Guitar Adventures

1981 Fender Factory Tour

The Fullerton Factory

Entering Sacred Ground

I travelled to the USA a number of times during the 1980s, and in 1981 I was determined to visit the sacred ground of where my favourite guitars were made.

I was staying with family in Orange County, and we rang the Fender Factory to ask if it was even possible to visit the factory, and they were happy to oblige.

This was still the CBS Musical Instruments era, as indicated by the signage on the building. A few years later in 1985, CBS sold Fender for US$12.5.

Amplifier Assembly

Assembling the Fender Amplifiers was a hands on process, and mostly by women. The cabinets were clearly manufactured outside of this building, and brought in on pallets.

CNC Router

This CNC machine was used to cut the bodies and you can see in this image the three body templates the CNC machine used for that purpose.

Guitar Bodies

This is where things got more interesting for me. You can see the ‘naked’ bodies above, and most bodies appear to be made of three or four pieces of wood, glued together.

I was told at the time that the two pink bodies hanging on the rack were being made for members of The Cars, a huge band of the time.

The bodies were given either a clear coat for natural finishes, or a white base coat, on top of which a colour would be applied.

The guitar bodies would then be hung on several racks for drying and polishing, while they await assembly.

Guitar NEcks

I saw a very interesting machine which had multiple rotary saw blades, for cutting the fret slots in the necks of the guitars.

Necks were stored in trays, and at this time Fender were introducing the new Bullet series guitars, as well as the STRAT models.

Guitar Parts

I remember the stories of how older parts got used on newer guitars because of the parts laying around the factory in trays etc. Well, here is the proof of that.

These parts trays were all over the guitar assembly area, electronics in one set of trays, and hardware in another.

Finished Guitars

As each guitar came off the production line, they were setup and tested by hand, plugged into an amplifier and check that everything worked as it should.

At the time I was there, there were several guys testing the guitars to ensure what was coming out of the factory was up to standard.