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  1. #1

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    Hi Guys


    Thought |'d clear up a few things about the 2nd run of D'aquisto guitars made by Fender...

    okay as some have pointed out on this forum, the first run of D'aquistos by Fender were manufactured in Japan from around 1984 until 1990 and there were 3 models all made in Japan - Ultra, Elite and Standard. The ultra was all solid. Then after 1990, in 1994 Jimmy D'Aquisto trained up Stephen Stern at the USA Fender Custom Shop in Corona to coordinate 3 models: Ultra, Elite & Deluxe. The USA Elite was made in very few numbers and differed slightly from the previous Japanese model - it had a solid spruce top, solid flame maple solid back and sides. it came in sunburst and natural. Now the USA D'Aquisto Deluxe model (which is my guitar pictured) was a 'team built' custom shop instrument and only retailed for $3279 in 2001, the tops were laminate maple normally 2 piece bookmatched laminates on the front and back. So it was a cheaper option. There is one confusing element - some of these Deluxes are signed by Stephen Stern (as is mine in the photo) and have one piece laminate (ply) tops and backs but solid sides (when I say one piece I mean the laminate sheets are not book matched split) thus denoting that these guitars are masterbuilt, I've also seen Stern made deluxes with other custom options like one piece flamed maple necks and fingerboards with no block markers etc. Therefore the thinking would be that these 'masterbuilt' rather than 'team built' deluxes retailed for more money (like the ultra and elite usa models). Hope that clears some things up - in a nutshell there were 2 production runs of these guitars - one in Japan (1984-1990) and one at Corona, USA (1994-2001) best, Ramon.

    Fender D'aquisto USA history-fender-d-aquisto-1117132@2x-jpg
    Last edited by Navigator; 10-28-2021 at 04:49 AM.

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  3. #2

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    Welcome here! C'mon back!

    My ca. 1984 FD'A Elite was a fine guitar -- as good as the best laminated archtops I've played. Only a unique opportunity got it out of my hands.

    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    The first run of D'aquistos by Fender . . . there were 3 models all made in Japan - Ultra, Elite and Standard.
    FWIW the two Archtop.com listings each say the Ultra was not part of the 80s Japanese run.

    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    Then . . . in 1994 Jimmy D'Aquisto trained up Stephen Stern at the USA Fender Custom Shop in Corona to coordinate 3 models: Ultra, Elite & Deluxe.
    Stephen Stern is probably the only builder to work directly under both James D'Aquisto and Robert Benedetto.
    Pity he didn't get to build more archtops!

    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    The USA Elite . . . had a solid spruce top, solid flame maple solid back and sides.
    Archtop.com states that the 1990s Elite had an "arched" not "carved" top and laminated back and sides.
    On the one hand, everybody makes mistakes and guitar sales-pitch is murky.
    On the other hand, Joe is not likely to under-sell his inventory.

    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    the USA D'Aquisto Deluxe model (which is my guitar pictured) was a 'team built' custom shop instrument and only retailed for $3279 in 2001
    Here's a Custom Shop prototype of your guitar (in an attractive cherry finish) hanging on Reverb.

  4. #3

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    D'Aquisto, Benedetto... Fender's track record in high-line archtops doesn't attest to wholehearted commitment. Why did they go in, twice?

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    D'Aquisto, Benedetto... Fender's track record in high-line archtops doesn't attest to wholehearted commitment. Why did they go in, twice?
    Maestro, you forgot the Roger Rossmeisl guitars like the LTD:



    (In your defense I bet there were plenty of people at CBS / Fender who would have been happy to forget those guitars.)

    + + +

    Why do does Fender go in and out of archtops and other things?

    a) They make giant gobs of money on screw-together planky things. That's their heritage. That's their lane. They've always known it. They're not shy about it.

    b) Fender had a few sidelines that worked out, like Rhodes pianos, and a bunch that just weren't great, like Rogers drums and the entire Kaman Group acquisition. Episodes like when thousands of Tacoma finishes spontaneously decomposed right after they closed the purchase cannot have helped.

    FWIW the same is true of Gibson (like Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias basses, Akai and the entire Gibson Lifestyle Concept) and CF Martin (like Stinger electric guitars and Fibes drums).

    c) It's natural for there to be some degree of slow back-and-forth between people running FMIC who are guitar-heritage hounds and people running FMIC who are have the bottom line foremost in mind. ("Hey, we can own Guild Guitars!! How cool is that! Don't miss the chance! Don't let them get swallowed and stashed by Gibson or become the import line for Taylor!")

    d) Or there's just no thought about this stuff -- it just happens.

  6. #5

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    Sam, thanks! I didn't forget, just didn't know. Your examples of less-than-successful diversification speak volumes for sticking to the knitting. Let's hope Gibson's new course holds.

  7. #6

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    One of the best archtop sounds I've ever heard was a Fender D'Aquisto thru a Twin, but I don't know which model it was.

