1966 Fender Coronado II

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Cool looking retro vibe, light weight, thin neck, distinctive tones, affordable vintage (for now)

Thumbs down: Prone to feedback at high volumes, thin sounding single coil pickups, non‑vibrato model, no OHSC

Decree: Overlooked and underrated at the time, the cool Coronado deserves objective 21st Century re‑appraisal

Model Description

The original Fender Coronado was introduced just a year after CBS took over from Leo Fender. The model was designed by German luthier Roger Rossmeisl who had also designed guitars for Rickenbacker, so Fender had high expectations for its first production semi‑acoustic guitar. It possibly takes design inspiration from competitors Gibson and Gretsch, as well as from European semi‑acoustics such as the Hofner Verithin. The Coronado is a double cutaway, thinline hollow body electric guitar with maple neck. The Coronado was launched in 1966 and stayed in production until the early 1970s when it was discontinued. It was intended to compete head‑on with Gibson’s popular ES series semis. The Coronado range came with single (Coronado I) or double (Coronado II) pickups. Also part of the line-up was a 12‑string version, (the Coronado XII) and a bass model. In addition there were also two special variants, the ‘Wildwood’ and ‘Antigua’, which were introduced to help broaden its appeal. Unusually for Fender, the Coronado used DeArmond single coil pickups and a Mustang‑like vibrato was available an optional extra. Like its direct competitors, the Gibson ES‑330 and Epiphone Casino, the Coronado is fully hollow and therefore prone to feedback in high‑gain situations that were becoming commonplace in the late 1960s. Unlike the upmarket Gibson ES‑335/345/355 guitars, it doesn’t have a solid centre block to aid sustain and reduce feedback. Plugged in, the Coronado’s tone was delivered by the Gretsch-like single coil pickups, which sounded thin and were also prone to noise and hum compared to Gibson’s humbuckers. The neck, like most Fenders, was bolt-on and retained the familiar single‑sided headstock. Fender apparently experienced problems with the body bindings that caused the wood to scorch and so new finishes were introduced to help cover up the issue. These various factors led to a lack of commercial success with traditional musicians staying resolutely loyal to their Gibson‑style guitars. Despite significant investment from Fender, the Coronado remained steadfastly unpopular and the model disappeared from the Fender catalogue by 1970. In 2013 Fender re‑issued an updated semi‑acoustic (centre block) version of the Coronado guitar and bass, made in China, and it remains part of the Fender catalogue, giving it a new lease of life for a fresh audience. Prices of the originals on the vintage market are creeping inexorably upwards, so perhaps it may be a good time to become a Coronado fan.


Guitar Description

This fine first‑year Fender Coronado II from 1966 has a really cool retro-vibe to it and a distinctive sound all of its own. The ‘swinging sixties’ aesthetic certainly grows on one; bound maple neck, rosewood fingerboard with block markers and black headstock. The vivid cherry sunburst allied to the off‑white binding to the body and f‑holes, bright chrome work, non‑vibrato trapeze tailpiece and gold floating scratchplate add to the mix. The neck code and serial number date it firmly to 1966. OK, so this is no heavy metal rock machine; it is much better suited to rock ‘n’ roll or for jangly indie and alternative music and this seems to be where it has found a loyal following today. One distinct advantage of a hollow body is its light weight, making it easy on the spine. This example is in very good condition, although the back of the neck seems to have a thin clear overspray which I can’t explain, as it hasn’t had a refret and the underlying finish looks in good condition. Strange. One can understand why the Coronado didn’t appeal to Gibson aficionados when it was released, the very Fender-y neck, the distinctly thinner sounding single coil pickups and the resonance of the fully hollow body, make it sound and feel very un‑Gibson-y. The Coronado isn’t really in the same league as the P90‑equipped Gibson ES-330/Epiphone Casino, which was the industry benchmark. Maybe the Coronado should really be judged on its own unique merits, rather than compared to something else. The Coronado is likely to remain a niche guitar for guitarists looking for something out of the ordinary and it is, perhaps, all the better for it. These underrated cool guitars are coming back into fashion and perchance it is beginning to get some well‑deserved righteous lovin’ at long last. Sweet.

Features:

  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1966
  • Maple bolt-on neck with ‘F’-logo neck plate and stamped serial number
  • Scale length 25½”
  • Bound rosewood fingerboard with 21 frets and mother‑of‑pearl block markers
  • Original Fender  ‘F’-logo tuners
  • Laminated maple thinline hollow body with twin bound f-holes in cherry sunburst nitrocellulose finish
  • Chrome hardware
  • Original gold scratchplate
  • Original dual single-coil DeArmond pickups
  • Original switches, pots and jack socket
  • Original bridge and hardtail ‘F’ trapeze tailpiece
  • Newer non‑original hard shell case

Artists:

  • Graham Coxon (Blur)
  • Dave Davies (The Kinks)
  • Pat Metheny
  • Sergio Pizzorno (Kasabian)
  • Elvis Presley
  • Jack White (White Stripes)
  • Jimmy Vaughan
  • Thom Yorke (Radiohead)

Trivia:

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley was seen using Fender Coronado guitars in two feature films, 1967’s ‘Clambake’ and 1968’s ‘Speedway’.


Detail Gallery:


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