Of all the carefully chosen guitars Fender unveiled in its exciting brand-new American Vintage II Series, I decided to check out one of the more overlooked models: the American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster.
Indeed, ’70s-era Strats have historically been perceived as a lesser Stratocaster (compared to pre-CBS Stratocasters) for many problematic reasons besides its most visible change – the enlarged and reshaped headstock. Sure, we all pined for the original smaller headstock Strats found in the hands of Clapton and Gilmour; however, many old-school players will recall that their first fond impressions of a Stratocaster had been the prevalent ’70s-era Strats being legitimized by local scenester guitarists and guitar idols from Blackmore to Malmsteen.
But aside from debating the merits of a large or small Fender headstock, there seems to be a fashionable resurgence for “everything old is new again,” as evidenced by the American Vintage II lineup of nearly period-correct models that span three classic decades of iconic Fender guitar and bass designs.
And while the American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster is meticulously built to original spec, what is abundantly clear is that Fender has skillfully improved the issues that made 1970s Stratocasters controversial, making this overhauled model a far more appealing instrument.
There’s no need to step into a time machine; the American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster is built to look and feel exactly like a new Strat plucked off the rack from a music store in 1970-something.
What’s noticeably absent is the boat-anchor weight and impenetrably thick poly-gloss finish found on many of its original ’70s-era predecessors. Now, while the AVII 1973 Strat is finished in a gloss polyurethane, it feels fairly soft rather than shellacked, and the guitar arrives at an acceptable welterweight of 7.5lbs.
Another detectable difference is that the “C”-shape maple neck is no longer chunky, but fashioned to a comfortably rounded profile that is quintessential Fender and inarguably enjoyable.
Of course, the guitar comes in either a round-laminated rosewood or maple fingerboard with a vintage curvature of a 7.25–inch radius that many modern players may not be accustomed to, but thankfully, the vintage tall frets will be agreeable to most players.
Fender went to great lengths in balancing original spec with improved functionality because none of the guitar’s sturdy hardware and solid construction appears wonky or flimsy.
The period-accurate features like the “Bullet”-style truss rod nut, three-bolt neck plate with Micro-Tilt adjustment, large headstock with dual string trees and bigger Fender decal, vintage-style single-line “F” stamped tuners, and synchronized tremolo with bent steel saddles and cold rolled steel block all reflect its ’70s roots.
Finally, the AVII 1973 Stratocaster is outfitted with a trio of Pure Vintage ’73 staggered pole pickups and is offered in three classic colors (Aged Natural, Lake Placid Blue and Mocha) over an ash body, with the Mocha finish being the first custom color ever to feature a black pickguard on a Strat.
The American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster is pretty much self-evident as an updated reissue of a classic Fender model – but I also feel it’s a “corrected” version that doesn’t cut corners and is closer to what Fender intends as the standard of a ’70s Stratocaster.
It’s superbly well made, plays effortlessly and feels substantial and seriously authentic, thanks to precision engineering and having much of its hardware being tooled on the original Fender factory machines from the ’50s and ’60s era.
I also found the Pure Vintage ’73 pickups dish out a brilliant cracked glass sparkle in their cleans and a distinctive flutey snarl when overdriven. It’s a definable and crisp ’70s sound you can hear in the 2- and 4-notch positions – think Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama or the bright choppy cleans and funky rhythmic stabs found in Ohio Players’ Love Rollercoaster.
You’ll dig, like me, that the American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster is a breezy nostalgic ride that harkens back to a time when FM radio blared from muscle cars and bell bottoms were as wide as its headstock.
- PRICE: $2,279
- BODY: Ash
- NECK: Maple or rosewood (dependent on finish)
- FINGERBOARD: Maple
- FRETS: 21
- PICKUPS: 3x Pure Vintage '73 Single-Coil Strat
- CONTROLS: Five-way blade switch, volume, neck/middle tone, bridge tone
- HARDWARE: American Vintage Synchronized Tremolo with “Ash Tray” Bridge Cover, Pure Vintage Fender tuners
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Mocha (reviewed), Lake Placid Blue, Aged Natural
- CONTACT: Fender