    That said, the touch of the player makes a huge difference.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    Hi Guys

    Thought |'d clear up a few things about the 2nd run of D'aquisto guitars made by Fender...

    okay as some have pointed out on this forum, the first run of D'aquistos by Fender were manufactured in Japan from around 1984 until 1990 and there were 3 models all made in Japan - Ultra, Elite and Standard. The ultra was all solid. Then after 1990, in 1994 Jimmy D'Aquisto trained up Stephen Stern at the USA Fender Custom Shop in Corona to coordinate 3 models: Ultra, Elite & Deluxe. The USA Elite was made in very few numbers and differed slightly from the previous Japanese model - it had a solid spruce top, solid flame maple solid back and sides. it came in sunburst and natural and retailed in 2001 for $8029. The Ultra model in 2001 (which I think was the last year of production) retailed for $15,000. Now the USA D'Aquisto Deluxe model (which is my guitar pictured) was a 'team built' custom shop instrument and only retailed for $3279 in 2001, the tops were laminate maple normally 2 piece bookmatched laminates on the front and back. So it was a cheaper option. There is one confusing element - some of these Deluxes are signed by Stephen Stern (as is mine in the photo) and have one piece laminate tops and backs (when I say one piece I mean the laminate sheets are not book matched split) thus denoting that these guitars are masterbuilt, I've also seen Stern made deluxes with other custom options like one piece flamed maple necks and fingerboards with no block markers etc. Therefore the thinking would be that these 'masterbuilt' rather than 'team built' deluxes retailed for more money (like the ultra and elite usa models). Hope that clears some things up - in a nutshell there were 2 production runs of these guitars - one in Japan (1984-1990) and one at Corona, USA (1994-2001) best, Ramon.

    Fender D'aquisto USA history-fender-d-aquisto-1117132@2x-jpg

  9. #8

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    I bought a late-model Elite with the standard-size humbucker route a few months ago. It has an aftermarket pickguard, an hb-sized Vintage Vibe Charlie Christian pickup, and a few cracks in the lacquer. I didn’t know what to expect, but it quickly became my most-played guitar. It’s light and resonant, well-balanced tonally, and it has a sweetness to the higher registers that I don’t normally associate with laminates. The neck is on the skinny side, which bothered me for one day, and probably only on principle. If I’m reading the OP correctly, though, mine is apparently not a late model, despite the full-sized humbucker rout? (Gee, I’m dumb. Made in Japan is stamped on the back of the headstock.)
    Last edited by wzpgsr; 10-15-2021 at 07:04 PM.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Sherry
    Welcome here! C'mon back!

    My ca. 1984 FD'A Elite was a fine guitar -- as good as the best laminated archtops I've played. Only a unique opportunity got it out of my hands.


    FWIW the two Archtop.com listings each say the Ultra was not part of the 80s Japanese run.


    Stephen Stern is probably the only builder to work directly under both James D'Aquisto and Robert Benedetto.
    Pity he didn't get to build more archtops!



    Archtop.com states that the 1990s Elite had an "arched" not "carved" top and laminated back and sides.
    On the one hand, everybody makes mistakes and guitar sales-pitch is murky.
    On the other hand, Joe is not likely to under-sell his inventory.


    Here's a Custom Shop prototype of your guitar (in an attractive cherry finish) hanging on Reverb.
    Actually he still does make some archtops - he makes a significant amount of the Custom Shop Gretsches.

    Gretsch Custom Shop Falcon built by Stephen Stern


  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Sherry
    Welcome here! C'mon back!

    My ca. 1984 FD'A Elite was a fine guitar -- as good as the best laminated archtops I've played. Only a unique opportunity got it out of my hands.


    FWIW the two Archtop.com listings each say the Ultra was not part of the 80s Japanese run.


    Stephen Stern is probably the only builder to work directly under both James D'Aquisto and Robert Benedetto.
    Pity he didn't get to build more archtops!


    Archtop.com states that the 1990s Elite had an "arched" not "carved" top and laminated back and sides.
    On the one hand, everybody makes mistakes and guitar sales-pitch is murky.
    On the other hand, Joe is not likely to under-sell his inventory.


    Here's a Custom Shop prototype of your guitar (in an attractive cherry finish) hanging on Reverb.
    Hi thanks for a great response - The Ultra was most definately made in Japan (numbers were possibly small though) - there were of course some Jimmy made US protos made.

    Agreed about SS - what a great builder! He also made the Classic Rocker which was based on the Deluxe's body - more of a Gretsch style instrument.
    That red deluxe proto on reverb is a team built guitar - so not signed off by Stephen - his name would be on the back of the head stock and also his signatire inside the f holes.

    thanks
    R

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Thank you!

