Back in the 60s, you could have ordered your personal Fender guitar in your favourite custom color for a 5% additional cost, and Fender offered a very nice and broad palette ranging from classical pastels colors to metallic finishes, directly inspired by the Automobile market and its never ending quest for “made to measure” array of options for their customers.
Fender’s connection to the Automotive design was strong, and the first attempt in merging the use of polished chrome metal elements and bright colors seen in the beautiful American cars dates back to 1946, when Leo designed the now infamous “Woody” amps, which were offered in bright Gold, Red and Blue colors, with contrasting polished chrome metal strips in the front.
To put things in the right perspective, Custom-color finishes were offered on Fender instruments well before the company’s first color chart was released, circa 1960. In fact, Factory finished, custom colored Amplifiers, “lap steel guitars” date back to the mid 40s, while the note “available in a DuPont Ducco color of the player’s choice at an additional 5% cost” only appeared for the first time in spec sheets for the Stratocaster and Precision Bass around 1956.
Some of the most iconic mid 50s Fender Stratocaster in custom colors are probably Eldon Shamblin’s gold ’54 Strat, Pee Wee Crayton’s red one, Howard Reed’s Black 1955, David Gilmour white ’54 with gold parts, but although, as explained earlier here, Customer requests for non-standard finishes were indeed a reality in the early days, that said, finding genuine custom colored Fender finishes from the 50s other than Blonde (which was a custom option when not used on Teles and Esquires) remains a fairly rare occurrence nowadays.
Nowadays, thanks to a number of resources, from book charts, collector’s lists, to Dealers sold gear portfolios, we have been able to determine that some of those colors offered in Fender’s chart were the most requested, hence they’re labelled as “common”, while some others, that were produced in less quantities, are considered to be “rare”.
Another interesting note worth mentioning is that the Fender Factory typically produced colored guitars bodies in production painting batches, rather than a one-by-one “custom” thing, although small “one off” custom batches are documented, especially for a trade show or advertisement / endorsement purposes.
Typically, red guitars were the most requested, especially in Europe, thanks to British Guitar Legend Hank Marvin and his iconic band The Shadows, so those were in high demand in the mid 60s.
Believe it or not, Hank Marvin is the main reason why today we see a lot of Fiesta Red and Candy Apple Red guitars, possibly the two most produced colors ever among the “common” ones.
But not all the reds offered by Fender are considered “common” at all, for example Dakota Red, which is a darker and richer tint compared to Fiesta, is hard to find.
A typical question among Guitar aficionados is “which is the rarest color ever made?”, and technically, that was never a thing at Fender, since any of those colors available in their chart had the same cost, but as we just explained, the customer’s demand determined the production numbers for each color, resulting in their eventual “rarity” nowadays.
Today at Vintage Vault we’ve this very rare guitar, a 100% original and Factory finished:
1964 Fender Stratocaster Foam Green over Surf Green – serial L56924