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Old Fender P, how original?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by permagrin, Aug 15, 2003.


  1. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Attn vintage Fender guys...

    I've searched around here and elsewhere, so much good stuff to go through, but still haven't found my answers, so here goes.

    Just bought an old P bass, serial# indicates '78-'81 (seller said '79, I'm thinking it's likely an '80, I'll hafta check out neck pocket, pots, etc.). It was purported to be "all original, nothing done to it" but I'm suspecting otherwise.

    The pickups were sitting really low, and pulling the screws back did nothing to raise them, so I took them out to put some foam underneath. I found a little piece of wire cover, as if someone had been doing some rewiring at some point... also, there was very little extra wire on the p/u leads, was this common? Also, there's grey spongy foam glued to the bottom of the cavity... original? The pickups have a black, denser, rubbery foam, pretty thick, glued to the bottom of them... original?

    Also, the neck plate has one of those black plastic plates between it and the body, original?

    The finish is a sunburst, but is only brown (not black) at edges and yellow in center (no 3rd/intermdiate color), original?

    Also, the p/u cavity appears to have black overspray in it (but this is in the center where I wouldn't think there'd be anything but yellow), could this some kind of shielding...? It does have a lot of that pale yellowish 'mojo dust' in there.

    Haven't taken of the p/g or neck yet...

    Anyway, I got it at a decent price and it's definitely a keeper, has an unbelievably solid tone! Just curious what I've got, and how much I should/shouldn't mess around with it. TIA.
     
  2. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    To figure out the date, you'll have to check the neck stamp (if there is one) and pots and look at the bottom of the pickups, they're stamped also. Most of the time there is also a written date on the wood under the brass shield plate in the pickup cavity. What does the first 3 digits of the serial number start with?

    The correct foam is the black dense rubbery one. I have seen alot that have been compressed so much that they won't hold the pickup out anymore like it's suppose to.
    Sounds like someone has had the pickups removed a few times...there should be alot of wire length.

    The black neck plate insulator is original. It's there to keep the corners of the neck plate from digging in and destroying the finish.
    I really hate those insulators becasue I feel they dampen some of the tone of the bass...so I take them out.

    Not sure what to think about the finish. Pictures would be nice. Late 70's/early 80's Fender had some odd ball Burst finishes available, so it could be a factory color. But the presence of black paint in the cavitiy would normally hint at a refinfish job (no it's not shielding).
     
  3. dhloden

    dhloden

    Mar 4, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    Agree about the neck stamp as the way to correctly ID the production date. Older Fenders seem to have been 'grab bag' assembled from parts that could have even been produced at different times. This could be the reason that these basses get bad reputations for lousy quality in the '70's.

    Glad that you found a keeper. These old P's just get better with age and milage. I've had mine for 10+years and man I haven't found a bass that could replace it. Enjoy it. Sounds like you have a nice bass.

    Donnie.
     
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Sounds like some rewiring has gone one. Yes, the pickup cavity should have some foam but probaly only one of the pieces is origial. The other was probably added later as foam can lose it's springiness over time.




    Nope.


    2 color burst is unusual for 1979 but not unheard of. Sounds more like a "sienna sunburst" which is common on early 80s basses.

    Maybe, but Fender typically didn't spary conductive paint in the cavities so it would be after the fact. You can check to see if it is conductive paint with an ohmmeter.
     
  5. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Thanks guys, this is pretty much along the lines of my thinking. The look of the finish says 'original' to me, especially with the thickness and aparent age of the scratches and dings, but I'm still not sure what exactly to make of the black paint-like stuff in the pickup cavity, there's not much of it in there. "Sienna sunburst" describes the color perfectly, thanks Brian.

    The serial number S9xxxxx means (depending on the internet source) '78-'81, but most likely an '80. It was scratched off the head at some point, the previous owner gave me that much of the number from the neck pocket (he didn't write down any numbers off the end of the neck). I didn't think to check the bottom of the pickups when I had them out. I'll get a better idea when I take the time to pull everything apart, I'll post what I find.

    In the meantime I'm just loving the thump this thing brings. You're right Donnie, the thing sounds great, a lot stronger than my '73 alder w/maple board. Its tone is so, for lack of a better term, "authoritative."

    I may also post a picture or two once the server at work gets back to healthy. Thanks again, off to the blues jam tonight!
     
  6. I was thinking 2-color sunburst, but I guess not. Get some pics up! Sounds like a kickass bass!
     
  7. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Alright, a couple pics (front and back).

    BTW, oiled the fretboard last night, looks like new!
     
