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Vintage guitar of the week #4 - 1974 Fender Stratocaster Natural

What Fender did to save a buck in the '70s ended up with a Strat that has a unique look to it.

This week's vintage guitar is a '74 Strat in "natural" finish. The way this particular look of Strat came about was from Fender trying to save money on production costs.

There were a lot of guitars in the '70s aside from Fender (Gibson as well as other guitar companies did this too) who rolled out "natural" finish guitars where you saw wood, wood and more wood. This style, at least at the time, did cost less to make.

Now to note, Fender does make this guitar brand new right now, so if the price tag of the real-deal '74 is too much, you can get pretty much the exact same guitar in a new version. And it is literally exactly the same guitar, 3-bolt pattern neck plate, "F" tuners, bullet truss rod, "U" shape neck and all. How do I know this? I actually played one in person at a Sam Ash guitar store and can say that oh yes, the new one is just like the original. The only thing the new one doesn't have are 41-year-old pickups, which matters to vintage guitar collectors.

Is it normal that the pegboard (headstock) is different in color than the neck?

On a '70s Fender, yes this is normal as they came from the factory that way. Don't ask me why because I don't know exactly why, but it does add in that "I'm from the '70s" Fender character to the instrument.

What does a "U" shape neck feel like?

The easiest way to describe a "U" shape is that it's bigger in the rear, has much more "shoulder" to it and a lot more room for your thumb.

If you've never played a Strat with a "U" neck on it before, you do get used to it quickly. At first, it feels like a big hunk of wood, but after noodling and strumming around on it, you'll find it to be a comfortable player.

New or vintage?

As said above, this particular '74 is really clean for what it is. Nicely priced and has a slight yellowing from age.

The new '70s Strat, as I can confirm right up front, does not have that yellowing; it's built exactly as it would have come brand new from Fender in '74. It is an ash body just like the real vintage, but in the end, it's a new guitar. Same specs from top to bottom, but still new.

Ultimately, there are two things that will convince you to go with new or vintage. The new one is Mexico-made and isn't aged. The vintage is USA-made and is aged.

If you do decide to put down the money and get the vintage, it is nicely priced, given you get one in good condition.

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