1983 Fender Stratocaster ‘Dan Smith’

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Simplified construction, great neck, gorgeous colour, condition, originality

Thumbs down: Unconventional control layout, unfamiliar vibrato, non‑OHSC

Decree: A unique and fascinating Stratocaster from an interesting period for Fender

Model Description:

Here, we’re dealing with this specific model within context, rather than the entire history of the Stratocaster. Leo Fender sold his company to the CBS Corporation in 1965 and, for many, that was the end of that. Big business practices were brought in and many players felt that manufacturing standards were not all that they could have been. In addition, during CBS’ ownership, strong competition, particularly from overseas was exerting a great deal of pressure on the company. In 1981, former Yamaha executives William ‘Bill’ Schultz and Dan Smith were hired by Fender, the latter as marketing director to restore production quality to what many saw as a fading brand. The early 1980s saw a complete overhaul of the student end of the business and it wasn’t long before the core professional models came under scrutiny. Smith had an enormous impact by listening to players, redesigning key models, improving quality and restoring consumer confidence. The Stratocaster went through two phases; the first being to go back to basics and restore many ‘vintage’‑like features, while the second was a bit more radical (and seemingly less popular). The Stratocasters – more than any other model – became known as the ‘Dan Smith Era’ guitars, even if only to differentiate them from previous and subsequent versions. While some of the changes were not well‑received, they were necessary for Fender to survive. In 1984, CBS sold Fender to a management buyout, which then set about a fundamental restructuring and transforming the business, which took more than two years. Some see the whole CBS era as a nadir and Dan Smith was an integral part of that waning enterprise. Arguably, however, Fender would not have been in a position to be sold and then reconfigured were it not for Dan Smith’s strategic influence in the first place. Since Fender Musical Instruments Corporation was formed in 1984, Fender has gone from strength to strength. The early 1980s Stratocasters also included many other innovations, such as the Fender Elite series. Love them or loathe them, the Dan Smith era guitars are an important part or Fender’s rejuvenation and ultimate success. These distinctive guitars can still be picked up at very reasonable prices, although I reckon that they are likely to increase in value very soon.

Guitar Description:

The early 1980s was a very interesting time, I believe, for guitar design and manufacturing. It fascinates me, so I specifically sought out this really cool 1983 ‘Type II Dan Smith Era’ Fender Stratocaster. Why did I pursue this particular model, you may ask? It is simply a very interesting oddity in both Fender and the Stratocaster’s history, that’s why. Dan Smith era guitars are notably different from the Stratocasters that both preceded and superseded them. Basically, it is one of those instruments that was destined to create debate and divide opinion. Is it a transition curiosity, a purist’s anathema, a cost-cutting abomination, or a rare ‘hidden gem’?  In my personal view, it is a very decent and very playable late CBS‑era Stratocaster in glorious deep metallic Candy Apple Red. It has some very distinctive features… the small vintage‑inspired headstock, body‑end truss rod adjustment, only two rotary controls (sometimes humorously referred to as a ‘two‑knobber’), a standard jack socket mounted in the single-ply scratchplate, and the unique short‑lived top‑loading Freeflyte® vibrato system with no cover plate on the rear of the body or through‑body stringing. It plays very well and sounds just like a good Stratocaster should. Some critics may abhor the lack of a second tone control, even though it was a valiant attempt to simplify the Stratocasters inconsistent control system. I may be mistaken but I think it will definitely be a future collectable and possibly an impending cult classic. I’m not saying that it is a phenomenal guitar but neither is it the dud that many may call it. Under the circumstances of the time, it is a very worthy instrument. I say that Dan, the man, did well.


  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1983
  • Candy Apple Red polyester finish
  • Maple 4‑bolt neck joint
  • Maple fingerboard with 21 frets and black dot markers
  • Scale length 25½” (647mm)
  • Chrome hardware
  • Original single‑ply white plastic scratchplate
  • Original tuners
  • Original triple single coil pickups
  • Original 5‑position pickup selector switch
  • Original 1 volume, 1 tone control
  • Original scratchplate mounted jack socket
  • Original factory Freeflyte® vibrato
  • Non‑original modern Thomann hard shell case

Detail Gallery:

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