The Fender Jaguar in Detail
11/10/2007 Copyright © 2010 James William Shine, Jr.
A January 1962 pre-production. This totally stock guitar features the rare early non-matching headstock.
In 1962 Fender released the Fender Jaguar. The Jaguar's basic platform was the Jazzmaster. Leo changed the scale length, some of the body design. The pickups were designed narrow and with a metal “saw tooth” like claw that was made with the intention of concentrating the magnetic field, providing a punchier sound than the Jazzmaster.
Here you can see the sawteeth. Originally, the two shorter blades were meant to go under the plain B and E strings. However, the guitars left the factory with the teeth running in the opposite directions, often on the very same guitar!
Metal control plates were added for visual appeal, but the Jaguar displayed Leo’s changing ideas about serviceability and ease of manufacturing. Previous models had all of the components installed to the rear of a pickguard and most of the solder work is done before going into the body. The Jaguar demanded it be wired into the guitar as each control section was surrounded with wood, only having a drilled hole for the wire to pass through.
As seen here, the controls are all isolated from the pickup routes
The Jaguar had a flip mute mechanism, no doubt inspired by the
mutes being offered on Mosrite and Gretsch guitars.
The mute assembly as viewed with the bridge removed
The first Jaguars were made in January of 1962 on a pre-production basis. These guitars were most likely for promotional use. March of 1962 is when the Jaguar is made in significant numbers. There appears to be a large number of custom color Jaguars made at this time, most with matching headstocks. It is clear Fender wanted to make a guitar that showed off the custom color line and the Jaguar did it in spades. The decal on the Fender Jaguar premiered with 3 patent numbers (DES 186826 PAT 2960900 2972923 & PAT PEND).
This is an early Jaguar neck featuring handwritten date
First version decal
Here is a clean Shoreline Gold Jaguar with green pickguard. It is not uncommon to see tortoise used on this color as well.
April of 1962 was the first month
the necks were stamped with a code designating model, month and year of
production as well as nut width. The Jaguars
part number was number 1. In the course of July 1962, the slab rosewood fretboard was
replaced with a carved type known as a "veneer" board.
First month neckstamp
In 1962, Fender began having the
potentiometers for their guitars consistently
stamped with part numbers during
this time. It is understandable why a factory with a growing amplifier and
guitar line would implement this procedure.
Around this time potentiometers made by CTS appear on occasion.
Initially, they will carry the exact same part number as their Stackpole
Here is a beautiful 1963 Jaguar in Lake Placid Blue. This is the third most common custom color on Jaguars
In the fall the “clay” dots were replaced with pearloid material. The change to pearloid transitioned over several months, and was completed by January 1965. The pickguard material was changed from a nitrate celluloid material to a vinyl material in early 1965, which changed the coloring of tortoise pickguards from blotchy brown and yellow to an almost purplish red color. White pickguards of celluloid aged to a mint green color now were stark white.
Above is an Olympic White custom Color. This is by far the most common custom color found on Jaguars. This color was sprayed on a daily basis.
The handle shadow on this rare guitar shows this guitar left with a factory "double finish"
Fender was acquired by Columbia Broadcasting System January 5, 1965. Fender Jaguar decals changed as well adding one patent number (DES 186,826 PAT. 2,960,900 2,972,923 3,143,028 & PAT. PEND).
Binding is added to the necks by mid-late August 1965. Initially the binding was slightly shorter and thinner. The headstocks on both guitars were enlarged to the ambiguous CBS larger headstock shape by November as well as increased size of the binding. Around the same time Fender began installing “F” branded tuners made in-house with a transition of a few months on Jaguar’s. The frets tend to be wider in this era than ever before in Fender history. Briefly the Jaguar had a 6 patent number decal running in two lines. There only appears to have been one batch of these used and the decal quickly changed to a 5 patent number configuration (PAT. 2,960,900 2,972.923 3,143,028 2,741,146 DES. 186,826 PAT. PEND).
