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Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar – My first Fender Jaguar

Very nice period correct reissue.

Fender’s American Vintage series brings back a new lineup of original-era models that honors Fender history. With key features and pivotal design elements spanning the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, new American Vintage series instruments delve deep into Fender’s roots—expertly preserving an innovative U.S. guitar-making legacy and vividly demonstrating like never before that Fender not only knows where it’s going, but also remembers where it came from.

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The American Vintage Series has long presented some of Fender’s best selling guitars (their early-’80s introduction, in fact, was one of the first signs that Fender was “back” as the CBS era ended). Today, Fender has boldly cleared the slate to make way for a fresh American Vintage series with new features, new specs and the most meticulous level of vintage accuracy yet. Rather than just replacing the previous models with different ones, we’ve completely and comprehensively re-imagined the entire vintage-reissue concept—restoring original tooling dies, voicing new pickups, reformulating vintage colors and more—based on actual vintage guitars we tracked down to make sure we had it right. We did the work, and it shows, because there’s pure tonal magic in each new American Vintage instrument.

The American Vintage ’65 Jaguar marks a key chapter in Jaguar history. That is, after surf and before punk, when the sole ’60s member of Fender’s big four guitars staked its own gradually growing claim in the hearts and hands of a select group of alternative-minded guitarists who appreciated its distinctive design and offbeat status. The classic Jaguar shorter 24-inch scale, dual-circuit layout and sleekly chromed-out design are here, along with a bound round-laminated fingerboard and larger pearl dot inlays—elegant touches the Jaguar acquired in 1965, merely three years after its introduction. Available in Three-color Sunburst and limited Candy Apple Red finishes.

According to Fender, the Jaguar’s 24-inch scale length was created to appeal to the rapid-fire style of Surf-Rock guitarists as well as players with smaller hands. The Jaguar became a very popular guitar in Surf bands and later Indie players picked them up at bargain prices.

Fender Jaguar History

The Jaguar was launched in 1962 four years after the Jazzmaster as another top-of-the-line Fender guitar. Both the Jazzmaster and the the Jaguar share a similar modern offset body shape, the same floating tremolo system and integrated a unique dual rhythm/lead circuit design.

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The Jaguar differs mostly in its shorter 24-inch scale length. The Jazzmaster uses Fender’s standard 25.5-inch scale. Also the pickups and switching is different on the Jaguar as it has stronger single-coil pickups, which were encased in notched covers to shield the electronics from external radio noise (a typical annoyance with the Jazzmaster’s soapbars). The Jaguar lead circuit includes three switches: on-off for the front pickup, on-off for the back pickup, and a bass-cut switch that adds an extra capacitor to the signal giving this setting a thinner sound.

Al Jardine playing a Jaguar

Al Jardine playing a Jaguar

Jimi tried a Jaguar!

Jimi tried a Jaguar!

Stratocasters and Jaguars both tend to be bright sounding guitars that can easily cut through a mix. The Jaguar may be more comfortable to play due to its offset body design, especially sitting down. The Jaguar with its shorter scale will tend to feel a bit less string tension and can easily use higher gauge strings for comfortable playing. Of course this is all based on player preference.

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr

The Fender American Vintage Reissue (AVRI) ’65 Jaguar is a beautifully built to period specs including a removable mute bar. It is a nice showing of Fender’s build quality today.

The string mute is an interesting piece of guitar history. It was meant to allow the player to “mute” the strings which was hard to do when the bridge cover was installed. This feature however was rarely used. Most players removed or ignored the string mute bar and removed the bridge cover. Preferring to palm mute instead. Many vintage Jaguars are missing the mute bar and the bridge cover (like the ashtray cover on most Telecasters) as they were lost after being removed.

I investigated the Johnny Marr Signature Jaguar which is a killer guitar that has many of the mods players tend to make on Fender Jaguars. I liked the more vintage look and feel for the AVRI ’65. I especially like the bound neck like my AVRI ’65 Jazzmaster. I found this one in mint condition at a nice price so that also sealed the deal. The guitar arrived with the plastic still on the pickguard. The tremolo arm and case candy still sealed in plastic. Guitar was virtually unplayed.

