This is it, the very beginning of the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster line. In this article we examine the 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster. Firstly, I think we need to discuss why the Fender American Deluxe Strat was created. Fender corporation had seen for years how players would buy Stratocasters and modify them. They would hot rod their guitars by changing pickups, rewiring electronics, changing necks and replacing tuners in addition to any number of other modifications to the Stratocaster.
The Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster was created as a top-of-the-line American production model. The most sought after modifications were built right into the guitar. Obviously this makes the line appeal to the most discerning players who want the best guitar that Fender can roll off of a factory production line. It was created to replace the Strat Plus that filled the same market niche in the early to mid-90’s.
Start of production
The Fender American Deluxe Strat was first released in 1998. The official month was July of 1998. There have been reports of people getting them as early as May 1998. Some guitars may have been built at the old facility while they tested the new design but those stories are unconfirmed. The fact is that the guitar’s release coincided with the opening of Fender’s new production facility in Corona, California USA which opened on July 18, 1998.
The new factory was a big improvement to production. Because it was under one big roof instead of being spread out between several buildings like the old one. To coincide with this opening they released the American Deluxe Series which they called the “ultimate Strat” and the top of the line among the factory guitars. Fender touted that this guitar was made for “the more technical players”.
Mike Lewis of Fender Product Development said “The American Deluxe Strat is very nice, with a lot of special features but nothing unnecessary. It’s beautiful but it’s all about sound and playability and function. The idea was to enhance the Strat’s sound and playability, not to change it.”
A High Performance Strat
The American Deluxe was chiefly created to meet the demand for higher performance. Players had long been changing the pickups in their Stratocasters to get less noise. As a matter of fact, Fender had been using the Lace Sensor pickups in the Strat Plus line for just that reason. The American Deluxe featured the newly designed Vintage Noiseless Strat pickups. It had 3 Vintage Noiseless pickups (neck/middle/bridge). The switching for this guitar was handled by the standard Fender 5-position blade switch. Absent from this guitar was the S-1 Switching system which would be introduced in the 2004-2009 series American Deluxe Stratocaster.
Back To Original Body Shape
For the 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster Fender went back to the original design drawings of the 1950’s and found that the Stratocaster’s body shape had gradually “wandered” a bit from the original Strat. To fix that issue they subsequently set all the CNC machines to make the contours of the body more like the Stratocaster of the 50’s.
The new neck featured a very comfortable shape with some nice enhancements. It had the new “rolled” neck edges that smoothed out the joint between the neck and fingerboard giving the guitar a well-played feel along the edges of the neck where the thumb and fingers wrap around. The neck was maple with a modern C-shape neck and a maple fingerboard. It has a 9.5″ radius and a satin polyurethane finish on the neck to enhance the smooth feel of the neck. The width at the nut was 1.68750″ (43mm). The neck had mother of pearl abalone dot position inlays and highly detailed fret and nut work.
The bridge was the high performance Fender Deluxe 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with a pop-in arm as opposed to the screw-in arm found on the Strat Plus line. This high performance tremolo unit kept the guitar in tune much better than the vintage tremolo. It doesn’t handle dive bombing and whammy bar theatrics as well as a Floyd Rose but it keeps Jeff Beck’s Stratocaster in tune so it’s a good, proven unit.
The 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster series additionally featured beautiful transparent finishes. To enhance the appearance of the transparent finish they selected higher grade alder and ash wood. Therefore the bodies were created with fewer glued-together pieces of wood. This was because you could see the wood grain so well with the transparent finish. In addition they began to match finish colors to the wood. The color red is a fabulous match to the natural color of alder wood. Teal green is a color that perfectly compliments the natural color of ash wood.
The guitar featured Fender Schaller deluxe staggered cast and sealed locking tuning machines. The staggered heads eliminated the need for two string trees. The string tree is notorious for introducing friction and drag to the strings. Friction drag causes tuning issues when using the tremolo. The single string tree used on the American Deluxe Stratocaster was a round string tree which caused much less friction than the flat string tree found on older Strats. A little lubricant on this chrome string tree makes it pretty much frictionless. As a result, the locking tuners combined with the new string tree and 2-point synchronized tremolo help the American Deluxe Stratocaster to stay in tune incredibly well.
The 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster series featured aged plastic parts, a 3-ply mint green pickguard and chrome hardware to complete it’s beautiful appearance. In addition, the headstock featured a raised metal Fender logo which added to the classy appearance as well. The guitar shipped with Fender Super Bullet strings gauged .009-.042 which added to it’s easy playing feel.
As shown above, the 1998 American Deluxe Series was pivotal in many ways for Fender guitars. It was a proving ground for several major features that found their way into other American series guitars. The detailed nut and fret work, the rolled edges on the neck and the more accurate body parameters all found their way to the other American guitars.
In summary, the 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster series set a new standard for quality and innovation for production line guitars. Although they are expensive guitars, they are not the most expensive American made guitar by far. They give you incredible bang for the buck. There’s still a good market for these guitars in the used instrument marketplace so whenever you see one, snag it and you’ll own a major piece of Fender Guitar history.
Here’s a page from the brochure for the 1998 American Deluxe Fat Strat which had a Fishman power bridge for acoustic sounds and had an optional locking tremolo unit available.
Here are the specifications for the 1998-2003 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster series.
1998 Fender American Deluxe Spec Sheet
Model Name: American Deluxe Stratocaster
Model Number: 010-1000-(Color#) and 010-1002-(Color#)
Series: American Deluxe Series
Body: Premium Ash or Alder
Premium Ash on:
(731)* Aged Cherry Burst
(748)* Teal Green Transparent
(700) 3-Color Sunburst
(725) Chrome Red
(782) Candy Tangerine
Neck: Maple, Modern C Shape, (Satin Polyurethane Finish)
Fingerboard: Maple (p/n 010-1002), 9.50 Radius (241 mm)
No. of Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo Frets
Scale Length: 25.50 (648 mm)
Width @ Nut: 1.68750 (43 mm)
Machine Heads: Fender/Schaller Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed Locking Tuning Machines
Bridge: Fender Deluxe 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with Pop in Arm
Pickguard: 3-Ply Mint Green
Pickups: 3 Vintage Noiseless Strat Pickups (Neck/Middle/Bridge)
Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade:
Position 1. Bridge Pickup
Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup
Position 3. Middle Pickup
Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup
Position 5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume,
Tone 1. (Neck Pickup),
Tone 2. (Middle/Bridge Pickups)
Colors: (700) 3-Color Sunburst with Alder Body,
(706) Black with Alder Body,
(725) Chrome Red with Alder Body,
(731)* Aged Cherry Burst, with Ash Body *add $150.00,
(748)* Teal Green Transparent with Ash Body *add $150.00,
(782) Candy Tangerine with Alder Body, (Polyurethane Finish)
DISCONTINUED COLORS: (701)* White Blonde (BS) with Ash Body, 1/2002,
(721)* Natural (BS) with Ash Body , 1/2002,
(738) Crimson Red Transparent with Alder Body, 1/2002
(794)* Purple Transparent with Ash Body, 1/2000
Strings: Fender Super Bullet 3250L, Nickel Plated Steel, (.009 to .042), p/n 073-3250-003
Unique Features: Aged Plastic Parts,
Abalone Dot Position Inlays,
Highly Detailed Fret and Nut Work
Accessories: Standard Molded Case
U.S. MSRP: $1,599.99: Alder Body, $1,749.99: *Premium Ash Body