Fender Fullerton Reissues
In 1982 Fender introduced their vintage reissue series. These basses were made to replicate the classic late 50's to early 60's instruments of Fender's golden era.
By the late 1970's Fender's reputation was at an all time low. Quality control had been waning since CBS bought the company from Leo Fender in 1965.
In an effort to improve their instruments and save the company, Fender hired Bill Schultz to revamp their guitar and bass models.
The first thing Schultz and his team did was to go out and get some vintage Fender instruments to see what made them so great. They studied and scrutinized every detail of these classic axes and then went to work on designing and building the new product line.
The idea behind the vintage reissue series was not to replicate the old basses exactly but to build an excellent quality bass that closely resembled those classic instruments and sounded and felt like a vintage Fender bass.
These basses were made using the same tooling as the old ones were in the original Fullerton factory in California. They were hand built as closely as possible to the original specs of the early models including the deep cut body contours, high quality wood selection and nitrocellulose lacquer finishes. The team that designed and constructed these instruments later went on to start the famous Fender Custom Shop.
Fender offered three reissue bass models, the 57 and 62 Precision Bass and the 62 Jazz Bass. The main difference between the reissues and the original ones is the higher gear ratio on the reissue tuners and the fact that they didn't have the so called "clay" position dots like the originals basses. The 12th fret position markers were also spaced closer together than they were on the original Fenders, this was due to tooling and couldn't be helped. Many of the original custom colors as well as classic sunburst finishes were offered on all three models.
The 62 RI Jazz Bass featured the stack-knob control set up which is actually more accurate on a 1960-61 Jazz. The 57 RI Precision Bass had the gold anodized aluminum pickguard, raised "A" pole pickup and one-piece maple neck just like the original bass. One curious note is that the '57 reissue featured the "hootenanny " strap button on the back of the headstock, while that feature didn't actually appear until 1960.
The New Era
Fender was sold by CBS to a group of investors, Bill Schultz among them in 1985. The Fullerton factory was closed, as it was not included in the deal and Fender relocated to Corona, California. The reissue series continued in 1986 at Corona but no longer using the old tooling machines from Fullerton.
The new reissue basses were now made using CNC machines (computer controlled), still excellent basses but not quite the same as the Fullerton models made with the original tooling. Fullerton reissue have slightly slimmer body profiles, deeper contours and that famous router hump by the neck heel. There are several collectors and players who also feel the pickups sound more vintage correct on the Fullerton models than on the Corona reissues, but that is debatable.
The Fullerton vintage reissue series (1982-1984) are highly sought after basses by both collectors and players. Not only did they create a great line of basses but they also turned the Fender company around and got them back on track, producing high quality instruments again and restoring Fender's name and reputation all over the world.
Bill Schultz and his team of builders then went on to create Fender's custom shop division, creating high quality, accurate relics, and custom hybrids for premium prices. Fender still offers the standard vintage reissue series today (I have owned four) and I highly recommend them to anyone seeking a that classic Fender vintage feel and tone without breaking the bank on a real pre CBS Fender bass.