Thoughts on 3 bolt 70s Strats?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by OutstandingBill, Nov 8, 2020.

How was yours?

Poll closed Nov 15, 2020.
  1. Love it

    34 vote(s)
    43.0%
  2. Pretty good

    13 vote(s)
    16.5%
  3. OK

    12 vote(s)
    15.2%
  4. Meh

    9 vote(s)
    11.4%
  5. Awful

    11 vote(s)
    13.9%
  1. ido1957

    ido1957 Senior Stratmaster

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    It's fun to see the 70's 3 bolt Strats criticized heavily in the past as the worst Strat ever made, and now "collectible" and "sought after" lol...
     
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  2. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    People are realizing that they weren't THAT bad... or the remaining examples that weren't used to start campfires are decent.
    The few problems they had, such as the bridge hardware and tuners, are simple upgrades... that were probably done 30 years ago.

    I loved my '78 and have never criticized the 70s Fender guitars.
     
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  3. NTC

    NTC Strat-Talk Member

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    First guitar I ever touched was a 79 hardtail. I had lent some money to a friend to buy it. Weighed a ton. I didn't know that they came with a whammy bar.

    Were there more hardtails made in the 70's? They are very uncommon now; it has been that way since the 80's.
     
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  4. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    They were always relatively uncommon, but it seems that many surviving models from the 70s are hardtails.
    But the tremolo was an option that added to the price.
     
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  5. John C

    John C Most Honored Senior Member

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    Just my opinion, but I've thought for years that the 70s Strats that are still unmodified or are slightly upgraded were decent-to-great players when they left the factory; the ones that were not decent to great players were used for more extensive modifications - bridge humbuckers, Floyds/Kahlers, etc. - during the late 70s and 80s timeframe. The ones that were really bad became donors - use what you can, put together the best bits, etc.


    That's a good observation - they could be survivors because they weren't used for the EVH-inspired mods (bridge humbuckers, locking trems, strip the finish and repaint with a rattle-can, etc.) and now that these hardtails are 40+ years old they're changing hands again.
     
  6. SpeedKing

    SpeedKing Senior Stratmaster

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    I don't know why I've been holding back I love porn...

    _DSC0061 (2).jpg
     
  7. jsegel

    jsegel Strat-Talk Member

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    OH man. Yeah, this is one of those ongoing arguments that people keep repeating, even mags like Vintage Guitar keep saying things like "sloppy neck pockets meant moveable necks" and things like that. I have seen some dogs, mostly late-late 70s, like the heavy ones, but:

    I had an early one, 1971, one string tree, Rosewood board, old style bridge/saddles—it was the best guitar ever. I loved that thing, named it "Honey" (though it was sunburst, I just happened to find a little kitchen label sticker that said Honey, put it on it.) It was stolen on tour in Montreal in 2004.
    So I got a mid-1972 (again, single tree, rosewood neck, but 70s mazac bridge) and still have it. Super solid, both of them, bridge set flat-not-floating, they stayed in tune, sounded really aggressive with those staggered pole pickups. I did refret the '72, the flat frets it had were not inspiring... The middle pickup on the '72 is now slightly microphonic, but so it goes. No wobbly neck issues I've ever seen.

    Over the years I had two other ones, sold now when I had to pay rent. One was a 1979 see-through blonde (with rosewood, black pickguard) that was gorgeous but
    didn't get a ton of use. Turned out to be serial numbered 9xxxxx but the pots and pickups were 1981, it had the overwound bridge pickup (I can't remember what they called that) that sounded really nice. Again, though, no structural or weight issues, played well, stayed in tune, etc.
    The other was an assembled partscaster of 1977 parts, natural finish that had been routed, I put it all back to stock '77 thanks to Reverb and eBay. Maple fingerboard... which I found too sharp on the edges. So, pretty as it was also, I sold it. Again, no issues with sloppy neck pockets, or intonation or anything.

