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The weirdness of the Fender '51


"Hey.. I see a Squier logo on that pegboard!"

Yeah, I know; there's a reason for that. It's because the '51 was actually a Squier before it was a Fender.

The '51 is probably one of the weirdest ways I've ever seen Fender treat a specific model of guitar.

Okay, a little history.

The '51 is, if you can believe it, an original Squier design (for 6-string guitar and not bass) and was never a Fender first; this is one of the rare and few instances where this has actually happened. Originally, this guitar appeared in 2004, meaning it's not something pulled from some wacky design experiment back in the 1950s or 1960s. For whatever reason, this design of guitar was a Squier original. And being it was a Squier, it obviously sold for really cheap - as in $150 cheap new back in the mid-2000s. And there were even instances where major guitar stores knocked down the price of the Squier '51 to $99 just to get rid of these things because nobody was buying them.

The '51 is a guitar that I'm 100% sure started Fender's whole "Pawn Shop" series.

Speaking of which, the Pawn Shop series started in 2011, and as far as I'm aware, all Pawn Shop models are made in Japan, which of course is not a bad thing because Japan makes good stuff.

The Fender '51 obviously costs a whole lot more than the Squier '51 ever did. And yes, it is classified by Fender as a Pawn Shop model.

The differences between the Fender and the Squier are:

  1. The Squier is a basswood body and the Fender is alder.
  2. Although I can't confirm this, I'm sure the tuning machines are far better on the Fender model.
  3. I'm also sure bridge is made of a better steel on the Fender.
  4. The electronics operate exactly the same as they did on the Squier, but the pickups in the Fender are much better as there is an "Enforcer" humbucker in the bridge and a "Texas Special" in the neck. On the Squier they're just plain ol' cheap pickups.
  5. The frets probably have much better finished edges compared to the Squier, although I can't confirm that.

...and that's pretty much it.

As far as the weight difference between the two, I'd guess the Fender is slightly heavier for the reason a slim profile was probably used on the Squier '51 and a full-profile Strat body was used on the Fender.

Why would Fender take a Squier design and make an expensive guitar out of it?

I'm not sure, so I'm going to have to guess here.

The Squier '51 is a mish-mash of several Fender designs put into one guitar, but what really makes it unique is how the controls work.

The two knobs do a lot more than you think.

The volume knob is a push/pull to split the humbucker to a single-coil. The second knob - get this - is a blend and is in fact your pickup selector. Roll all the way back, bridge pickup. Roll to the middle, both pickups. Roll to the front, neck pickup.

Pretty crazy, eh?

It's stuff like that which totally qualifies it as a "Pawn Shop" guitar. What other Fender model do you know of that has an H/S setup, splittable bridge humbucker and a blend knob?

What makes the guitar weird?

Something you don't immediately notice - the string spacing is slightly narrower. What this means is that if you buy a Squier '51 with the intention of modding it, well, that may prove to be a challenge because since the spacing is narrower, the pole pieces on the pickups are also spaced closer together. I suppose you could work around this by using a "rails" pickup which should (but wouldn't be guaranteed) still sound right even with the closer string spacing.

This weirdness also means that while the '51 may be Strat-shaped and look like it has a Telecaster neck on it, that string spacing may feel a lot different than what you're used to.

Does the FENDER '51 have that same narrower string spacing?

I honestly don't know - but - the fact it has the Enforcer and a Texas Special pickups mounted in it suggests the saddle spacing is standard. But I can't confirm that.

Want the Squier '51?

They're on eBay and readily available, most for under $300. Cool guitar? Yeah, I think so.

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