Fender Esprit

After seeing Robben Ford in May 2013 I remembered that he used to play a rather lovely Fender model that was briefly manufactured when I was just starting starting my guitar obsession. These were rather strange instruments; Fender USA was recovering from its near-death experience of the early ’80’s and USA guitar production had all but stopped. To keep things ticking over Fender switched production to Japan, which, at that point, was producing some exceptionally high quality guitars.

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Fender designers came up with three new instruments designed to directly compete with Gibson’s models; set neck, humbuckers, 12″ fingerboard radius, shorter scale length – altogether different from the designs which had made Fender’s reputation. Called the Master Series there were three models; The D’Aquisto – a traditional archtop, and the Esprit & Flame, hollow bodied double cutaway instruments designed to take on the Gibson ES335.

P1010253They were fantastic quality, beautiful in design and construction, and a complete failure. A few hundred were made, between ’83-’84, before their line came to an untimely end. They now are highly sought after as great value ‘vintage’ instruments.

Mine is an Esprit ‘Elite’ – mid range in their line, and is absolutely beautiful, 30 years old and has aged wonderfully. Their only shortcoming was that their hardware was not as good as is currently available. The bridge / tailpiece combination was ambitious (with fine tuners and rollers) and over complex, their pickups were OK, but there are better options now available.

Fender open heart surgery

Fender open heart surgery in progress …

I’ve changed all the hardware to the best available, TonePros bridge and tailpiece, Gotoh tuners, Bare Knuckle pickups and replaced the worn pots with high quality CTS models.

1984 Fender Esprit Elite
1984 Fender Esprit Elite


Chambered alder with carved maple top


TonePros bridge & tailpiece, GoToh tuners, Bare Knuckle ‘Mule’ pickups with coil tap switch, CTS pots