    So, there's my 4cents. My only complaint with them was the sharp edges on the maple board. Every time I read disparaging comments on 70s Strats, I just wonder whether the writers actually experienced the issues or if it's just passed down arcane knowledge that the older collectors like to throw around.

    Here's Honey and me in 2004 a few days before it was stolen (note, tech had put graph tech saddles on so I could smooth out the original steel one that had gotten divots. The originals were in a bag in the case. I did not like the sound of the graphtechs.)
    jesBoston1.jpg
     
  8. kjatexas

    kjatexas Strat-Talk Member

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    I feel your pain. I had a '57 Telecaster, I bought used for $175, back in the late '60s, sold it when it was worth $1200, but who knew how the prices would escalate. I still have a '74 Silverface Champ though.
     
  9. ant_riv

    ant_riv Strat-Talker

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    I agree with this.
    For what it’s worth, I currently have five strats from the ‘70s and one of the ‘70s reissues.
    Each one is a great instrument!
    While the quality of the RI is excellent, the neck shape is slightly different and I prefer the real-deal ‘70s necks.
     
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  10. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Strat-O-Master Gold Supporting Member

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    In Every three bolt fender there is an issue with the side to side play in the neck pocket and the neck can shift from side to side. This problem is much less pronounced with a 4 bolt neck.

    The three bolt design came about as an “improvement” over the 4 bolt because you could adjust the tilt without taking the neck off. However some stability was sacrificed with side to side play. The other issues with 70’s strats are the excessive body weight in many, the thick poly finish on the necks, and the slightly thinner sounding pickups. Some notable players made this their iconic tone, however. Lowell George first comes to my mind.


    When I first started working in music stores in the mid 70’s, we all thought the new Strats were horrible, but at the time I owned a 54 Strat and a 59 Strat.
     
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  11. Fisch

    Fisch Strat-Talk Member

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    I had an amazing 79 hardtail. Tight neck pocket. Under 8 lbs. And that neck.... wow something about the narrowness combined with the roundness, I'd swing around it like a pendulum. It had the factory paint that would check like nothing else. Some sort of defect on the 79ish strats paint. It was glorious if you like a worn player look.

    I sold it, but the only reason I did so is because it was so good it made me want a birth year 1971 strat (They switched to 3-bolts in late 71.). I've sold a bunch more guitars too and am sitting on a pile of guitar money and waiting for the right 71 (3 or 4 bolt) to show up.

    The early 70's are 'suppose' to be better. 70-74. Better contours. Better weight. Better neck pockets. Stagger poll pickups. Some 71's had the steel tremolo and Pat Pend saddles still. My biggest complaint about the 79 was the shallow contours. Actually that was my only complaint. Killer guitar and I have 30 guitars. I miss it. I hope the 71 I eventually find will live up to it!
     
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  12. John C

    John C Most Honored Senior Member

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    Just to fill in some gaps here's some info I've found about this era:
    • The overwound bridge pickup was the "X-1" pickup. It was used on the Lead II (where both pickups were X-1s), as the bridge pickup on "The STRAT" models, and by late 1980/early 1981 it was the bridge pickup on "regular" Strats. The X-1 carries forward as the bridge pickup on the 1982 Standard Stratocaster (often called "Smith Strats" online) - this being the traditional Strat with the return to the 4-bolt neck, heel truss rod, deeper contours, etc.
    • S9xxxxx serial numbers are found on Strats from 1979 through 1981 - basically all the final years of the big headstock/3-bolt/bullet truss rod version - and possibly even as early as late 1978. So if your former Strat had 1981 pots and pickups I would consider yours to be a 1981; the neck and body date codes would have probably decoded to 1981 as well.
    • The "Smith Strats" used E2xxxxx numbers even though they came out in late 1981 - but I have also found some photos online of the big headstock version with E2 serial numbers and October 1982 neck dates! My best guesses as to how these came to be are that (1) Fender had to do some new necks to rework guitars sent back to them from the dealers and it took them until October to get it done; (2) these were warranty replacement necks for customer guitars; (3) probably the most far fetched but this is CBS Fender so here goes - they found a stash of 3-bolt bodies and decided to make necks for them.
    For what it's worth I had 1979 Lead II - with the 2 X-1 pickups - and it had kind of a hot but nasally sound. It also had a pretty heavy ash body which likely contributed to that sound. I didn't play it much after the mid-80s but kept it around until 2015 for sentimental reasons before finally letting it go.
     
