Forgotten Fender: The Robben Ford model
Time for a trip back to the early '90s.
Given that more guitarists are paying attention to now-vintage 1990's guitars, one that doesn't get much attention is the Robben Ford model.
Why? That's an easy answer. Hardly anybody knows this guitar ever existed. Heck, even I didn't know this existed until very recently.
Have I ever seen one in person? No. But then again, hardly anybody would identify this as a Fender guitar shape, so it's very easy to miss. That being said, it's totally possible I have seen this before in a guitar store but missed it completely because of that reason.
This guitar has a bit of a bounce-around history to it. The design is based on an 1980's Fender Esprit Ultra and was originally only made in Japan from 1987 to 1993. The only you see above is an ES-RF (which I assume means Esprit / Robben Ford) that was made in 1992 and 1993 only. There were Fender USA Custom Shop versions of this guitar made in the very-early 2000s (the USA-made year range is supposedly 1994-2002,) but I don't know if they're the same as the 1992-1993.
Would Fender Custom Shop make one of these new if you asked today? I honestly don't know. You'd have to write or phone them and ask. Given they did in fact build this guitar at one point, I'd assume they still have the measurements somewhere in the archives over there.
The Robben Ford model is interesting because it has a 24.75" scale and those little black things on the tailpiece are fine tuners. I actually owned a guitar with those once, and yeah they are really nice to have.
I don't know the pickup type in the Ford. Older Esprit models labeled as Master Series guitars from Fender had "developed by Schaller" pickups in them, but for the Ford they are some kind of Japanese made pickup. What I do know is that the bridge pickup is 19K and the neck 8K.
The guitar does have a set neck with rounded heel. No bolt plate on this one.
Premium guitar? Yes, absolutely. Maple neck, ebony fingerboard, fancy inlays, alder back, spruce top and chambered body. But I do not know what the little toggle switch does near the rear of the body. Could be a split switch or a boost-signal or cut-signal. Not sure.
If anybody has info on that, email me and I'll update this article. A reader contacted me and indicated it's a coil tap switch.
Does it sound like a Fender? The best way I can answer that is that I seriously doubt you would get Strat or Tele tones out of it. The overall sound to the best of my understanding is it's like a mix between a Les Paul and ES-335. If you look up YouTube videos of the Fender Esprit, you can get an idea of what the guitar sounds like.
Of the '90s guitars that are out there, if you happen to spot one of these for a decent price, it's a good buy because you really do get something good. These were made well.