It's pretty much a no-brainer that a '50s Telecaster and '50s or '60s Stratocaster belongs on every guitarist’s top-10 bucket list of electric guitars.
While prices for these gems have dropped since the post-millennium boom when hedge fund managers snapped them up like Reddit users buying GameStop stock, a decent one still costs as much as a new budget sedan while a great one is in the range of a fully loaded sports car.
For the 99.9 percent of us who need to spend money on frivolous things like food and shelter, Fender’s Vintera series offers the next best thing to a vintage original.
This is particularly the case with their limited-edition Vintera Road Worn models, which ooze the vibe of those particularly great examples that players simply couldn’t keep their hands off of for the last six or seven decades.
In addition to having an authentic, broken-in look and feel, Fender’s Vintera Road Worn models have hotter, vintage-voiced pickups, lightly applied nitrocellulose lacquer finishes and period-accurate neck profiles and fingerboard radiuses.
Simply put, Fender’s Vintera Road Worn guitars are the closest players can get to a genuine '50s or '60s Strat or Tele for well under two grand without facing the prospect of jail time.
We took a look at three of the four Vintera Road Worn models: the ’50s Stratocaster, ’60s Stratocaster and ’50s Telecaster. The odd guitar out was the ’70s Telecaster Deluxe. All three models feature an alder body and maple neck with 25 1/2 -inch scale length and 1.65-inch nut width, with the ’50s models offering maple fretboards while the ’60s model’s fretboard is pau ferro.
All three also feature 21 vintage tall frets and vintage-style tuning machines. Each model is available with a selection of two finish options: Lake Placid Blue or Vintage Blonde for the ’50s Tele, Surf Green or Fiesta Red for the ’50s Strat and Firemist Gold or Lake Placid Blue for the ’60s Strat.
The Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster is a black-guard aficionado’s dream, featuring a fat U-shaped neck profile, 7.25-inch radius, vintage-style ashtray bridge with three brass saddles, knurled flat-top control knobs and three-way switch with barrel-style tip.
The pickups are Fender’s Vintage-Style ’50s Single-Coil Hot Tele models, which have the bolder, more-balanced voice of a handmade pickup made on a particularly good day. The pickups are wired in the player-preferred, straightforward bridge/both/neck configuration with master volume and master tone controls.
The Vintera Road Worn ’50s Stratocaster features a thick soft-V profile with a “skunk” stripe running along the center of the ever-so-slightly pronounced hump, 7.25-inch radius and six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo bridge. Pickups are Vintage-Style ’50s Single-Coil Hot Strat models.
The five-position blade switch concedes to modern preferences, as does the control configuration of a master volume, neck/middle pickup tone and bridge pickup tone knobs. The Vintera Road Worn ’60s Stratocaster has similar neck attributes to the ’50s model, only with the exception of its aforementioned pau ferro fingerboard and its flatter, rounded Mid-’60s C-shaped profile.
The bridge is also a six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo. Pickups are a set of three Vintage-Style ’60s Single-Coil Hot Strat models, also wired with a five-position blade pickup selector switch, master volume, neck/middle pickup tone and bridge pickup tone controls.
The most prominent feature of Fender’s Vintera Road Worn models is the nitrocellulose lacquer finish, which is applied about as thin and light as possible to avoid violating decency laws for public exposure. This allows the bodies to deliver highly dynamic, acoustic-like responsiveness.
The guitars already have bold projection unplugged, and the voice becomes bigger and bolder when plugged in, with the ’50s Tele providing tantalizing twang with butt-kickin’ bottom end, the ’50s Strat dishing out brash aggression with slightly scooped mids and the ’60s Strat delivering sweet, singing mids with slightly less tenacious treble.
The Road Worn models are tastefully hand-distressed and have a seductively comfortable broken-in feel. Even though the Tele’s neck is fat enough to stun a Tennessee trucker in a bar brawl, it plays like a dream, with rock, blues and rockabilly licks rolling off the fingers like a fork during a fried chicken dinner.
As for the Strat necks, one would have to go through about two dozen vintage examples to find just one that plays half as nice.
- PRICE: $1,149 / £999
- ORIGIN: Mexco
- TYPE: Solidbody electric
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, U profile on Tele, soft V 50s Strat, C profile on 60s Strat, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 25.5”
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone, 1.65”
- FINGERBOARD: Maple on 50s models, pau ferro on '60s, 7.25” radius
- FRETS: 21
- HARDWARE: Vintage-style ashtray bridge with three brass saddles (Tele), Six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo (Strats)
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: 3x 60s/50s Vintage-style Hot Strat single-coils, 5-way selector switch, 1x volume, 2x tone; 2x Telecaster ’50s Single-Coil Hot Tele pickups, 3-way selector switch, 1x volume, 1x tone
- OPTIONS: None
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: 60s Strat available in Road Worn Lake Placid Blue (as reviewed), Road Worn Daphne Blue, Road Worn Candy Apple Red, Road Worn Olympic White; 60s Strat available in Road Worn Surf Green, Road Worn Fiesta Red; 50s Telecaster available in Road Worn Vintage Blonde, Road Worn Lake Placid Blue
- CONTACT: Fender