Friday, October 9, 2009

Competition Mustang Guitar

Fender first introduced Competition Mustangs and Competition Mustang basses in 1969. Competition Mustangs were made in three basic color schemes:

1.) Competition Red; which was metallic red with white rally stripes.
2.) Competition Orange; which was yellow with orange rally stripes.
3.) Competition Blue; which was metallic blue with light blue rally stripes.

Like most Fenders, Competition Mustang were available in righty or lefty.

Competition Mustangs were offered in two different scales:

1.) 24" Scale: The standard scale, which probably accounted for over 95% of the competition mustangs produced. The 24" Scale neck has 22 frets.

2.) 22.5" Scale: This rarer scale is commonly called a 3/4" scale. The 22.5" scale neck has 21 frets. I've only seen a handful of competition mustangs with this scale neck. It is not uncommon for 22.5" scale necks to have very early stamped neck dates. Examples have surfaced with 1966 and 1964 stamped neck dates. Evidently Fender over produced these necks in the mid-60's and the surplus was spread into the late 60's and even into the early to mid 70's. The 22.5" scale mustangs have a slightly different shaped headstock as they were made when Fender was using an earlier headstock design. They also often come equipped with the earlier Kluson tuners as compared to the later Fender "F" tuners.

Trio of 22.5" Scale comp. mustangs:

Note the difference in headstock shape:

Color Confusion

The following is a portion of the color chart from Fender's 1970 catalog:

So whats the difference between Competition Blue and Lake Placid Blue? The main difference, besides the presence of the competition rally stripes, is that Competition Blue mustangs often had the presence of a purple hue around the perimeter of the body and headstock. The purple appears to have been added over the metallic blue base coat. The presences of this purple is commonly & mistakenly called "purpleburst". Standard Lake Placid Blue finished guitars do not have this presence of purple. The presence of the purple hue around the perimeter is probably also why the finish was originally called "Competition Burgundy" to begin with.

Here is where it gets interesting though. A good percentage of Competition Blue Mustangs have some purple, some quite a bit and some just a little. But for every one that has some purple there seems to be one without any signs of purple. What was going on at Fender? Were workers spraying some with purple and some without? This question remains to be answered.

It seems like most to all of the early 1969 Comp. blue Mustangs have some purple on them but then towards the mid to end of 1969 you start seeing some examples that don't have purple.  In the early 70's it gets harder to find mustangs that have purple on them. 

Competition Blue showing a good deal of purple:

Competition Blue showing no purple:

Note that both Competition Blue and Lake Placid Blue finishes are prone to "greening". Greening is likely caused by a variety of different factors, but I am assuming the number one culprit is exposure to sunlight. Exposure to UV can transform blue to a subtle or deep shade of green, very similar to Ocean Turquoise or Sherwood Green. The below pictures are a good example of greening.

It appears the yellowing occurs mostly in the clear coat. As you see in the below picture, the arm wear has rubbed the clear coat away, exposing the true color once again.  It is also the yellowing the causes the white lettering of the headstock decal to look yellow.

Here the color change causes a Comp.Red mustang to look more a copper color.

Here are some tan lines on Orange Mustang Bass:
Image courtesy of John C

The below pictures are nice examples of the drastic color change than can occur.
 1.) This is a sonic blue mustang.

2.) A pair of comp. blue headstocks.

Early Competition Mustangs

Early Competition Mustangs often had interesting details not present on later versions.

1.) As mentioned previously, early comp. mustang often had Kluson tuners instead of Fender made "F" tuners. I am not sure why Fender was using Kluson tuners on these guitars as they had made an official switch from Klusons to "F" tuners in late 1965. Fender may have been reverted back to the Klusons in order to use up the supply they had left.

2.) Early Competition Mustangs also sometimes had oversized gold mustang decals instead of the standard white decal. It appears Fender was trying to find a way to get the mustang logo to stand out more with the new competition mustangs. It looks as if they tried simply enlarging the existing gold mustang decal before switching to a white colored decal. The white decal contrasted nicely with the new competition colors and was surely bold enough for Fender's liking.

