"The Fender Stratocaster", p. 26


Work on the ELITE series commenced by Fall 1981 and involved a team of people consisting of DAN SMITH, CHIP TODD, JOHN PAGE, CHARLIE GRESSETT and ... FREDDIE TAVARES. It was then an ambitious attempt to blend tradition with modern technologies and as such its prime objectives were to upgrade the electronics, the vibrato system and the neck adjustment. EMG was initially supposed to develop new circuits for FENDER, but could not be finalized. In order to avoid further delay in the release of the model, the active electronics of the ELITE guitars were eventually designed in a cooperative effort between ROGER COX, PAUL GUEGAN and BOB EGGLER. JOHN PAGE devised the refined Freeflyte tremolo/bridge section with drop-in string loading. CHARLIE GESSETT came up with the Biflex truss rod, which makes it possible to adjust the neck curvature in two directions, convex and concave. After months of research and hard work the ELITE STRATOCASTER was finally announced in May 1983 and compared to the existing variants of the Stratocaster it was built with no less than 16 novel features:

1 the Biflex truss rod adjustment
2 a neck angle adjuster located in the neck plate
3 a slightly wider nut width (1.700")
4 a flatter fretboard radius (12")
5 Ezy-Glyder point contact string retainers
6 high ratio, lash-free, specially lubricated tuning gears
7 security lock strap buttons
8 a heavy duty cast bridge assembly with 'drop-in' string loading
9 Freeflyte tremolo system with tension adjustable from the top
10 snap-on Torq-Master tremolo arm
11 Alnico II single coil pickups without protruding poles
12 noise-cancelling pickup system with a dummy coil between the lead and the middle pickups
13 active electronics with a special preamp circuitry including MDX (mid-range) and TBX (high-range) controls
14 three separate pickup push-push/on-off switches
15 an edge-mounted jack output
16 control knobs with a serrated rubber insert

Whereas some of these features could be viewed as refinements of existing concepts, the major deparature from the usual FENDER ethics was undoubtedly the advent of active electronics. Their purpose was to offer a wider range of tones and the quietness of humbucking pickups, while retaining the brilliant single coil attack Fender guitars are associated with. In many respects, the ELITE SERIES certainly outlined the renewed innovating capacities of FENDER, but in an otherwise fairly conservative guitar world it did not prove a milestone as anticipated.

By mid-1983, the new model was released in 3 configurations

* the ELITE STRATOCASTER, with heavy chrome-plated hardware, available with a rosewood fretboard or a one-piece Maple Neck in 6 standard finishes and 9 custom finishes
* the GOLD ELITE STRATOCASTER, same as above except gold electroplated hardware and pearloid buttons on tuners
* the WALNUT ELITE STRATOCASTER, with body and neck crafted from solid American Black Walnut, ebony fretboard, gold-electroplated hardware and pearloid buttons on tuners

Whatever the choice of fretboard (rosewood, maple or ebony), it should be noticed that the neck was sporting a contrasting "skunk stripe" on its back, indicating that the Biflex truss rod was installed from the rear. The Elite body was also characterized by the absence of back recess (and back plate) for the tremolo springs and the small backplate near the edge covered the 9-volt battery required by the active circuitry.

With the introduction of the Elite series, THE STRAT, THE WALNUT STRAT and the GOLD STRATOCASTER were all dropped from the Fender price list of July 1, 1983.

Some of the innovative features of the Elite found their way onto the regular Stratocaster, which was again revamped in mid-1983.

- - -
July 1983

Std tremolo M/N         $650.00

Std non-tremolo M/N     $585.00

Vintage                 $995.00

Elite                   $995.00

Gold Elite             $1155.00

Walnut Elite           $1295.00

(case included in price, specific price for LH models, special custom

finishes +$75/+$100)