1983 Fender Telecaster Elite

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Unusual feature set, very flexible, playability, aesthetics, light weight, rarity, OHSC

Thumbs down: The features will deter many Tele diehards, no attempt to recreate vintage tone or look

Decree: A worthy alternative to the standard Telecaster for those with a free spirit and a curious mind

Model Description:

Fender released the short‑lived Elite series guitars in 1983 comprising Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision Elite models. The all‑new Elite was the brainchild of Dan Smith who was brought in to revitalise Fender’s flagging reputation. From the neck up, the Elite is typically Tele, except that the fingerboard is a flat radius rosewood ‘slab’, rather than a curved veneer. From the neck down though, it departs radically from the norm. Firstly, there’s the top‑loading non‑vibrato Freeflyte hardtail integrated bridge and tailpiece, beautifully engineered but not a typical Tele piece of equipment. Then there are the two dual‑coil Alnico 2 noise‑cancelling pickups channelled through a standard 3‑way toggle selector switch to an on‑board active preamp, 2 volume pots and Fender’s propriety MDX (MiD‑range eXpander) boost and TBX (Treble/Bass eXpander) controls. The body is a 3‑piece alder with top binding and an optional ‘stick‑on’ Les Paul‑like scratchplate. So, yes, it’s a Telecaster but it is one that is very unlike any other Telecaster before or since, which definitely polarises opinion. Overall, the Telecaster Elite represents a very modern and innovative package that evokes its predecessors while having its sights set clearly on the future. The original Elite series was discontinued when CBS put Fender up for sale in 1984. Good 1980s American Telecaster Elites are quite scarce and are now becoming collectable. Note that there is no direct connection between the original Elite series and Fender’s ‘Elite’ range introduced in 2016.

Guitar Description:

Here’s a guitar that onlookers are likely instantly to love or loathe with very little consensus on the middle ground. Here is a stunning 1983 Fender Telecaster Elite finished in gorgeous Sienna Burst that shows off the alder wood grain beneath. This particular finish was one of the Elite Series’ standard colours, although it is far less common than the ubiquitous black or natural finishes. Many purists pour vitriol on its departure from the classic Telecaster blueprint, while the more open‑minded see it as a very intriguing variant in Fender’s canon, suited to those looking for something a bit different from the norm. This lovely example is in near mint all‑original condition and comes with its ABS OHSC. Personally, I like the aesthetic but that is, of course, a subjective opinion. It has a very modern feel and plays both fast and very smoothly, thanks to that slinky slim, flat neck. There is also something irresistibly cool about Telecasters with a rosewood fingerboard and a bound top. Tone‑wise, those chunky pickups are a very different proposition from a standard Tele. However, it retains its family trait of versatility for just about any style of music. Some may see that inherent ‘jack of all trades’ characteristic as a weakness but I think that may well be missing the point. Like its close relation, the Stratocaster Elite, this is a great interpretation of a classic. The bold approach is quite adventurous, exploring future potential while not being constrained by its past. Admittedly, it goes beyond the utilitarian mould that many Telecaster aficionados abide by while not straying too far into gaudy ‘style over substance’ territory. Cool and rare, the Telecaster Elite lives up to its name and is certainly both exotic and exclusive.


  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1983
  • Top bound 3‑piece alder body finished in polyester Sienna Sunburst
  • Maple bolt‑on neck with mahogany ‘skunk stripe’
  • Original Fender‑branded tuners
  • Scale length 25½”
  • Unbound ‘slab’ rosewood fingerboard with 21 frets and white dot markers
  • Bi‑flex truss rod
  • 4‑bolt etched ‘Fender Elite’ neck plate with ‘Micro‑Tilt’ adjustment
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original Fender Freeflyte™ top loading hardtail bridge
  • 3‑ply white/black/white scratchplate (not attached)
  • Original dual‑coil noise‑cancelling Alnico 2 pickups with white covers and non‑exposed pole pieces
  • 3‑way toggle pickup selector switch
  • Unique original white Fender‑branded control knobs with black rubber grip rings
  • On‑board active 9V preamp with MDX (mid‑range) and TBX (high‑range) tone controls
  • Edge‑mounted jack socket
  • Weight: 7lb 11oz (3.49kg)
  • Original Fender U.S.A. ABS hard shell case


  • Dave Davies (The Kinks)
  • Andy Summers (The Police)

Detail Gallery:

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