Fender and Gibson have an issue. I call it the PT Cruiser Paradox.
For those of you who live outside of America, and thus possibly escaped it. This is a PT Cruiser:
It was basically a Neon station wagon. Because of its flat load floor it was classified as a truck by the EPA (I believe the Dodge Magnum was as well) and, oh yeah, it looked old by design. This was a problem. The PT received minor upgrades and tweaks throughout its life (like those scalloped headlights, which were popular among auto manufacturers for like 13 months) but for all intents and purposes the last PT that rolled off the line wasn’t terribly different from the first.
The result of the PT’s lack of updates was that at the end of its life you could buy a new car that not only looked like it was old, but drove like it was old also.
The cause for this was simple. How do you update a car who’s entire appeal is that it looks old? VW has run into the same issue with the New Beetle who’s new “more manly” re-style kind of reminds me of when my lesbian ex cut off all her hair (I mean, she looked less feminine, but she was still all woman). Ford has been somewhat successful in updating the Mustang’s retro design, but I think this is because J Mays has never had an original idea, so all of his designs are retro.
This brings us to Gibson and Fender.
The companies of Orville and Leo are never going to go broke as long as they can sell Strats, Teles, Les Pauls and 335s. But oh my Lord is that a boring business plan. “Hey, look, it’s the ’65 reissue!” “How is that different from the ’64 reissue they had last year?” “This one is green!!!!!!!”
However, sometime in the early 2000s someone in Fender had the weird idea to fight the Asian companies on their own ground, possibly with their own factories.
For some reason in the early 2000s companies fell all over themselves to make carved top, Strat/LP Jr. hybridish guitars. Who could forget the Ibanez SZ
Or the Yamaha RGX
Well, their manufacturers did as they are both discontinued. That being said, everyone seemed to be on this bandwagon, Hamer, Schecter, Peavey and ESP all made (or still make) some similar model. Obviously, this could not stand and Fender had to jump into the fray.
As you may be able to tell from the background, that’s not any Fender Showmaster, that’s my Fender Showmaster. Here’s a better shot of a different Showmaster:
They came in a variety of shapes (and by “variety” I mean “carved top Strat” or “carved top Tele“) and a variety of body woods (mahogany, alder, basswood) you could have them with trems or hard tails, all sorts of pickup combinations and crazy colors (the Teles, specifically, had multiple models inspired by old hot rods, but I swear I’ve only ever seen transparent red ones in person) and figured tops.
Mine is a pretty low end one, the “Black HH.” Bound, carved basswood body with two Fender branded humbuckers (figured top models came with Seymour Duncans), set neck, locking tuners and a two point Fender trem that I immediately swapped out for a Wilkinson. The neck is a bit chunkier and rounder than the Wizard necks on my Ibanezes, but by no means “fat,” it’s just comfortable. The five way switch gives all the tones you would expect from this type of guitar (though, truth be told, I’d rather have a three way switch and individual coil taps) and they sound pretty good doing it. Overall the quality wasn’t that different than what you’d find on a high end LTD and, given that it was a Korean guitar back before anyone respected Korean guitars the initial purchase price was just-higher-than-Squire affordable. So why don’t these exist anymore?
I do not know.
Looking through Fender’s current stock shows that you can get a Strat or Tele in any color you want and with a few different pickup variations. Even Squire, which gave Jason Ellis a signature model before anyone knew who Jason Ellis was, has fallen into line, basically making faithful, inexpensive versions of classic Fenders. The Showmasters would give Fender an easy way to sidestep the PT Paradox that it currently finds itself in and provide some custom shop flavor for those of us with human level budgets.
Come on, Fender, reissue these for less than a grand and I’m all over them. You can even make them Charvels.
Do it, you know you want to.