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  13. Electgumbo

    Electgumbo Not Of This Earth

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    My first Strat was a 74’ Hardtail. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was the only Strat in the store. I played it and loved it for years... never had a problem with it once I had it crowned and leveled and basically set up by a pro. It did everything thing I wanted and was a blessing to be a hard tail cause it held it’s tuning very well. Being a fairly inexperienced guitar player really what did I know. It sounded like Hendrix, Clapton, Gilmore, Knopfler and Nile Rogers to me. I did play the finish off the neck in a few years but I thought that was just normal.

    Now I did have a 79’ all black and maple one for a short time... I didn’t like it as much. The finish just fell off the front of the headstock one day for no apparent reason. It was heavy and the body seemed thicker or just different. It’s one of the guitars I don’t miss and hardly remember owning...
     
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  14. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Strat-O-Master Silver Member

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    I almost forgot...
    IMG_20200301_125804.jpg
     
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  15. Strontium Mog

    Strontium Mog Strat-Talk Member

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    I have one of the MIM reissues which I bought in 2004 from one of the staff in a local guitar store, he'd bought it new from stock then switched to a LPC. I liked it but wasn't sure of the pickups so had a set of Lindy Fralin Vintage Hots installed and this really changed the guitar. I had the chance to buy an original antigua finish a couple of years ago for a good price but I played it not plugged in to amp and it just didn't sit right, I didn't enjoy it as much as my other strats so let it go, I've kind of regretted it as a good setup may have changed my opinion but hey.

    Here's the MIM
     

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  16. pblanton

    pblanton Strat-Talk Member

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    Never sell guitars. Only buy them.
     
  17. Seenya

    Seenya Strat-Talk Member

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    I've had my '73 for 47 years. Only owner. Never had any issues with it except for a little chip in the neck from it falling over at a gig. It's very light. I have 21 guitars/basses and it's as good or better than all of them. It's a hardtail and is very light. I had a friend that bought one in the late 70s and his was a boat anchor. Felt like a Les Paul. Sounded good, though. I think a lot of people knock 70s strats because they've heard other people say it yet they've never actually played one.

    strat.jpg
     
  18. JDug

    JDug Strat-Talker

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    As a kid taking lessons at my local music store (‘81 ish), they had a ‘79 25th Anniv Strat hanging on the rack, absolutely loved it ! ( I know, 4 bolt), but the owner of the store despised Fender products at the time, he said they were junk. He used to say, “I advise against them, but if someone wants to buy overpriced junk, then I’ll sell it to them!” He always brought up the 3 bolt neck and how inferior it was.

    To me , it was sacriledge! I would have loved to have some of those “junk” guitars today!!!
     
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  19. SILENCER

    SILENCER Strat-Talker

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    I have a 79 hardtail
    It's awesome
    Heavy as hell though wit that ash body
     
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  20. nomadh

    nomadh Strat-Talker

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    Played an ash 70s strat for 2 weeks and it sounded great played well but it was heavy as hell. And the maple fretboard had a finish so thick it felt like the epoxy finish on a table at the corner pizzaria. The neck was stable and pocket was good but I remember seeing lots of neck pockets in the 70's that I questioned even as a clueless beginner. I think going to the 3 bolt neck plus letting the neck pocket qc go to hell made for a horrible few years. I think over the years most have been fixed somehow where if they were $100 no name guitars most of them would have been trashed as junk. Mine was good but in the end I kept an SX ash strat as it had nearly as good bones and looks and weighed less.