Vintage Fender Custom Color Finishes

Fiesta Red Fender Jaguar Headstock

The Fender guitars of the 1960’s truly reflect their time and place. The optional custom color finishes capture the optimism and brightness of Southern California. For an extra 5%, you could personalize your Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster or Jaguar with the color of your choice. American car culture contributed heavily to Fender’s decision to promote custom color options in 1960.

Blonde was the standard color for the Telecaster, and sunburst was the standard color for the Strat, Jazzmaster and Jaguar. A vintage Fender guitar with a custom color finish is a relatively rare find today, with only a small fraction of Fender guitars in the optional colors. Authenticating the originality of the finish is a challenging but essential task. At Original Vintage Guitars, we specialize in vintage Fender guitars with original finishes. That experience helps us inspect and verify every vintage Fender that we sell to ensure it is authentic.

1965 Fender Jazzmaster Olympic White

Comparison To Known Examples

The best way to authenticate a finish is to put the guitar side by side with a known original from the same time frame. Compare the color, the texture, and the application of the finish in detail. Be mindful that Fender was not completely consistent from guitar to guitar.

Finish Texture

Original Fender finishes often have a signature texture and checking pattern. The original texture is typically finer than what you see in a refinished guitar with artificial checking, and the predominant direction of the finish checking is most often along the long axis of the guitar. These details can vary based on the color, undercoats, and whether the guitar has a clear coat or not.

Neck pocket

Fender adjusted their factory finishing process several times, which is most obvious in the neck pocket. Check for the presence or absence of the paint stick shadow and whether that is correct for the guitar’s date.

Finish Undercoat(s)

You will be able to see evidence of the paint undercoats in the neck pocket and other cavities of the guitar. The undercoat color can vary from no undercoat at all, to another custom color as an undercoat. Hands on experience is essential here.

Finish Buildup

Fender’s factory finish is flat across the surface of the guitar, including the edges of the control routes. Refinished guitars typically have some finish buildup (however slight) at the edges of the cavity routes, giving the appearance of a slight lip.

Pickguard Shadow

On most custom color finishes, especially those with a clear coat, the finish underneath the control cavity and pickguard will appear less oxidized and less amber.


Lastly, remember that while sunburst Fender finishes are consistent and uniform, the custom finish colors can vary greatly, especially in the earlier years and guitars the factory painted multiple different layers of custom color. If you need help determining the authenticity of your vintage Fender guitar, please contact Original Vintage Guitars for help.

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