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by wzpgsr
    I bought a late-model Elite with the standard-size humbucker route a few months ago. It has an aftermarket pickguard, an hb-sized Vintage Vibe Charlie Christian pickup, and a few cracks in the lacquer. I didn’t know what to expect, but it quickly became my most-played guitar. It’s light and resonant, well-balanced tonally, and it has a sweetness to the higher registers that I don’t normally associate with laminates. The neck is on the skinny side, which bothered me for one day, and probably only on principle. If I’m reading the OP correctly, though, mine is apparently not a late model, despite the full-sized humbucker rout? (Gee, I’m dumb. Made in Japan is stamped on the back of the headstock.)
    Thanks - basically your model was towards the end of the first run made in Japan when they did away with the schaller pickup and put a standard PAF style in there. Lage Lund also played that era of Fender D'aquisto Elite.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Sherry
    Maestro, you forgot the Roger Rossmeisl guitars like the LTD:



    (In your defense I bet there were plenty of people at CBS / Fender who would have been happy to forget those guitars.)

    + + +

    Why do does Fender go in and out of archtops and other things?

    a) They make giant gobs of money on screw-together planky things. That's their heritage. That's their lane. They've always known it. They're not shy about it.

    b) Fender had a few sidelines that worked out, like Rhodes pianos, and a bunch that just weren't great, like Rogers drums and the entire Kaman Group acquisition. Episodes like when thousands of Tacoma finishes spontaneously decomposed right after they closed the purchase cannot have helped.

    FWIW the same is true of Gibson (like Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias basses, Akai and the entire Gibson Lifestyle Concept) and CF Martin (like Stinger electric guitars and Fibes drums).

    c) It's natural for there to be some degree of slow back-and-forth between people running FMIC who are guitar-heritage hounds and people running FMIC who are have the bottom line foremost in mind. ("Hey, we can own Guild Guitars!! How cool is that! Don't miss the chance! Don't let them get swallowed and stashed by Gibson or become the import line for Taylor!")

    d) Or there's just no thought about this stuff -- it just happens.
    Always loved these guitars - even though they were bolt ons!

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    Hi thanks for a great response - The Ultra was most definately made in Japan (numbers were possibly small though) - there were of course some Jimmy made US protos
    R
    In the 90s fender moved artist series to the us custom shop. This includes ultras - I’ve got one built by Stephen Stern in the US . It is 1997 I believe

  16. #15

  17. #16

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    To my knowledge, Jimmy used Hagstrom bodies/laminates only before 1982 to experiment with laminate guitars, and only a few have been made. After 1982 he used laminates provided by Roger Borys. These were the guitars that were built for the icons like Joe Pass and Jim Hall.

  18. #17

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    I always thought those Fender D's were a great bang-for-buck. If I liked 16" gits they would have been one of my top choices.

  19. #18

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    Thanks for the history lesson. I guess mine is an oddball. I got it from a player who SWORE the unbound pick guard was original, and the one piece maple top figure looks more like quilt or burl.

  20. #19
    check out this video link where Stephen Stern tells the whole story (in 2 minutes) - by all accounts it would seem the first few he made for fender were literally the first achtops he ever made. Jimmy D'Aquisto (who had worked with Fender previously on the 80s run of Fender D'aquistos) didnt come onboard as an advisor until he had already made a few of them.
    Stephen Stern | Oral Histories | NAMM.org
    Last edited by Navigator; 10-28-2021 at 04:50 AM.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by GNAPPI
    Thanks for the history lesson. I guess mine is an oddball. I got it from a player who SWORE the unbound pick guard was original, and the one piece maple top figure looks more like quilt or burl.
    My pleasure - I would be dubious about that - as far as Im aware both Standards and Deluxe's always came with bound pickguards

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by aborodya
    To my knowledge, Jimmy used Hagstrom bodies/laminates only before 1982 to experiment with laminate guitars, and only a few have been made. After 1982 he used laminates provided by Roger Borys. These were the guitars that were built for the icons like Joe Pass and Jim Hall.
    There are a few D'aquistos out there with Hagstrom laminates. The Borys came later.

    Interestingly my Deluxe has solid wood slides but laminate top and back.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by aborodya
    In the 90s fender moved artist series to the us custom shop. This includes ultras - I’ve got one built by Stephen Stern in the US . It is 1997 I believe
    yes, if you listen to the video link I posted above - Stephen tells you how Fender moved production over to the US, Ultras were made in Japan previously and cost 400,000yen. I would say 1997 is a good year for a US ultra - Stephen would have had some experience by then building them and Im sure they would be better than the earlier serial numbers.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Navigator
    check out this video link where Stephen Stern tells the whole story (in 2 minutes) - by all accounts it would seem the first few he made for fender were literally the first achtops he ever made. Jimmy D'Aquisto (who had worked with Fender previously on the 80s run of Fender D'aquistos) didnt come onboard as an advisor until he had already made a few of them.
    Stephen Stern | Oral Histories | NAMM.org
    Amazing.

    Talk about starting at the top!