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This one weights in at 8-lbs 5-ozs.

Specs:

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Body Finish: New Fender Flash Coat Lacquer
  • Neck: Maple, Mid ’60s “C” Shape
  • Neck Finish: New Fender Flash Coat Lacquer
  • 7.25″ (18.41 cm)
  • Frets: 22, Vintage Style Frets
  • Scale Length: 24″ (61 cm)
  • Nut Width: 1.650 (42 mm)
  • String Nut: Bone
  • Truss Rod: Vintage-Style Heel Adjust
  • Pickups: American Vintage ’65 Jaguar (Bridge) and American Vintage ’65 Jaguar (Neck)
  • Pickup Switching: 2-On/Off slide switches, one for each pickup
  • Aux Switching: 2-Position Tone Switch
  • Controls: Lead Circuit: Volume, Tone; “Rhythm” Circuit: Volume, Tone
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Tuning Keys: Single Line “Fender Deluxe” Vintage Style
  • Bridge: Vintage Style Floating Tremolo with Tremolo Lock Button
  • Control Knobs: Jazz Bass style Knobs
  • Pickguard: 3-Ply White with Vintage Bevel on (809) Candy Apple Red
  • Strings: Fender USA 250R NPS, (.010-.046 Gauges)
  • Included Accessories: Vintage ’65 Jag Strap, Cable, and Cloth; Flatwound String Set, ’60s
    Jag Information Kit, Bridge Cover, Vintage and Modern Owner’s
    Manuals, Saddle Height Wrench
  • Case: Fender Deluxe Vintage Black Hard Shell Case

I have done two popular upgrades for Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars. I have ordered a Mastery Bridge and a Staytrem tremolo upgrade. These resolve two issues that are as old as the Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.

A properly setup Jazzmaster or Jaguar can be just fine with the stock tremolo and bridge. So these are not absolutely needed upgrades. They are not inexpensive, but many as well as myself, feel is well worth the cost. They make a great guitar even better, more playable. In regard to the bridge, can add better sustain and tone.

Mastery Bridge

The stock bridge on Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars use threaded saddles. They tend to rattle. The grooves also allow for inaccurate string spacing. Sometimes when played hard the strings can actually pop out of the groove in the saddle as they are not that deep. One solution is to file in a better groove for the string on the threaded saddles. Many players swap out the stock bridge and replace it with a Fender Mustang bridge as it is better designed.

There are a few other bridge replacements available like the Staytrem bridge which is like the Mustang bridge in design.

Fender Mustang bridge

Fender Mustang bridge

Some players like the Buzz Stop used on Jazzmasters or Jaguars. This is said to increase sustain and keep the strings from popping out of the saddles. It is a metal part the screws onto the stock tremolo plate that shortens the path and increases the angle of the strings. It also tends to add string tension, which I personally don’t care for.

The Buzz Stop

The Buzz Stop

The Mastery bridge is well regarded and used by many players like Nels Cline & Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Elvis Costello, Troy Van Leeuwen, Bill Frisell, Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. It eliminates buzzing and rattles with the stock threaded saddles. The deep grooved design make sure the strings won’t pop out — no matter how hard you play. The Mastery bridge saddles are made of solid brass that is plated with a unique, self-lubricating hard chrome only found on the Mastery bridge.

The Mastery Bridge

The Mastery Bridge

The Mastery bridge requires no modification to the guitar. Can always go back to the stock bridge it desired. According to the maker, the Mastery bridge changes the downward tensions and this can add sustain Instead of around 18 lbs of string tension bearing down on an individual saddle as found on most bridges, our bridge applies over 50 lbs of downward string tension on each saddle. This added tension per saddle forced downward transfers more string-to-body energy, which you’ll hear in your guitar acoustically as well as amplified.

I ordered two Mastery Bridge for Offset guitars to retrofit onto my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar and my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster. Both of these offset guitars share the same bridge. Except my Fender Jaguar also had a Fender Mute installed under the bridge (more of this later). You can only order these direct from Mastery Bridge website. It took about 2 weeks for them to arrive.

