The Top 10 Weirdest Fender Guitars Ever Made

The 10 Weirdest Fender Guitars Ever Made

Fender is one of the most well-known and respected guitar makers in the world. You can’t walk into a guitar shop without seeing some Strats, Teles, and Jazzmasters. However, Fender has made a lot of guitars over the years, and they haven’t been afraid to experiment. 

Though we all know Fender for the classics, they’ve made tons of offbeat, unique, and surprising guitars over the years. As much as we love a good Tele or Strat, sometimes you just want something weird. So let’s take a look at 10 of the most surprising Fender guitars ever made. 

Surprising Fenders: From 1965 to Today

Before getting started, we want to note that we’ve listed these guitars in chronological order. So #1 is the earliest guitar on the list, and #10 is the most recent. We figured this would provide an interesting walk through Fender’s history, but from the perspective of their weirder creations. 

With that out of the way, it’s time to look at some unusual and unexpected guitars!

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1. Bass V

The Bass VI is a beloved classic at this point, but are you familiar with the Bass V? The Fender Bass V was made from 1965 to 1971, and it was actually the first production five string electric bass. However, these aren’t standard five string bass. 

The Bass V was a few inches longer than a P-bass, but it only had 15 frets. The fifth string was a high C (instead of the low B as is common today). Because of their minimal number of frets though, the highest note is still the same Eb as on a standard 20 fret four string bass.

All that said, these basses did not sell well. Whether it was their smaller nature, only having 15 frets, narrow string spacing, or the oddity of a five string bass in the 60s, they sold poorly and were discontinued in 1971. 

Fender Marauder

2. Marauder

Fender has been experimenting from the very start, and the Marauder proves that. This guitar never actually hit the market (only six were made), but it was intended to become part of the Fender line shortly before the company was sold to CBS. The Marauder is an odd guitar in numerous ways. 

To start, they look like a mismatch of Fender parts. They had an offset body, three single coils ala a Strat, and a plethora of switches with chrome covers ala a Jaguar. 

These were prototypes though, so it makes sense they were a hodgepodge of parts. Marauders were made with Jaguar bodies, and many of the other parts were sourced from other models. According to Fender, the intent was to mix a Jaguar and a Strat.

The most interesting thing about Marauders though is that there were two versions—Type I and Type II. The Type II is the Strat style pick-up model, and more of them were made. The Type I however was supposed to feature pickups hidden under the pickguard. 

These however didn’t get as far in the process as the Type II. The Type I was dropped, likely due to the difficulty and cost of the hidden pickup system. 

Courtesy of True Vintage Guitar

3. Maverick/Custom

Up next is the Fender Maverick/Custom. A few hundred of these guitars were made and released in 1969 and 1970, and they are a true oddity in the Fender line-up. 

Fender Mavericks were created the way many odd guitars are made—by combining leftover parts. After Fender was bought by CBS, there were a number of bodies and necks left from the Electric XII (which was a commercial dud). In 1969, Fender’s production manager was tasked with turning those parts into something. 

And by the end of the year, the Fender Custom was born. These guitars are weird. They have the Electric XII headstock, split pickups, and rotary knob. The weirdest part though is the body, which is an Electric XII body with some space-agey modifications.

By 1970, the name had changed to the Fender Maverick. However, it didn’t really matter because these guitars would stop being sold later that year. Though they didn’t last long, the Maverick was certainly an odd addition to the Fender lineup.

Fender Swinger
Courtesy of Fender

4. Swinger

Here we have another Fender from 1969 made with leftover parts—the Swinger. This is hands down one of the coolest guitars on the list. The Fender Swinger just has its own vibe unlike anything else; we get it though if you hate the headstock. 

The Swinger was developed alongside the Custom, but using different leftover parts. Fender utilized Duo-Sonic II and Bass V bodies with Musicmaster parts to create the Swinger. The result is a guitar that looks sort of like a Duo Sonic, but with a surprisingly modern comfort cut on the bottom of the body and Flying V-esque headstock. 

Fender sold these guitars as a low budget, short-scale guitar for beginners. They failed to really promote and market them though, so they sold poorly and were quickly discontinued. 

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

5. Starcaster

The Starcaster is probably the most well-known guitar on this list, and they have been used by lots of famous players like Jonny Greenwood and Martin Gore. However, these guitars are incredibly out of place in the overall Fender lineup. 

First released in 1976, the Starcaster was an attempt by Fender to rival Gibson’s 335. They feature a semi-hollow offset body, two wide range humbuckers, a Gibson style tone control with an added master volume, a bolt-on neck, and one of the coolest headstocks of all time. 

As a guitar, the Starcaster is pretty normal—though an offset semi-hollow is a unique design choice. It’s just another semi-hollow with double humbuckers. What makes it weird though is that Fender made it. 

Fender is synonymous with solid body electrics with single coil pick-ups, not semi-hollows and humbuckers. The Starcaster is clearly a Gibson style guitar, yet it clearly says Fender on the headstock. At a glance, you could easily mistake this for a Gibson or other brand. 

Unlike most guitars on this list, the Starcaster has actually become a fairly successful model. Though it was discontinued in 1982, it has been reissued numerous times. Squier even makes an affordable Starcaster these days, and it’s nice to see one of Fender’s oddball guitars getting some recognition. 

