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NBD: 1980 Fender Precision Special, and what to restore?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by wongahcheng, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. wongahcheng


    Oct 17, 2012

    Hi! Recently acquired my oldest bass to date from 1980 (previously it was my 2000 Thunderbird) in, I would say, not at its best condition? But I just couldn't pass it for the price the seller was asking for. Looked up some information on it since I never heard of this model, turned out that it's Fender's first attempt at active basses. I am thinking to restore this bass to be used as a workhorse, and also as an alternative to my shorter scales Fenders. However, the one that I got has the following issues that I have noticed so far;
    • Finish: it's a Lake Placid Blue with matching headstock, but there's a green tint to it with stripe patterns underneath near upper bout and contour. There's also a circle pattern which I believe is from a previous sticker on it. I don't know if it was poorly refinished at some point of its life with rattle-can paint or what. Also there are brownish spots on the headstock and under the strings near the bridge, and the back are almost covered with the same stuff. Could this be just natural patina? Surely it's not nitro but there are some wear marks at certain areas, and the finish around the fretboard edges are quite worn out as well. Underneath the pickguard, there are dirt and grimes which could or could not be cleaned.
    • Electronics: completely rewired with the whole active circuit board removed. Luckily the pickup is passive so that won't be a problem. Only 2 out of 3 knobs remained, with toggle switch removed and output jack was moved to where the other knob was. I'm left with 3 open holes! I'm uncertain about the pots and cap, if they are all original, because they look like the mini ones found in those Japanese Fenders.
    I haven't held anything older than 1976 in my hands but this bass is slightly on the heavier side. Neck is straight and very comfortable to me! Bridge and saddles look good, tuners are working well. Plugged in, it sounds good to my ears, but I think it needs rewiring. Not sure what should I do to restore this, just wipe it clean with damp rag (especially the grimes under the pickguard, and all the hard case plush fabric sticking on the back finish)? Turn it to a regular, passive P bass? I might want to replace the pickguard in the future but a shiny white one will look out of place, hence I'm just going to keep it that way with drill holes for the time being. Maybe move the volume and tone knobs further back 1 hole. Don't think it will have significant values but maybe I will not refinish it anytime soon. What are your thoughts? I'd be happy if you guys can help by examining the pictures (complete album here)!







    TonH, MattZilla, hintz and 20 others like this.
  2. crlujan


    Jul 26, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    Man, the only thing I don’t like about that bass is the circle where that sticker was. I love how nasty the finish looks. It reminds me of the patina brass snare drum that Pork Pie put out a few years back.

    I’d get it back to passive. I’d also slap a gold anodized guard on there. I think that’d be a match made in heaven.

    MattZilla, BergerHead, hintz and 14 others like this.
  3. Fresh Eddie

    Fresh Eddie

    Nov 13, 2008
    That bass looks awesome! Maybe clean it up if it feels icky, and a new pickguard with the regular amount of holes and you should be good to go! Nice score.
    hintz, Iofflight, murphy and 2 others like this.
  4. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    What do you mean, back to passive? These were active from the factory. Fender's first active bass, actually.
  5. wongahcheng


    Oct 17, 2012
    Thank you, the finish is almost too nasty. Didn’t know that it was a thing too, the snare looks good! I haven’t seen anodized gold on anything other than sunburst and white though, but I’ll take that into consideration :thumbsup:

    Thanks. I’m actually fine with the most of it except that hairy back from the plush haha and maybe what lies beneath the pickguard too! :roflmao:

    Because finding the original active circuit board is almost impossible now, I guess
  6. wongahcheng


    Oct 17, 2012
    Another important question: any standard replacement pickguard (with correct number of holes) should fit without involving any modifications, right?
    TonH and Reedt2000 like this.
  7. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    You should name that bass Shrek because I think it spent most of its life in a swamp.
    Seriously, just try to clean it as best you can and leave it as is.
  8. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I'd rock it just like that. How does it sound? You could get a preamp with active/passive switch just to fill holes and have more options but if it sounds good there really is no need.
    Kubicki Fan and FenderOli like this.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    ...maybe! you've got two obvious variables: the piece itself and the pickguard maker.

    in any case it's quite a find! i'm sure you'll have some enjoyment bringing it back from its previous life...congratulations on your new instrument! :thumbsup:

    p.s. --- be sure to update with pics!
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  10. themarshall


    Jun 26, 2008
    cochrane wi
    I'm not a mojo/relic fan, but that thing is great! Your call on active v passive - I know it was originally active, but the story here is really that crazy patina.

    Edit: on further consideration, I like keeping the pickguard and moving the pots/jack back. Plug the holes with metal or plastic snap-in plugs.
    Kubicki Fan, Aqualung60 and Reedt2000 like this.
  11. crlujan


    Jul 26, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    Back to passive like the OG Precisions. Maybe I should’ve just said, “Mod to passive”.
    FenderOli likes this.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Wow! Talk about "rode hard and put away wet". And the fret wear, yikes!
    BrentSimons likes this.
  13. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Is it me, or does it look like someone sprayed the entire bass - body, fretboard, hardware, headstock - with a brown(ish) spray can to give it that effect.
    Or do you think it was actually just stored in a swamp?!

    I’d def scrub the bass up pretty good w/ typical bass cleaning products - that does look incredibly funky under the pickguard.
    I’m pretty sure it’ll leave the aged finish effect, intact - but you won’t have to worry about getting an infection every time you pick it up.

    Electronics wise, I’d say the world is your oyster; but, if it sounds good as is, maybe it’s best just to get a new pickguard (def off white or anodized - something that won’t clash w/ the finish) so you don’t have extra open holes.

    Curious to see the direction you go with this - plz update us as you make progress.

    Good luck, & congrats on your new old bass!
  14. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    New pickguard, new string. The finish has a funky look to it that will really be nice once you get it cleaned up.
    I doubt if you can even find original electronics for it.
  15. That thing looks 99% original. Only one added hole in the pickguard and the missing electronics.
    Even the mini-pots looks legit.

    Here is a site for this model:

    Fender Precision Special Bass 1980 - 1982

    I would leave it like this.
  16. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I love the discoloration of the finish. I wouldn't change it.
    REMBO, geof_, Mordamir and 2 others like this.
  17. blastoff

    blastoff Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2007
    wow. does it smell bad?
    geeza, MattZilla, BurnOut and 3 others like this.
  18. Allan Allan

    Allan Allan

    Mar 25, 2018
    That bass is incredible looking! Please don't refinish it.
    REMBO, geof_, Mordamir and 3 others like this.
  19. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Yes, the original preamps are near impossible to find nowadays.
    The pickup was special to that preamp, so if you're wanting to just make a passive P out of it, don't wreck the wiring of that original pickup. Better yet put in a std pickup and pickguard and store the original ones incase you do stumble across an original pre.
  20. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    Wow, that is bizarre!!! It's like someone puked on it and left if on there for 20 or 30 years (not that there is anything wrong with that). So, my first thought is that I would leave it and tell everyone it once belonged to Sid Vicious!
    bobyoung53 likes this.

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