3.) In my opinion the coolest feature that early Competition Mustangs had are in the examples that have rally stripes that went around the entire body. It appears Fender found it too difficult or time consuming to get the stripes to line up perfectly at the edges of the body and settled with having the stripes on the front of the body only. The examples I've seen with stripes on the backside have been in red and blue.

Occasionally a creme-colored competition mustang decal would find it's way on to the non-painted headstock of a Sunburst Mustang as shown in the example below:

Famous Competition Mustangs

1.) Probably the most famous of all Competition Mustangs is the one Kurt Cobain owned and played in Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit Video.

Info on Kurt's lefty competition mustang can be found:
- On the Kurt Cobain's Guitars Now page.
- On The Kurt Cobain Equipment F.A.Q. page.

2.) The story of Lee Ranaldo's stolen and then returned mustang is interesting. His guitar has got to be the most famous "missing" competition mustang. The Sonic Youth guitarist recovered his guitar after it being gone ten years.

 Read all about it here at the Sonic Youth Gear Guide.

Beat Competition Mustangs

Because who doesn't like beat up / worn down guitars.

Clean Competition Mustangs

Here's very clean example of a 1970 Fender Red Comp Mustang:

For more photos of this beauty and others see Joe's Vintage Fender website.


Rodvonbon's Collection

Rodvonbon is a versatile guitarist from the midwest and has a super cool arsenal of guitars featuring many comp. mustangs and a homemade swinger.

Click on a description to see the guitar. Pics on in order starting with the back row first, right to left. All photos of this collection courtesy of Rodvonbon.

Reissue Competition Mustang Bass - Comp. Ocean Turquoise
Reissue Competition Mustang Bass - Comp. CAR
Vintage Competition Mustang - LPB w/ decals , Picture #2.
Vintage Competition Mustang - LPB
Vintage Competition Mustang - Factory Orange over Blue
Project Competition Mustang - Orange
Vintage Competition Mustang - Orange
Reissue Competition Mustang - Capri Orange
Reissue Competition Mustang - Fiesta Red
Reissue Competition Mustang - CAR
Reissue Comp. Mustang - LPB w/ custom matching headstock
Warmoth / Project Competition Mustang - Metallic Gold
Vintage Competition Mustang - Orange (stripes worn off)
Project M16 Mustang - White w/ real clip
Project Swinger - Blue, note 24" scale neck

Pair 'em up:
Matching Comp. Orange Mustang and Mustang Bass:
Photo Courtesy of John C.

Collection of Candy Apple Red Fenders:

From left to right:
1.) 60's Electric 12
2.) 69 comp. mustang (matching headstock)
3.) 70's comp. mustang (non-matching headstock)
4.) 69 Fender Swinger
5.) One-off custom ten-string mustang, most likely made by a Fender employee.

A Trio of 70's Comp Mustangs
Photos courtesy of Luau

Now throw in a bass too.

Another set of matching Comp. Oranges:

Matching Sonic Blue Mustang and Mustang Bass:

And yet another set of matching Comp. Oranges;  Note the ultra rare 22.5 scale lefty mustang w/ the non-matching headstock!!  

References and Links:

1970 Fender Catalog page featuring the Competition Mustang:

1970 Fender Catalog page featuring the Competition Mustang Bass:

A great source of information about ALL mustangs:
Mr. Maxima's The Fender Mustang Story

A great source of information about ALL 3/4 scale Fenders:
Tim Pershing's article Fender's 3/4 Scale Guitars

Note regarding photos: I've tried to use photos that I've took of guitars that I've owned but also have used various photos of guitars that I've saved off the internet over several years. I did not keep record of the sources of where these photos came from. Contact me if I have used your photo and you would like it removed.

Contact me at with any questions, comments, photos, information, etc.

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