First thing you notice is how much better it appears as compared to the stock Fender bridge. Bit heavier and substantial. The install is pretty easy as it comes with detailed instructions and there is a video on the Mastery Bridge website showing the installation on a Fender Jazzmaster.

As mentioned my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar came with a Fender Mute assembly which is a device to mute the strings installed directly under the bridge. Fender designed these string mutes as it is hard to palm mute these guitars when the bridge cover is installed. Most players remove and discard the cover (like they always did on Telecaster Ashtray covers). The Fender string mute was rarely used by most players who would rather palm mute the strings for more control. Many times you will find the Fender Mute removed (only has two screws). It is rare to even find a vintage Jaguar with the mute still installed.

I decided I wanted to keep the Fender Mute installed on my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar. I rarely use it, but like the look. What I discovered when I removed the stock bridge was that the “posts” that feel into the body thimbles were narrower that the Mastery Bridge. This is likely one reason the stock bridge can rattle at times. The issue I encountered was the posts on the Mastery Bridge did not fit thru the holes of the Fender Mute. I had to remove the mute and drill out and file larger the holes in the Fender mute for it the Mastery Bridge to install over the top of the mute.

Removed stock bridge and Fender Mute

Removed stock bridge and Fender Mute

Enlarged the oval holes on Fender Mute to fit Mastery Bridge that has slightly larger posts

Enlarged the oval holes on Fender Mute to fit Mastery Bridge that has slightly larger posts

Was not that big of a job. Since the Mastery Bridge (as well as the stock bridge) covers the holes anyway it is not much of a problem. Once I made the oval holes large enough to still function as a mute I was able to fit the Mastery Bridge without an issue.

Installed Mastery Bridge over the Fender Mute

Installed Mastery Bridge over the Fender Mute

Mastery Bridge installed with Fender Mute

Mastery Bridge installed with Fender Mute

The Mastery Bridge replacement is a nice improvement over the Fender stock bridge that could always be put back on. The Mastery Bridge is more solid design that does not rattle. The strings will not pop out. I do think it improves the sound and sustain of the guitar as well.

Staytrem Tremolo Upgrade

The Staytrem tremolo upgrade replaces the stock tremolo arm and collet. The stock collet/bushing tends to allow the tremolo arm to come loose, rattle and even fall on the floor when playing. It rarely stays put and spins freely. Not great if you like the tremolo arm to stay put in the position you leave it in. The reason is that the Fender stock collet/bushing uses slotted “teeth” and some pressure. These are not screw in tremolo arms like a Stratocaster tremolo on most Jazzmasters and Jaguars.

You can try and tighten the “teeth” by unscrewing the tremolo plate and using a pliers to bend them tight a bit, but they tend to loosen again and you need to be care not to break the collet/bushing.

Original stock Fender tremolo arm collet

Original stock Fender tremolo arm collet

The Staytrem uses a an internal nylon sleeve to hold the tremolo arm. No metal to metal contact with the tremolo arm allowing a very smooth rotation that stays where you put it. It is manufactured to last for years. The metal is stainless steel. Best part is it looks like the original tremolo are and collet and no modification to the guitar is required. You can easily put back the original parts at any time if you like.

Staytrem replacement tremolo arm and collet

Staytrem replacement tremolo arm and collet

One thing to note is when you slide in the new tremolo arm that comes with the Staytrem it takes a good push to get it on. If you do not push it down enough the tremolo arm will be too high and not stay put sometimes. Just give it a good push down and it is all set. It is a very nice improvement over the stock Fender parts. The tremolo will have less play and the arm will stay where you put it.

Apparently, Johnny Marr is a fan of this upgrade. This is the same tremolo arm and collet used on his Fender Signature Model Jaguar.

These upgrades are nice improvements on an already cool guitar.

Fender American Vintage '65 Jazzmaster and Jaguar Guitars

Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster and Jaguar Guitars