Then we see a Jaguar decal with 6 patent numbers (DES 186,826 PAT 2,960,900 2,972,923, 3,143,028 2,817,261 2,741,146 & PAT PEND),
1962-1972 Rubber stamped codes. In April 1962 we see the changeover from the penciled dates to rubber stamped dates. The code works like this: ABBBCCD
A= The part number for the neck.
D=Nut with code
From 1962-the end of 1965 the code is "1". Then the code changes to "15" in 1966.
1966 and later code
codes do not really denote any real spec changes like the Jazzmaster and
Stratocaster. This, like most other models has a rather steady use through many
changes and transitions. However, it is easy to gather that all non-bound, dot
inlaid Jaguar necks will be a 1 code and all bound with block will be a 15
· 1962-1966 Double Line Kluson
· 1965-1975 Fender made “F” Tuners. Earliest F tuner equipped guitars feature Kluson tuner hole piloted necks with factory filled screw pilot holes. There are also a small number of Jazzmasters with factory equipped Grover tuners. These tuners have a square pearloid button and a hand engraved F on the rear cap of the housing. These necks usually have a veneer on the rear hiding the doweled F tuner pilot holes.
· 1976-end Schaller made “F” Tuners
Occasional use of a special Grover tuner with a larger pearloid button and a hand engraved F on the rear.
The headstock shape was rather consistent on Jaguars. Most think the earliest Jaguars had a CBS head, but this is not true at all. It is an enlarged Pre-CBS Stratocaster head mixed with a Jazzmaster head.
1962- This year has its own shape. The lower cutaway sits closer to the nut than the next year
1963- Headstock is slimmed down a little, only noticeable in one on one comparison
1966- CBS larger head adopted for the rest of the run.
1962-1964 Nail holes usually located at the tailpiece, under jack, above bridge pickup and at neck pocket
Bodies made of alder on most colors (ash on blonde), usually 3 pieces with a diagonal center seam.
1962-1964 Ground wire is added running from the tailpiece route to the master controls grounding shield
1965-1967 Nail holes are done away with. Bodies now
usually are made of 3-4 pieces with occasional bodies veneered to hide
butcher block style heavy laminations.
1962-1967 Dates are usually located in the tailpiece route
1967-1970's Date codes are usually found in the neck pocket, but are not always present. They can appear in various routes, so look around.
The pickups follow Stratocaster pickups in materials, but are different in a couple obvious ways. The magnets protrude from the bottom, and the wire eyelets are in the side rather than on a lip extension. There is a sawblade like frame around each pickup. This was made with the intention to concentrate the magnetic field for a punchy tone, not for shielding as the Urban Legend suggests. Originally the two shorter teeth are meant to go under the two plain strings (wound G strings were the norm in 1962), but they left the factory all over the place.
1962-1963 The winding wire is Formvar potted in wax. The pole pieces of the magnets protrude, but are all an even height.
1963-late 1964 The pole pieces are changed to staggered. Mid 1964 we see yellow date ink stamps.
Late 1964-very early 1965 Light gray bobbins replace black. Dates are often yellow stamps and can even be found on the still black top bobbin. More often than not the dates are written in pencil
1965-1967 Gray fiber ranging from light to medium gray, dated and initialed with a black marker.
1968-1974 Darker gray fiber. Dates are now stamped with a rubber stamp. Because of dwindling demand, as you move in to the 70's, much older dates are found on the pickups. Winding wire is changed to Polysol. Hookup wire is changed from cloth to vinyl.
First Generation Flat pole
1964 Yellow stamp
1967 pickup in detail
1968-1972 Four digit code. ABBC
A-Some sort of factory code, probably a batch number
BB- Week code (same as the week code on Pots)
C-Last digit of the year 8=1968, 9=1969, 0=1970, 1=1971, 2=1972
1972 we see more numbers appear. First one extra digit. ABBCC
A-Same as above, likely a batch number
CC-last two digits of the year, 72 is 1972, 73 is 1973, etc
Then one last digit is added by late 1972 making the total 6 digits AABBCC
CC- last two digits of the year
There are some exceptions to the above system. I have seen some late 70's pickups where it appears the week code and batch code get swapped around.
Jaguars exhibit some features on a common scale not so common in other models. I feel it is important to make note of these specs as when dealing particularly with CBS era guitars, using the dating methods of, say, Stratocasters will not be very helpful and can be more confusing.
Odd wire color combinations-In 1966 and 1967 Black and white wire is often substituted with alternate colors. Most often I have seen all blacks (used for grounds) replaced with green. I have also seen examples of black replaced with orange and blue. You can see the swapping quite often in Mustangs and Strats of the era, but since the Jaguar was in such high production and used so much more wire, the oddballs are much more common and visible.
Out of whack pot codes- In 1966 a huge surplus of potentiometers for all makes and models were ordered in a staggering quantity. Forrest White even lost his job over it. Common pots like solid shaft 250K's used in all sorts of guitars and amps took the better part of 5 years to use up. Since the Jaguar only shared its pots with the Jazzmaster, and both were dropping in demand through the mid-late 60's, the pots lasted right to the end of the production run. Most pots range from the 2nd to 5th month of 1966 production.
The shielding was relatively unchanged through the life of the Jaguar. it had simple flat units held in with Glazier points.
All jaguars used a very simple rectangular piece of aluminum taped to the rear of the pickguards. The exception is the very last examples with black pickguards that have a foil tape instead.
The tremolo tailpieces only went through one significant change. The very first units are notable for their "Pat Pending" stamp below Fender. During the late 1961 -very early 1962 timeframe we see the switch to a patent number 2,972,923. This is a very important number as the number never changed on real Fender guitars. This number is almost always wrong on Asian forgeries made back in the 60's and 70's. I have seen real Fender's end up with the fake plates over the years!
The tremolo arm itself changed little over the years. Earlier units have a heavier chrome plating than 1960's models. Before 1963 they also tend to have a more graceful bend whereas later on during heavy production 2 sharp bends appear. The spring did change along with the introduction of the Patent number. Earlier springs had one more coil wrap and were designed just for the then standard heavy gauge flatwounds on the full 25 1/2" scale. The spring was too stiff for the Jaguar, so to standardize they shortened the spring by one coil. This makes for a slightly different feel and action.
The screws used for mounting the tailpiece are slightly smaller than strap button screws. Modern screws tend to be too large, which is something top look for if you are trying to determine if your guitar was cobbled together. The original screws fit the tailpiece plate perfectly. Up until 1961 the screws usually have a thread that only runs up halfway the screw wire. After that the threads run right up to the head.
By 1962 the factory started using what is now known as the "Fullerplast" sealer in place of the homoclad sealer. This finish is a catalyzed finish much like polyester. The factory could spray two coats and start applying the color coats within a day. The checking of these finishes is a little different compared to the homoclad sealed bodies. we also see less of the medium brick brown color component and more true 3 tone sunbursts. The paint stick method of body suspension appears as well, but nail holes are still used for suspending the bodies during final curing.
In 1964 things start to change. It appears that along with the upgrade of body suspension we see the factory likely started upgrading spray equipment as well. Earlier sunbursts were done with a medium/heavy spray tip which created large droplets of paint in the burst pattern and created lots of overspray that usually ended up in the center of the body. This overspray would darken the yellow center. The newer tips were a medium/fine style and create a finer, more precise sunburst pattern. It also reduced the amount of overspray ending up in the center, which gives the yellow a stronger, more vibrant appearance.
