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Mid '80s American P-Bass. Any good?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jefe, Mar 11, 2010.

  1. Jefe


    Mar 8, 2010
    Asheville, NC
    Howdy gang. Long time lurker, first time poster here.

    Quick question for the P-bass experts: I found a good deal (at least it SEEMS like a good deal) on a '85 USA P-bass.
    I hear alot of talk about P-basses of different era's, but I never seem to hear much about the US made basses of the mid 80's.
    What the good, bad and ugly on these guys?
  2. sublimestylee


    Aug 26, 2007
    Seattle, Wa
    Did fender even make basses here in america in the 80's? correct me if i'm wrong but all I've ever seen are made in Japan in that era.
  3. Then you are not looking very hard. Hit ebay for just a little while and you will find a bunch.

    There is a bit of a gap around 85 as they had shut down the Fullerton plant and moved production to Corona.

    During that period I think they were using up old Fullerton parts and not much else, while they were ramping up production in Corona. As a result I think the bulk of Fenders from 85, mayber even 86, were coming from Japan.
  4. Jefe


    Mar 8, 2010
    Asheville, NC
  5. Ans 85 might be a bit of an oddball of parts, so I'm not sure. If you had a link to some pictures I could help more.

    There was a big transition that took place in the early 80's. It started when an old Fender exec re-joined the company (I don't know the specifics so folks that are in the know, please correct me or fill in the blanks).

    They had a bad rap from the 70's, and one of the first things he did was start the American Vintage Re-Issue line. The early American Vintage Re-Issues from the Fullerton plant (82-84/85ish) are highly sought after as they are far superior to the products Fender had been making, and many feel superior to the AVRI that came out of Corona after Fullerton shut down. Having owned both, I happen to agree with this view, and sold my Corona built AVRIs and kept my only Fullerton.

    Now, there was a bit of a trickle down thing that happened, and there are plenty of examples of fine, non-AVRI basses from 82-84/85 ish from Fender, all made in Fullerton.

    The Elite series are excellent examples (I owned one as well, wish I never sold it), but the standard line are very nice too. Most I have seen from this period have Bi-Flex truss rods, a micro-adjustable 4 bold neck, single ply white pickguards, white pickup covers and "E" series serial numbers.

    I am always on the lookout for these, and once I land a job (unemployment sucks), I am going to grab one.

    Sheesh, I am rambling.

    As for the 85, as far as I know it should be a Fullerton made bass (Corona was not up and runnign yet), with an alder body (but could be ash) with deep body contours and very smooth rounded edges (these are my favorite features of the Fullerton basses), and a wide but thin neck with jumbo frets and an E series S/N. Some of the hardware features might be a mix and match due to the transition period, but frankly, I pick based on tone and feel/ergonomics. Hardware can be replaced, but if the body/neck are dogs, your stuck.
  6. I can try to help you ID it, but need some pictures, description, etc.
  7. Johnny Alien

    Johnny Alien Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2003
    Harrisburg, PA, USA
    The Fullerton plant shut down around that time (85) and the Corona plant was getting set up.

    During that time (starting in 85) the only US production was the reissue basses and even those are fairly rare. You almost never see 85-87 reissue basses.

    Any standard made at that time would have been made in Japan. It is possible for an 85 to be made using Fullerton parts or it's possible it was built in late 84 and sold in 85.

    I am not sure when production started back up for the US standards. I myself have never seen an 85 standard.
  8. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    Like anything, there isn't a broad brush that you can paint these with, to say that they all suck or that they're all fine. You have to take them individually.

    Don Randall bought Fender from CBS and continued using the original Fullerton plan until '84. During this period, Fender released the first American Vintage reissues, commonly referred to as "Fullerton Reissues," and *not* to be confused with the non-reissue Standard models produced at the same plant during this period. I think in late '85 they opened the Corona plant, and started producing the Specials, the Elites, the new American Series standard models, the Deluxes, etc.

    If it's an American made 1985 standard model, the serial number will start with E5. If it doesn't, then it may be a Deluxe, or an Elite, or a Special, but in that case it would have features not found on a Standard, such as Walnut bodies, brass or gold hardware, extra pickups, active electronics, etc.

    If it looks standard and doesn't have that serial number, then it's likely Japanese, in which case the serial will likely (I may be wrong) be down on the neck heel rather than the headstock. If it's a Japanese from the 80s, it's *probably* a better bass than an American one from the 80s, with the exception of the Fullerton Reissues. Again, mind the broad brush.

