The instrument exists in two versions: one will be manufactured in a limited run in the Fender Custom Shop. Fender factory in Corona, CA will produce the other for one year only. The model is a reproduction of Johnson’s 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster, and will be the first model in Fender’s all-new Stories Collection: a celebration of modified Fender guitars made in collaboration with various musical icons.
“Fender and I talked about doing a reissue of my ’54 “Virginia” for the Stories Collection and I wanted to try it in Sassafras, like my original,” said Johnson of the collaboration. “When I got the prototype from Fender, it had the tone I had been looking for since my original guitar. It has a particular smooth sustained tone but as you turn it up, it has gain like a little violin.”
The Virginia Strat features a two-piece, offset-seam sassafrass body, a soft-V maple neck and a 12″-radius maple fretboard. Johnson notes that the sassafras body was the real key to nailing the tone of the original ‘54 Virginia Strat. The production version of this Strat will feature a DiMarzio HS-2 in the bridge and an Original ’57/’62 in the middle and neck positions.
The Custom Shop masterbuilt “Virginia” will take on the same aesthetic and tone as the original guitar and the production run, but sports handwound pickups and a flamed maple neck. Carlos Lopez, a Fender Custom Shop Master Builder, said of the “Virginia:” “when I first took on this project, I was a bit intimidated because of all the intricate specs involved with this guitar. From the Sassafras and flamed neck to the pickups – the challenge was to make sure Eric was happy with it and loved it the first time.”
Fender’s Justin Norvell added: “to this day, Eric continues to release brilliant music, tours constantly and is, to the electric guitar community, a guitar wizard and widely-followed tastemaker. It was a perfect fit having Eric Johnson as the first artist in this Stories Collection celebrating modified instruments played by important guitarists that created music for the ages.”
Check out Johnson himself talking to us about the guitar at NAMM 2020: