Saturday, October 23, 2010

Competition Mustangs: Respraying existing bodies

Employees at Fender sometimes resprayed a new color over an existing finished body.  The reasons for Fender doing this aren't very clear but we do know that the occurrences are rare.

Here is an example of Competition Red over Competition Blue.  Look closely at the finish 2nd and 3rd pictures that reveal the blue undercoat in the areas of wear.

Note looking at the last picture it doesn't appear that the headstock had been painted blue first.

Here is an example of Competition Orange over Competition Blue.
Photos courtesy of Rodvonbon

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lefty 1969 Vintage Competition Blue Fender Mustang Bass

Thought I'd share this remarkable and feel good story from  A couple spent around a year looking for a left-handed Mustang bass in Competition Blue.  Lefties are hard to come by as it is.  A lefty in Competition Blue is a very rare bird.  (I've seen maybe 3 in about 20 years).  But after scouring the net and newspapers for over year, searching literally worldwide, they finally found one that was located only 10 minutes from their house!  And to top it all off, the bass was practically mint and came with the original hard shell case and hang tags.  Here's how it all went down in Johnny's words.

"Well after looking daily for one for almost a year now I found her one that I shit you guys not was 10 minutes away from my house!!!!!!  A guy had it since 1974 in his home and didn't use it much anymore.  It's a 1969 in Competition Burgundy like she dreamed about too!!!! I nearly lost all self control when I saw the purple Misty-ness on the edges of the body and matching headstock!

Had the original hang tags and Flatwound strings too!  I have never been more excited about a musical instrument since 1992!!!!  I sold a 1987 2550 Marshall Silver Jubilee head to make it happen (yes the Slash/Frusciante head), and won't regret it ever after seeing the look on her face when she had finally given up hope that there just wasn't anymore LH 1969 competition basses out there. She nearly passed out and I had to hold her up for over an hour...I thought I was gunna have to take her to the hospital...she absolutely went gaga and then some. haha.

Honestly, to me it might have been just another guitar to add to the studio in a world full of beautiful guitars that are out there waiting to be found and played, but for her it meant so much more than any of that. It was the biggest gift anyone has ever given her and meant more to her than any ring, jewelry or vacation somewhere that would be over in a week ever possibly could and I can't describe how bad ass that felt to be able to do for someone that wants to make music and couldn't before, someone you love, but not only all that but this gift is a Fender Mustang bass that makes her this happy tooo...a REAL VINTAGE OFFSET...and in THAT f'n color!!!!...this bass is now her life!!

A priceless surprise to give to someone you love and you wanna see be able to grow and create music and now create music with as well. She knows and knew more about Mustang's now and then, than I could have ever known. I'm a lucky dude! And she is a wiz on this bass and coming up with crazy lines in ways that would have taken me 2-3 years to figure out what she gets in an hour! The magic of the FENDER's a real thing!

On to the pics; Courtesy of Crystal Green

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fender Swinger

Fender first introduced Fender Swingers in 1969. The Fender Swinger was a 22.5" scale guitar created by taking leftover bodies from an unsuccessful Fender Bass V and adding musicmaster hardware and surplus 22.5" scale necks. By taking these compenents, and altering them, Fender created one of their most bizarre guitars to date. The Fender Swinger was born from the minds of CBS Fender as a way to make money white getting rid of surplus parts.

They were made in a very limited quantity and were finished in almost every custom color Fender had to offer:


Sonic Blue

 Candy Apple Red

Dakota Red

Olympic White

Lake Placid Blue (greened)

Competition Blue (minus the rally stripes, besides the Swinger this color was used exclusively on competition mustangs - Photo from Olivia's Vintage Guitars.

Daphne Blue (photo courtesy of Tim Pershing)

I don't believe Fender made the Swinger in a left-handed version as I have yet to see or read about a lefty Swinger. Furthermore the Swinger was made with unused Bass V bodies and I haven't ever seen or heard of a left-handed Bass V.

In The Fender Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day it is noted that "The Swinger was a bitser made from unsused Musicmaster and Bass V bodies". I question if Musicmaster bodies were ever used to make a Swinger. My logic is that Fender was trying to get rid of unused surplus parts with the Swinger and at the time the Musicmaster was still in production. Below is a picture of Swinger body which lacks the standard Bass V routes so one might think that Fender really did use some Musicmaster bodies to make the Swinger, but measurements show a stock Musicmaster body isn't wide enough to make a Swinger body. The reason for the lack of routes is likely because that particular Bass V body that hadn't been routed for pickups.

Standard Swinger with pickguard off (with Bass V routes visible)

Bass V body and with pickguard off showing routes (for comparision)

Example of Swinger with pickguard off (No Bass V routes)

As previously noted the swinger had a 22.5" scale neck which has 21 frets. It is not uncommon for 22.5" scale necks to have very early stamped neck dates. Examples have surfaced with 1966 and 1967 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. All Swingers I've seen so far have had Kluson tuners.

The "Fender" portion of decal was a standard waterslide style and was applied under the clear coat. The "Swinger" portion of the decal looked to be an after thought. It was a sticker that was applied on top of the finish to some of the Swingers.

Looking at pictures of the guitars that did get the "Swinger" portion, it is evident that the stickers would start to peel after years of use. It is not uncommon to see a light rectangle on the headstock from where the sticker used to be.

It appears that less than half of the Swingers out there appear to have ever received a rectangular "Swinger" sticker on the headstock. Here are a couple examples of headstocks which do not appear to have ever received the "Swinger" sticker.

The ink on the "Swinger" sticker was prone to fading.

Add the sloppy "Swinger" sticker application to the fact that Fender never promoted this obscure guitar and the end result was major name confusion. Evidently many people didn't know what to call these guitars. Some people called them "Arrows" due to their pointy headstocks. Others called them "Musiclanders".

The following Swinger has a unique headstock decal which reads "Custom" however this guitar is mostly likely a lark or perhaps the "Custom" was added by someone other than Fender. (Photo courtesy of Gruhn Guitars)

Fender Swingers will have 6 digit serial number stamped on the neck plate which usually start with 25, 26, or 27.

Musicians who play Swingers:
There are not a lot of known musicians who play Swingers but here are a few:

 Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads

Ben Kweller:

Ben bleeding all over his Swinger

Ben actually has at least three Swingers in his arsenal:


The Barry Richman Collection

Barry Richman is a guitarist in a blues, rock, and jazz band and has a nice collection of Fender Swingers.

For more info on Barry Richman or his impressive guitar collection check out his website at

More on the Bass V:

A good review of the Bass V can be found on Vintage Guitar's website

References and Links:

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.

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.