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Funny, in your pics it looks like a 3-color burst!!!???
     
  9. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Brian, yes, the pix look like there's a reddish 3rd color, but there's not.

    I took off the strings, pickgaurd, and neck, and now I've got some real questions and suspicions. The body looks nothing like my '73. I'll go into some excruciating detail here (wish I had a camera), looking for opinions.

    First, the neck pocket route is very loose, especially at the corners, and there is an angled-down circular route at the center (for adjusting the truss rod). The bottom of the pocket almost forms a "W" (more like u-u-u).

    Also, there is a roughly 1" diameter round hole routed between the neck pocket and the pickup cavity. There is another roughly 1" diameter round hole routed under the bridge (and the grounding wire comes through it).

    The pickup/control cavity is finished throughout in the same brown color as the outer edge, and some has the clear (now yellowed) finish as well.

    There is also an additional route, not as deep as the control cavity, that extends from the control cavity toward the lower horn, and a wire is screwed down into the body wood and attached to the outside of the volume pot.

    The route for the control cavity has some odd, er., angles to it (again, wish I had the camera, but the edge profile is quite different from my other P).

    There are no dates on the bottom of the pickups, on one of them there was something stamped but it's impossible to read. The solders joints are all quite sloppy. The posts on both pots are white plastic. The vol pot has 073348, 250K, then a number that ends in ...106 (what comes before this number is hidden by solder). The tone pot has 250K, A, R1378106 (there's that 106 again), and the rest covered up by solder.

    The neck pocket has three stickers in it. One is on top of another, the one on top has "Fender (R) Serial #" in brown ink, and the number S906693. Whatever is on the same sized sticker below it is hidden. The "oldest looking" has bluish/greenish ink, looks like the same font as the brown, but each end is missing. So I can see a portion, "ender (R)" "ial #" on the left, and the number "08.." on the right. There are other stamps on the bottom of the neck pocket, one is a roughly 1/2" circular stamp, but they're tough to read and mostly covered by the three stickers. On the side of the pocket there is a large "B" stamp.

    I'll also mention that there is a rectangular piece of cardboard scotch taped down toward the bridge end of the pocket and a piece of a business card was on top of that (not held down)(to shim the neck).

    On the neck itself, the finish on the back of the neck ends at the neck pocket. There is a sticker in the middle of the four holes for the screws, with seven numbered lines on it. On line two someone put the initials "AF" (the F may be a K or C, not great penmanship) and line three has the initials "JV". There are some stray pencil marks, and a circular stamp on lines 5-7 with a "40" in the center. The butt end of the neck is stamped "01004 4893". That first "4" at the end of the first set doesn't look like the next "4" and indeed may be a "1" (actually doesn't look like either numeral but more like a symbol of some sort).

    Sorry for the novel but I'm wondering whether I've been robbed. I noted that the serial number on the head had been scratched off, and I'm not sure what to make of everything else. It's a shame because the thing has an amazing P-bass tone, really nice, but I haven't been able to set it up to my liking. It has med/high action (I prefer much lower) with a lot of relief, and the truss rod was a bit "sticky" when I tried to turn it, so I didn't, reasoning that I'd be changing strings soon anyway.

    Any insight is greatly appreciated, TIA.
     
  10. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Still looking for some verification.

    I'm pretty much to the conclusion that there's obviously no way the body is original - all that extra routing, and the finish in the cavities, ...

    The marks on the pots suggest CTS, 6th week of '81, but plastic shafts?

    The neck seems orig, dating to Dec '79, but the finish not extending to the pocket also has me worried...
     
  11. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    bump, looking for an opinion or two before contacting the seller...
     
  12. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Well, it seems to me that it would be an original Fender body from that 79-81 time period.

    Here, I took some digi pics of my original '82 Precision, and it has all the same cuts in the body that you are concerned about on yours.
    Maybe these will help with some closure....
     
  13. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    You can see mine has the "W" neckpocket too, and also the 1" hole.
     
  14. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Another.....
    You can see the notch for the truss rod screw.

    BTW, yes, the black insulator for the neckplate IS original.
     
  15. permagrin

    permagrin

    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    CDK, thanks a lot. I also talked with the seller (fwiw, a real good guy, no adversarial nature here) and we're on the same page. I'm very pleased to learn that I was wrong about the body.

    The only question for me now is with the truss rod - the neck has quite a bit of relief and the truss rod won't turn either way. I'm planning to put on some lower tension strings, but I'm wary that this might be a headache in the future.

    Thanks again, and btw, great yellowing on that '82!