33. Squier Vista Series Super-Sonic
THIS distinctly odd bird came into our household as a consequence of two singular obsessions, both of which I’ve touched upon before. On the one hand, there was Owen’s desire for a Lake Placid Blue Strat. On the other was my growing fascination with Strats with left-handed headstocks (See No 24). I can’t honestly remember where this funny little guitar came from, though I do know where it went – more of which later.
In the 90s, Fender Japan made some very fine guitars, some under the Fender brand name – and others with Squier on the headstock. Squier, of course, had generally been a budget range, but in this case, the build quality of these Vista Series Squiers, made between 1996 and 1998, was easily on a par with the Fenders that were most likely coming off the same machines at the same factory anyway.
The Vista series seemed to be aimed at the alternative/indie rock crowd – I seem to remember Courtney Love having some kind of signature model – and they were certainly quirky enough. The Super-Sonic definitely fitted that weird and whacky offset vibe, with its squat, upside-down body and large, 70s-style reverse headstock* – slightly oddly, fitted with a 70s-style bullet truss rod adjuster, though still boasting a four-bolt fixing at the heel with with a really odd-shaped neckplate.
*I’ve since read the inspiration of the Super-Sonic may have been photos from the early 60s showing Jimi Hendrix playing an upside-down Fender Jazzmaster. If you turn the Super-Sonic upside-down, it does sort of look like a left-handed Jazzmaster, so there may be some truth in this.
I’d had half an idea I might take off the neck and put it on a Strat, until I discovered the Super-Sonic had a 24″ scale length – same as the Jaguars and Mustangs beloved of many of the indie crowd – and a full inch and a half shorter than the Strat. So much for that idea… It would never have quite played in tune.
Still, was a beautifully-made instrument. It played well and the blue sparkle (almost Lake Placid Blue, but not quite!) was rather fetching. It had a Strat-style bridge and tremolo system and a very non-standard neckplate (with the strap button attached at the heel via one of the neck screws in a most non-Fender way).
The noise came from a fairly indifferent pair of humbuckers – the bridge one slanted the opposite way to a Strat pickup. Oh, and no tone control, just a volume control for each pickup, a la Gibson. Weird, and indeed, whacky.
FOOTNOTE: In November, 2021, my pal Dave confirmed the Super-Sonic was, indeed, still in his lock-up. He lives in Thailand these days and occasionally asks me to take out bits of gear out to sell for him – the Super-Sonic being the most recent case in point.
In recent years, Fender has at least twice revived the Super-Sonic in various forms, usually carrying the Fender logo on the headstock (something it probably should have had in the first place). There was a Fender Mexico version in 2012 and new for 2021, Fender Japan has issued a new version for the Japanese domestic market.
The American guitar dealer and vlogger Trogly recently bought one in each of the three available colours and had them shipped them to the US to review on his YouTube channel. I would imagine he reckoned he would he’d find takers to give him his money back at his current $1,699 asking price. At the time of writing, it looks as if he’s found buyer for one of them, though the black and the white models are still up for sale.
Meanwhile, the original Squier versions of Fender Japan’s sparkly oddity have since acquired a bit of a following, years after they were discontinued. These 90s originals are now valuable collectors’ pieces, fetching several times their original asking price – look on Reverb or eBay right now and you’ll probably see the odd one being offered for £1,000-plus. No wonder Dave wants to sell his!
- When I wrote my original blog post about the Super-Sonic, in the depth of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, I struggled to find a picture of it. Having taken it out of storage and cleaned it up to sell (I also replaced the terrible pickup selector with one that works!) it also presented an idea opportunity to take a set of pics to go with this updated piece. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