CBS came in 1965 and used its money to further upgrade the paint system. More rolling trees and paint handles were made, so nails were no longer needed. The bodies started out on sticks and stayed on them until they were completed. We also see the start of the CBS influence with the usage of less than visually appealing woods on sunburst bodies (Leo used these for solid colors in years past). The company started by adding a semi-opaque (think blonde) yellow finish over the yellow stained and Fullerplast sealed body. This wash coat helped hide stains in the wood, and bad wood matches. It also further intensified the yellow layer and thus the 'target burst' was born. A little know style of sunburst finish they experimented with between 1966-1967 was what I call a 'faux burst'. The body of the guitar is generally made up of 4-6 pieces of wood, veneered on the face and back, sealed with Fullerplast, primered white, glazed to simulate wood grain, then sunburst finished.
A 'Faux burst' 1966 Jaguar
Here is what is hiding under a 'faux burst'
We also see a change in lacquer formulation in 1965. I am not so sure it was a cheaper lacquer, but it does appear to be perhaps an early variation of what is today called 'musical instrument grade' lacquer. It contains more plasticizers to prevent premature checking. This lacquer gains a very orange/amber look when exposed to lots of UV's. It even feels a bit sticky even today. This lacquer is what has distorted many of the custom colors we find today. It makes LPB look like a dark green, Ocean Turquoise looks more like Charcoal Frost/Caddy Green, etc. Most necks that were played much with this finish are usually worn right down to the wood.
In 1967 we see Fender began using polyurethane finishes. Insiders say that nitrocellulose and acrylic lacquer was still used for the color coats. Polyurethane is a great finish which is thin, yet durable. The myth of "poly means thick, unmusical finish" is based on the polyester finishes the company started using in the mid-1970's. It is quite common to find a nitrocellulose finished headstock face during this time as the Type C decals didn't like to work with the polyurethane. You will also occasionally find a all nitrocellulose finished neck, more commonly on low end guitars and basses like the Musicmaster family. An interesting item I personally discovered when stripping and refinishing late 60's-70's necks is that the finish does not permeate the wood like lacquer. When this finish is stripped the wood below is dry and virgin. Lacquer finished necks soak up a bit of finish before the finish builds up. This is likely why maple fretboard models tend to have peeling finish. The finish sits on the wood rather than bonding with the wood.
Factory refinishing was an option at Fender through the 1960's. Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars were top of the line instruments at the time, so this option was used frequently when the owner started to wear their guitar out, or wanted to change the color and upgrade to a Custom Color. These guitars are very hard to spot as being refins as the factory applied them and after 35-40 years of age, they look 100% authentic. There are markings that will tip you off if it is a factory refinish. The bodies and/or neck will have a number code burned into the wood and often the color will be initialed or written out as well. Pre-1966 refins have the numbers and color crudely etched in with a soldering iron done freehand. Often in this era the numbers match an invoice at the factory or full serial number. In 1966 we see a metal stamp used to number code the bodies and the refin color name. The numbers in this era often match the last 3-4 digits of the serial number of the guitar. There are exceptions and it appears that the serial number code and work order invoice code were used intermittently. Other clues as to when the refin was performed can be found in the pickups and/or pots. The factory usually changed one or both of these items, but not in every case. There is evidence that on occasion Fender would change the body or the neck when they did a refin. This was likely done when a neck had worn frets, or a body had large dents and dings that didn't easily sand out. Often the replacement part will not have the branding, but I haven't seen enough to come up with a definitive conclusion as to how they marked them as a standard. UPDATE- I have now seen a 100% legit 1954 Stratocaster factory refinished in 1959. So the factory was doing them at least that far back. The body was branded with the serial number, like the Jazzmaster example below, so I am now inclined to believe the serial number system was the first used followed by invoice later on.
