Fender has just announced the American Vintage II series, including of course Stratocaster models. The American Vintage was Fender’s vintage-spec range from the 1980s until early 2018, when it was replaced by the American Original range – a somewhat controversial move, as the American Originals eschewed strict vintage specs, going with flatter fretboard radii instead.
There have actually been several American Vintage Strat iterations in the past, For a long time, a ’57 and ’62 model was sold, These were then replaced by ’56, ’59, and ’65 models, with the ’56 and ’65 serving as baseline for the ’50s and ’60s American Original. Nevertheless, Fender decided to call the new models the American Vintage II series.
There are three Stratocaster models. The ’57 comes with a maple neck with 7.25″ fretboard radius and V shaping. Available colors are two-tone sunburst, Sea Foam Green, and Vintage Blonde. All other specs are vintage-style, too: pickups, six-screw vibrato, bent-steel saddles. Luckily there’s a five-point pickup switch, and the frets appear to be a bit taller. The necks are once again tinted.
The ’61 has a C-shape neck with slab rosewood 7.25″ fretboard and clay dots. The available colors are three-tone sunburst, Fiesta Red, and Olympic White. The other specs are similar to the ’57.
I’m not a fan of the CBS-era big headstock Strats – but for those who are, there’s a ’73 model. It comes with a C-shape neck with round-lam maple or rosewood fretboard, depending upon the color. The body wood here is of course ash, and the infamous three-bolt neck mount is there, too. Available colors are Aged Natural, Mocha (a dark transparent finish), and Lake Placid Blue.
All guitars come with a vintage-style case (tweed, brown or black tolex). There’s no further case candy besides the “ash tray” bridge cover. Street prices appear to be around the €2,100 mark. The American Originals are still listed on the Fender website (albeit with only one color each), but I can’t find them any more on the sites of several large European dealers.
My verdict: There was quite a bit of criticism when the American Original came out, as you needed to go Custom Shop (or Mexican) for a 7.25″ fretboard radius Strat, so for the vintage-spec crowd, this is a welcome announcement. I’m actually very happy with my ’60s American Original Strat with its fat neck and 9.5″ fretboard, and I would wish for these to remain in production, like the Vintage Hot Rod models we had in the past. The downside of the new models is that Fender has once again increased prices, and that the color selection is somewhat limited. While the sunburst are must-have and the Fiesta Red and Sea Foam Green are nice bright colors, I would have preferred something a bit more interesting than Vintage Blonde and Olympic White (again). I really wish Fender would rotate colors more often.