Fender Pawn Shop '51, '72 & Mustang Review
Brides of Frankenstein
In the USA, pawn shops will exchange money for anything having more or less value, either a watch or a hi-fi system or the ukulele your grandpa brought home from his holidays in Hawaii back in '53. These pawn shops are the modern version of Ali Baba's cave. They are packed with all sorts of things — especially musical instruments, like guitars. You'll find more or less famous brands, as well as all kinds of instruments repaired with spare parts by their former owners. Fender imagined a product range with this pawn shop spirit in mind. It includes instruments made up of parts from different products in Fender's catalog from the 50's, 60's, 70's and even later, e.g. for the Pawn Shop Fender '51.
This new range was first presented at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt (Germany) back in April 2011. All three instruments in the range (Pawn Shop Fender '51, Pawn Shop Fender '72 and Pawn Shop Fender Mustang Special) are manufactured in Japan and sold in a deluxe gig bag.
Pawn Shop Fender '51: Squier '51 Revisited
In 2004, Fender's small cousin Squier was already offering a guitar that was very similar to the Pawn Shop '51: the Squier '51. Both instruments have basically the same features, except for the hardware and electronics. Both guitars combine a Telecaster neck with a Stratocaster body. The latter is made out of lime and is rather thin on the Squier. On the contrary, on the Pawn Shop it is made out of alder and is rather thick.
Innovations on the Pawn Shop Version
The C-shape neck and fretboard are made out of one single piece of massive maple. The polyurethane-type finish feels comfortable right away. The cutaway of the Stratocaster body gives very easy access to very high notes. The neck has a 25.5" scale length and a modern 9.5" radius. It features 21 medium-jumbo frets, Kluson Vintage machine heads and the same strap pins as on 50's and 60's Telecasters. The string-through-body gives more sustain to the instrument. The hard-tail Stratocaster bridge clearly recalls the spirit of the 70's. The single-ply pickguard has a very smooth and round shape and is made out of white plastic. It certainly contributes to the very sleek look of the instrument. However, the plastic quality of the pickguard is a bit cheap.
All the hardware is chromed. The control plate with two controls comes from a Precision Bass. You get a push-pull master volume knob and a three-way rotary pickup selector. Position 1 = bridge pickup; Position 2 = neck + bridge pickups; Position 3: neck pickup. There is no tone control, but hardly anybody uses this knob today, right? For my taste, the position of the volume setting is a bit "off axis" regarding the position of the right hand, especially if you use volumes swells.
May the Tone Be With You!
The Pawn Shop Fender '51 is equipped with a Texas Special single-coil pickup on the bridge and a Fender Enforcer humbucker on the neck. You can split the coils of the humbucker using the push-pull function of the volume control. The combination of both pickups produces an original and very interesting tone. The humbucker sounds quite fat. It is useful for big Tom Delonge (from Blink 182) rhythm parts and the like . On the other hand, the Texas Special single-coil pickup in neck position brings more delicacy to your sound range. The split function of the humbucker pickup is very useful: the tone moves away from the "sound-wall" style and gets a clear and transparent character recalling the first position of a Stratocaster or a Telecaster.
For the examples, we used an Ampeg GVT52-112 amp for clean sound and an Egnater Tweaker amp for the distortion sound. We recorded the amps with two mics: one Sennheiser e906 (left channel) and a Shure SM57 (right channel).
The Fender Pawn Shop '51 is a guitar that allows you to experience many different music styles. It is available in black finish with white pickguard or in blond finish with black pickguard for about $800.
- Very pleasant neck
- "Plug 'n' play" character of the guitar
- Original pickups combination
- Plastic finish of the Enforcer pickup
- Pickguard made out of rather cheap plastic
- Truss rod access from the neck heel
Pawn Shop Fender '72
This guitar inherited some of the features of the 60's and 70's Deluxe Telecasters. Therefore, the Pawn Shop Fender '72 has an alder Stratocaster body with an F-hole (which evokes the Thinline Telecaster). Unplugged, the instrument has a good resonance, slightly reinforced by the F-hole. The shape of the 3-ply mint-green pickguard recalls the Pawn Shop '51. It is held by 11 holes and, like the cream-white binding of the F-hole, it gives a classy and sophisticated look to the guitar. The handling is easy and the instrument's balance is perfect. This guitar feels impressively comfortable! The Telecaster-type U-shape neck is made out of maple. It has a standard 25.5" scale length and a rosewood fretboard with 9.5" radius holding 22 medium-jumbo frets. The neck includes a bullet-style truss rod accessible from the top of the neck, instead of from the heel, like on the Pawn Shop '51. The chrome bridge is the same as on the Pawn Shop '51.
The chrome control plate holds two rotary knobs: a master volume setting and a pickup blend control. There is no tone control. The internal wiring allows you to control the dosage of output signal for each pickup.
The guitar has two pickups: a Fender Wide Range humbucker on the neck and a Fender Enforce humbucker on the bridge. The bridge pickup sounds a bit angry and hollow while the neck pickup produces a warmer and fuller sound with more low frequencies. However, both pickups provide a very typical rock tone. It will be difficult to use this guitar on productions outside this music genre. The instrument is available in two different finishes: three-tone sunburst or surf green. Both of them have a mint-green pickguard and can be found for about $800.
- Very classy finish
- Highly resonant body when unplugged
- Truss-rod access at the nut
- Original blend control
- Plastic finish of the Enforcer pickup
Finally, the sound factory!
Pawn Shop Mustang Special
The real jewel in this product range is indisputably the Pawn Shop Mustang Special. The body is made out of alder. It has been slightly altered so that it can fit two Enforcer "Wide Range" humbucking pickups. The chrome cover of the pickups has the Fender logo engraved.
The 60's-type neck is bolted on to the body using four screws. It is shaped in C and made out of maple. The scale length is short (24"), the radius standard (9.5"). The rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays features 22 jumbo frets. The truss rod access is traditional, which means from the heel. The 3-ply mint-green pickguard looks very nice on the two available finishes: Candy Apple Red and Lake Placid Blue. The 70's-type bridge is the same as on both other Pawn Shop guitars. All the hardware is chromed.
On the control plate there are two controls: master volume and master tone. The toggle switch allows you to get three different pickup combinations. Position 1 = bridge pickup; Position 2 = bridge + neck pickups; Position 3 = neck pickup. Besides the toggle switch, the guitar also offers two small selectors. The three-way switches allow you to choose the coils of each pickup, thus allowing the selection of one of three wirings: split, serial or parallel. Combined with the three-way toggle switch, they offer 18 different sound variations.
A wide palette of sound colors
The range of sounds provided by the Mustang Special is extremely rich and versatile. In clean mode, the sound of the Enforcer "Wide Range" pickups is amazing. The bridge pickup provides you with twangy and very colored sound options. With the reverb of a Fender Deluxe amp, you have everything you need for surf music. Add an overdrive pedal (without any other effects) and you'll get very thick rhythm sounds. From jazz to rock to country and very fat sounds, everything is easily possible. The differences in sound color between positions is obvious. If you're looking for a guitar capable of matching almost any music genre, I strongly recommend this Mustang Special. The street price (about $800) is perfectly justified by the high-quality finish. The beauty of the body's lacquer is dangerous. If at all, we could reproach the intuitiveness of the guitar in comparison to the other Pawn Shop guitars, which are really "plug 'n' play". You will indeed have to try all combinations provided by the toggle switch and the three-way selectors if you want to enjoy all sound possibilities offered by this Mustang Special.