Fender D'Aquisto
Courtesy of Chicago Music Exchange

6. D’Aquisto

Following the Starcaster is another Fender hollowbody—the D’Aquisto. This is a classic style jazz box from Fender, which makes it a real oddity in Fender’s history. 

These guitars were made in Japan from 1984 to 1990, and there were three models—Standard, Elite, and Ultra. The construction and materials varied from model to model, but they were functionally the same guitar. 

Specs-wise, these were pretty standard jazz guitars. According to reviews and anecdotes, these seem to be pretty well made guitars that sound and play great. They had a fully hollow body, one cutaway, one or two humbuckers, and two or four knobs for volume and tone (depending on the pickup configuration). 

Like the Starcaster though, they are only weird because Fender made them. If these were Gibsons, they wouldn’t be on this list. But a Fender jazz box that looks like a Gibson? That’s a surprising guitar. 

Fender Performer
Courtesy of Gardiner Holgate

7. Performer

The 80s were a wild time, and the same can be said about Fender. The 80s brought us the D’Aquisto, and they also brought us the Performer. 

The Fender Performer was introduced in 1985 and made until 1986. They were designed by John Page to be a rock and metal guitar, and the goal was to recapture some of the sales lost to Superstrats made by other companies. 

The Performer is a visually shocking guitar that looks a lot like a Parker Fly. Outside of the weird body, they had other odd features for a Fender. The pickups are odd looking Fender humbuckers slanted like a Tele or Strat. They also had coil splits, enclosed gear tuners, a triangle headstock, and locking nut clamps. 

Looking at some of the other weird guitars made in the 80s, the Performer isn’t that odd. But when compared to Fender’s normal line-up, these are certainly one of the weirder models they’ve made. 

Fender Katana
Courtesy of Lovies Guitars

8. Katana

The Performer wasn’t the only very 80s guitar Fender released in 1985; that year also saw the release of the Fender Katana. It only takes one look to figure out what Fender was going for with the Katana—Randy Rhodes’ Jackson V. 

To be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about the Katana. It’s a surprisingly normal V-style guitar. It has double humbuckers, one volume and one tone control, a trem, and 22 frets. The only unique feature on this guitar is the body, which is nearly identical to the Doritos logo roasted a few degrees (google it if you don’t believe us; the resemblance is shocking). 

But was with the past few guitars, this one is weird because Fender made it. No one expects Fender to make a Flying V with double humbuckers, yet they did. 

Courtesy of Eastside Music Supply

9. Toronado

Moving out of the 80s, we have the Fender Toronado. The Toronado was made on and off from 1998 to 2006, and it’s another Gibson style Fender. 

Again, this guitar is actually very normal. It has two humbuckers (or P90s on some models), double volume and tone controls, and vintage style Gotoh/Kluson tuners. A notable oddity for Fender though is the 24.75” scale length, which is something they almost never do. 

Outside of that though, we put this guitar on the list just because of how non-Fender yet normal this guitar is. With any other name on the headstock, it’d just be a dime-a-dozen guitar. But being a Fender, it feels like a unique oddity. 

Fender Alternate Reality Series
Courtesy of Fender

10. Alternate Reality and Paranormal Series

Last but not least, we have to talk a little bit about Fender’s recent line-up of unusual instruments. Launched in 2019, Fender’s Alternative Reality Series features numerous guitars that are incredibly odd. Squier followed suit as well with their own Paranormal Series.

We’re not going to cover every guitar in the series, as that could be an article in and of itself. That said though, let’s mention a few of the weirder entries. 

The Meteora is another Gibson style Fender, but it has a very cool and unique body shape that seems to be in the permanent line-up now. They also brought back the Electric XII as part of this lineup. And my personal favorite of the lineup is the Sixty-Six, which is a Jazz Bass body with a HSS configuration. 

Squier’s offerings are interesting too. They have the Strat-O-Sonic, which is a Strat body with a hardtail bridge and P90s. The Nashville Custom Strat is odd too, being a Strat body with a Tele set-up plus a Strat single coil in the middle. Their 12-string Jazzmaster is also a very unique guitar. And to top it off, they even make a reissued Toronado.

While these guitars may not appeal to everyone, they’re certainly an interesting bunch worth checking out—especially if you’re into weird guitars. And thankfully, these are a lot more affordable than most of the weird guitars on the list from 50 plus years ago that didn’t sell well. 

The Weird Fenders

We all know and love Strats, Teles, and Jazzmasters, but there’s so much more to Fender’s history than the big names. From the ahead of its time Bass V and the factory partscaster Marauder to their imitation of a 335 with the Starcaster and their attempt at the Flying V with the Katana, Fender has made some odd guitars over the years. 

These guitars may not be the most popular or best selling, but they are unique instruments that tell an important part of Fender’s history. So let’s look back at these oddities and appreciate them for the stories they tell and their unique, unconventional designs.

2 Responses

  1. I would be up for seeing a Alternative Reality Series II in the next couple years. The Tenor Tele is one of my favorites, and I bought a custom set of Strings from Stringjoy and have it tuned like an octave mandolin

  2. I had a Fender FSR Showmaster. Cant believe that wasn’t mentioned. A carved top body, set neck with Seymor Duncan humbuckers stock in a Fender??

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