Now an established tradition, the yearly unveiling of exquisite one-off guitars made for the Fender Custom Shop Prestige Collection is an opportunity for guitarists across the world to drool over the work of the company’s Master Builders, each of whom is tasked with creating a unique instrument that marries Fender’s historic designs with their individual talents.
From Chris Fleming’s elegant single-pickup Jazz Telecaster to Carlos Lopez’s Double Neck Marauder, this year’s offerings feature extensive use of acrylic, resin, roasted woods and unique custom hardware. Despite the pandemic, 2021 could well be a vintage year in terms of sheer creativity.
One of our favourite guitars in the collection is the Flamingo Sunset Telecaster. This amazing instrument follows the theme of a custom guitar originally commissioned for a long-defunct beach bar complete with extensive weathering and celebratory cocktail theme, and it was created by one of Fender’s newest Master Builders, the talented Vincent Van Trigt. We caught up with him to find out more.
What was it about the Telecaster that made it the right guitar for this project?
“Well, the Tele is an incredible blank canvas. And when you look at the history of the model and the different designs over the years, like the Thinlines and the Wide Range Humbucker models, you can do all kinds of stuff, which I’m looking forward to exploring in the future.
“This whole project started with a chat with the artist Ian Ward. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time and I was really excited to get the opportunity to work with him. We started brainstorming and it was his suggestion to do a Tele. I thought that would be great – I’ve loved what he’s done with Telecasters in the past. It’s a guitar that is dear to both our hearts but that doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t collaborate on different models.
- READ MORE: The best T-style guitars
“Ian said he’d always wanted to do flamingos on a guitar and I had worked as a bartender in the past. We just came up with this idea of a guitar that had been made in the 1960s for a beach bar. So he took care of the flamingos and the flowers and I added the bar vibe with subtle cocktail fretboard inlays in aged, reconstituted stone.
“Once I’d carved the body it was sprayed with a full finish of Shell Pink. Then I sent it to Ian, who hand-painted it with acrylics before sending it back to me. Then I started the ageing process, which was the scary part – just looking at that beautiful painting and knowing what I was about to do to it!”
As well as the aged aesthetic, this guitar features roasted woods for the body and neck. How did these materials affect the final result?
“The body is roasted ash and it’s super lightweight and incredibly resonant, just what you want from a Tele! It’s also darker, which means the exposed areas where the wood is exposed already have an old, worn-in vibe both in feel and looks. I already knew it was going to be a weathered Tele, that was the whole idea behind it, and so roasted woods made so much sense.
“I wanted this to look like an old guitar that had been ordered in the 1960s with some custom features, so I used heavily flamed AAAA grade maple on the one-piece neck and I did use a more modern 9.5-inch radius on the fingerboard, with 6105 frets.”
Several of this year’s Custom Shop Prestige Collection guitars feature custom hardware – yours is no exception!
“Well first of all I knew it had to have the gold hardware because it ages really nicely and looks great. The secret weapon, and the only thing that you wouldn’t find on a vintage Tele, is the RSD bridge design. The shape is based on the old ashtray bridge cover and it has beautiful curves as well as rounded ends to the saddle barrels. It’s been Custom Shop only so far, but you may see it on special runs in the future. I hope so! So while the bridge is a modern design it still fits the whole vintage vibe.”
A unique guitar like this demands unique pickups too. What did you choose?
“The pickups were wound by Josefina [Campos, legendary Fender pickup winder] who was taught by Abigail Ybarra [even more legendary Fender pickup winder]. She always does an incredible job. I knew from the start that I had to have her work on this guitar! It’s a straight-down-the-line 60s Telecaster set. Nothing flashy, just great pickups.”
You recently joined the exalted ranks of Fender’s select team of Master Builders. With the Custom Shop arguably stronger than ever in terms of individual talent and vision, what are your hopes for the future?
“The past few months have been amazing. I have to admit, the other Master Builders on the team right now are a massive source of inspiration and to be a part of that is really cool. There is such a strong creative vibe, but it’s also very collaborative. We all have our distinct styles and approaches but they go together very well. It’s an incredible place to be.
“I became a Master Builder just before the pandemic and I am very honoured and proud to be working as part of the Fender Custom Shop and creating guitars like this while working with artists like Ian Ward. It’s really satisfying to dig into the vast history of Fender and work on a project like this. Sometimes it can be daunting taking on such iconic designs but while each guitar model is available in specs very close, if not identical, to the original design, there have also been so many different versions over the years. I’m looking forward to exploring those designs too.”
Find out more about the Fender Custom Shop’s 2021 Prestige Collection here.