One of the fun things about hanging out in a Pawn Shop around Nashville is that you never know what or who is going to walk through the door. Loans, buys, trades, and sales are all parts of the deal. During one of these transactions a kind of rare 1983 American Fender Standard Stratocaster surfaced. There was something different about this Strat. I remember seeing one or two of these back in the 80’s that only had a volume and just one tone control on it. This was back when CBS ran Fender and Dan Smith was Director of Marketing for electric guitars, AKA “The Smith Era”. Fender was trying to make improvements while cutting costs to make a more affordable Stratocaster. The outcome was “one of the most distinctive mainstream Strat’s ever” at a lower price of $650.00 new. This new, two knob Standard Series Stratocaster came out in 1983 and lasted only until late 1984, making this a collectible guitar to some.
There are pros and cons with this line of Strat. You can see where Fender cut costs on the front of the guitar by relocating the output jack to the front of the pickguard and removing the standard chrome plated output jack that was mounted into the body, The single layer pickguard was able to be pre-assembled with a new wiring harness and mounted on the guitar with 11 screws instead of the normal 12 screws. The standard tremolo was changed to the top mounted “Freeflyte Tremolo” that has a single knife edge pivot that goes all the way across the tremolo, so there are no base plate screws in the body. The tremolo arm is a snap-in bar and the springs are top loading springs which are adjusted from the top because there is no back plate. This means there is no hole cut through the body and a routed out cavity for the springs on the back. Looking at the back of the guitar you might think it’s a hard tail. The neck is a 12” radius with a flat fingerboard. Fender also widened the fingerboard at the nut and made the neck a little shallower from front to back. They also added bass fret wire so it’s bigger then the vintage fret wire they have used. Fender brought back the 4 bolt neck and added their neck pitch tilt adjustment mechanism, which was sturdy and made it easier to adjust the neck. No more loosening the neck and having to put shims in. It also was the debut of their “Bi-flex” truss rod.
Despite all the cost cutting measures and improvements Dan Smith introduced with the new Fender Standard Stratocasters in 1983, the guitars didn’t exactly rock the world of guitar players at the time. The Strat itself isn’t a bad guitar and it plays really well (if you’re not a heavy tremolo arm user). The guitar is worth checking out. The Guitar Buyer’s Guide suggests a selling price between $1500.00 and $2000.00, but if you do some looking and negotiating you perhaps can find one to fit your budget. Fender only produced this “Smith era” Stratocaster until 1984, making them a collectible guitar to find in 2017.