Originally Posted by Chef
The 1951-1956 Precision were wood; some natural, some black.
From '57 on they've been plastic.
*wisenheimer mode on*
natural, black or (real) Custom Colour ...
*wisenheimer mode off*
And as I wrote ...
Plastic was NOT CHEAP in 1957 or 1960!!!
In 1955 Rock'n'Roll records could only be broken by protesters because plastic technology was at its beginnings! Leo Fender would never have used bakelite for his very early 50s instruments if there had been cheap and easy to get plastic pickguards!
It took till 1953 until (one ply) pickguards could be made.
You can't compare telephoning or TV from 2013 to 1953!
Nowadays plastic housings for TV and phone are cheap. In the 1950s this would have been a revolution! The first telephones made of plastic came in the very late 1960s! Before it was backelite (I have a 1964 phone next to me - and a 30 minutes call is impossible with such a weight!).
I don't know if someone else used the Fender tugbars, too???
But a moulding form had to be made and it was not easy to get a light resistant black colour, too (why some look "brownish").
Fender only let this form being made because enough basses were sold and employing new workers for making tugbars would have been more expensive than this moulding form.
BUT plastic was also new - and IN ...