    If it's a standard model, with the E5 serial number, then just give it a try, and see what it's like. I don't believe it will have much in the way of collector value yet, although in ten years it may. Likely $800 or so is a fair price. IMHO...
  9. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    I too have never seen an '85 Standard... but I'm pretty sure American production started again late in '85, with the Special, after only a brief hiatus.
  10. Johnny Alien

    Johnny Alien Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2003
    Harrisburg, PA, USA
    The Fender bass book says that when the plant moved for a few years the only US basses were the reissues. They were not able to get production up quickly so they limited what they made to just those basses. Anything else was made in Japan.

    I don't think that there were late 80's Elites made at all.
  11. Johnny Alien

    Johnny Alien Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2003
    Harrisburg, PA, USA
    I just looked it up in the History of Fender book (It is available to read via Google) and US production halted in 1985. They had some parts left over that they built from but the only new instruments produced were vintage series (and not many of those were made either).

    The entire 1985 catalog was comprised of Japanese instruments.

    The US Standard was introduced in 1988.

    It's possible that is an 85 but most likely it is older parts. It might even have an E3 serial number.
  12. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    Well I was wrong about Don Randall, it was Bill Schultz, so I am willing to concede, but I was pretty sure my facts came from the Fender Bass: An Illustrated History, and Wikipedia has some other info about the models that were produced (which I was also wrong about):

    "From 1980 to 1984, the Precision Bass has been redesigned with new pickups, an active onboard circuit and a high-mass brass bridge. The range included the Special (1980) featuring a split-coil pickup with white covers, gold hardware and a 2-band EQ with an active/passive toggle switch and the Elite (1983) with one (Elite I) or two (Elite II) special-design split-coil humbucking pickups, TBX tone circuit and a fine-tuner bridge made by Schaller. Some models were available with a solid walnut body and a stained ebony fretboard. Japanese models appeared in late 1984, sporting the same specifications as their American counterparts, except for the addition of a downsized body shape and a modern C-shape maple neck with 22 medium-jumbo frets. The Elite Precision's Schaller fine-tuner bridge has been later used on the Plus Series models in the early 1990s."

    So it looks like we both have some mis-remembered facts. I'll check out my book later and come back to the conversation when I have actual facts. :) Unless anyone who has the book can chime in?
  13. Jefe


    Mar 8, 2010
    Asheville, NC
    Man, you guys rule!!!! Thanks so much for the info. I hope to have a serial # and some pics here in the next day or two.
    I will post them up once I have them.

    Thanks again!!
  14. Well, Wiki is not always accurate either.

    If you are not careful you might think that all 80-84 basses had active circuits - they did not. They had passive P and J basses too. These are easy to spot with the white pickups, white single ply pickguards and in the case of the jazz, the guard is larger, covering the control plate area as well. And it had awful strat style knobs.

    Also, it's not clear from the above that the Special PRECEEDED the Elite, and might have even preceeded Shultz's involvement. While the Special is clearly a bit of a launching pad, the Elites are quite different.
  15. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    Agreed - let's check the book and repost after.
  16. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    Checked the book:

    - Special introduced in 1980, became the Elites in 1983
    - Fullerton reissues made between 1982 and 1984
    - Standards were indeed made during this period, but by '84 they were sometimes cobbled together from parts from the 70s, and there was sometimes nothing "standard" about them
    - Schultz bought the company in 1985 and moved production to Corona
    - only reissues were produced from 1985 to 1989 (for basses, they came out with a new Strat in '86 and a new Tele in '87)
    - the P bass plus was the first new bass from Corona in 1989

    So if you have a 1985 P bass, it is one of the vintage reissues! It would be made from parts either left over in warehouse inventory from production in 1984 to early 1985, or new parts made in the Fullerton plant. In which case, it's worth more than $800... not sure how much though.
  17. Hi. I am thinking of buying this bass but don't know much about these either. Is this worth the $700 asking? Is this a 84 standard ? It has the Am Standard truss rod adjustment at the headstock so I am assuming it is..Any info is appreciated.

    Attached Files:

  18. Johnny Alien

    Johnny Alien Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2003
    Harrisburg, PA, USA
    Yep, that looks like an 83 or 84 Standard. From the small photos it looks to be all original. Single ply white guard and white pickups. Looks like the original hard shell case. Also they made more maple than rosewood at that time (at least it seems like it).

    If it's in good shape than $700 is a very good price for that bass.
  19. Thanks... He is not including the case though unfortunately.
  20. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    Nice bass! See if you can talk him down to $650, but I'd say $700 is fair.

    And if you modify it, keep the original parts. :)
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