Pre-CBS etched code
There are a couple of stamps I should mention real quick. On some mid-60's guitars the necks and sometimes bodies are stamped "SPECIAL", "DEMO", or "NAMM". Special stamps are by far the most common of all and are likely promotional instruments given away by Fender. Demo stamped guitars were likely salesman samples they took on the road to show dealers. NAMM stamped guitars were for exhibition at the NAMM shows. All of these guitars appear to be standard instruments with no special attention or specs. These stamps tend to appear on 1966-1967 Coronado and Electric 12 instruments (first years of production, so the promotion for those was heavy), but I have seen them on all models at least once.
Cases for these guitars run along the same rules as other Fender guitars made the same years. I will do a general run down of the styles. Before that I would like to mention that it is very common to have an inappropriate case that has been with your guitar maybe its entire life. The reason this is possible is mainly because of music stores. These guitars were very popular in the 1960's and music stores had them coming and going. If a guitar sat for any length of time, when it finally sold they would just go out back and grab a case that fit, not caring if the color changed (in fact they may even make the deal sound better telling the customer they are getting one of the hot off the line new case colors). When sold used, a store would often have several of these guitars hanging when nobody cared for them. The employee would go out back and again grab whatever fit. This is how tweeds end up with later guitars and 59's end up with black cases. There was also a cheap gig bag made out of tolex offered. Many people likely upgraded to a real case after a while making the case color wrong for the era of the guitar.
The basic rundown of specs goes like this
1961-1963 Brown tolex. This era has lots of changes that overlap each other. Chrome Cheney latches (what we see today on reissues) begin, interior changes to orange, center latch moves out from under the handle.
1963-mid 64 White Tolex, orange interior Black ends. It appears that some dark green ends appear on some cases.
1964-5 Black Tolex, orange interior
Late 1965-1967 Black Tolex, orange interior, Fender logo added. These have the logo sitting farther away from the edge than any other year or reissue. No tail on the logo
1967-1971- Black Tolex, Fender logo gains a tail. Orange lined
1972-to the end The logo loses the tail again. The interior varies quite a bit too. Some range from bright orange short piled to old style golden orange with medium pile. I have seen at least 3 different linings used in the different cases, so expect any variation here.
Now for the weird stuff. Around late 1964 we see some items come out to enhance your Jaguar. In the long run they were just gimmicks, but they are interesting as once in a while we see a vintage Jaguar still retaining these items.
The first was the Fender "Body-Guard" made by Parker. This was a plastic shell molded with a Tolex style grain. It covered the rear and edges of the guitar. The strap buttons would hold it on. They came in clear, red, white, and black. The idea was great, especially for Jaguars where you wouldn't have to get to the back of the guitar for string changes. The biggest problem was the rubber gasket (usually long gone by now) was made from the same stuff we see Jaguar mutes and the pickups shimmed with. This stuff breaks down to an oily mess that eats paint. Most Jaguars that had these on them have major finish damage to the edges of the guitar from this rubber breaking down. Typically I see mid 60's factory refins with these. One guy I know who had a refin done told me the Body-Guard came on the guitar when he got it back. The only real changes I see in these is the grain goes from a Tolex style (most common) to a frosted style at the end. Parker looks to have continued to make these after their deal with Fender was done. I have seen non-Fender branded versions with just the Parker name and a squiggly logo.
The Go-Round belt was a guitar strap that was worn like a belt. You used to eyelets installed to the rear of the guitar to attach the belt. I have only seen one Jazzmaster modified for this rig, but the belt was long gone.
The "Pick-Guard" is perhaps the least known about items as it was never advertised. This was a removable vinyl sticker that you applied to the treble side of your pickguard that helped minimize scratches. These 60's versions were a white/cream backing with a large "Fender" logo screened in a maroon color (likely to kind of match the typical tortoise guards). I believe this was a CBS attempt to get the logo more visible for television, like Mosrite did on their pickguards. I do not believe these are pre-CBS. Only one music store retailer I spoke to remembers them. He remembered them being more of a promotional item and only received one box of various styles. The only one I have seen in an old picture is on the Jaguar Muddy Waters is holding wearing a Santa hat.