Tele Bridge and a Tamo Ash body.
Chris Fleming: Jazz Telecaster
Chris Fleming’s Jazz Telecaster is a tribute to Fleming’s love of the art of bebop style jazz guitar, mixed with admiration for the classic Telecaster design. The Jazz Telecaster features a custom-designed and machined Fender Jazz Tailpiece, which was designed specifically for this instrument, as well as a Tilted Snake Head headstock and Brazilian Rosewood custom wood appointments.
In the true spirit of keeping it functional, simple and elegant, the guitar features a single humbucker pickup and volume control.
The body, meanwhile, is semi-hollow mahogany, with a tortoiseshell bound spruce top. The goal was to recreate the feel of an archtop guitar with a Telecaster. This is a true one of a kind guitar, and is one of a handful of instruments Fleming has made prior to his retirement this year.
Vincent Van Trigt: Custom Flamingo Sunset Tele
Vincent Van Trigt took inspiration from a ‘60s cocktail bar by the beach when creating the Flamingo Sunset Telecaster. Based on a ‘60s Telecaster, the guitar features artwork by Ian Ward. After years of parties, jam sessions, salty air and heavy storms, the bar is gone, but the guitar lives on to tell its stories.
Designed for the player who likes a one-of-a-kind look with a vintage feel, the light and resonant guitar features cocktail-bar neck inlays, a roasted body and neck and Josefina hand-wound ‘63 Tele pickups.
Dennis Galuzka: Custom ‘62 Precision Bass
Dennis Galuzka let his inner horror buff contribute to his 2021 Masterbuilt Prestige creation. His love of the look of a dead forest, or even better, a singular dead tree, was the basis for this Precision Bass.
Featuring artwork by Madeline Hanlin, an otherwise tried and true vintage P-Bass, this bass is form meets function, appealing to anyone who needs that classic P-Bass tone and wants to do it with some serious style.
It features the tonal standards of a Fender bass, alder body and maple neck, which also made for the perfect canvas for this form of artwork, while featuring a Josefina hand-wound ‘62 Precision Bass pickup.
For more information on all the new Prestige Collection models, head to Fender Custom Shop.