A hot-rod with strings instead of wheels

Cars and guitars have worked well together since the early days of rock’n roll. Musicians like Eric Clapton, Jamiroquai, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason are avid car collectors. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson also owned an impressive fleet of limousines and sports cars.

Come 2020 and Fender pays tribute to the sports car market with a guitar inspired by the Saleen S1. The limited-edition six-string is based on the iconic Stratocaster, but it’s a more modern rendition made with different materials and different design. A Stratocaster for the modern guitarist.

A Carbon-fiber guitar painted by Saleen

This Saleen-inspired Fender Stratocaster is a carbon-fiber work of art
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The Stratocaster 1 may be based on the classic Stratocaster, a guitar that Fender introduced in 1954, but it's actually a notable departure from the iconic shape.

The double-cut design of the body is still there, but it features bigger bevels around the sides and two big scallops on each side of the bridge. This is clearly inspired by the Saleen S1 sports car and a bit surprising coming from Fender, a guitar builder that usually sticks to its classic designs.

But the really big change here is that the body is made from carbon-fiber instead of wood.

Stratocasters are usually made from alder, though other type of woods are used on certain models, but Fender went with carbon-fiber to match the body construction of the Saleen. There is a maple top though, but it’s not visible due to the solid paint. Speaking of which, the paint is the same Candy Apple Red that Saleen offers on its cars and it’s been applied by the guys at Saleen. They even used the same five-step process like on their cars.

This Saleen-inspired Fender Stratocaster is a carbon-fiber work of art
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The guitar's neck is made of maple, an usual feature at Fender, but the wood fretboard, usually from maple, rosewood or pau ferro, was replaced with carbon-fiber.

And it looks insanely cool. Fender also added a carbon-fiber headcap on the headstock, as well as a bright red logo for a striking contrast. The tuners are black. There’s more carbon-fiber on the body, stretching from the bridge to the neck, while the pickup configuration is simpler than usual with a humbucker in the bridge position. The pickup itself is mounted under a piece of tinted glass to mimic the car’s engine behind the rear window.

Finally, the buttons you usually find on the guitar body were put into a pedalboard that simulates the car’s three-pedal configuration. I’m not sure if this is actually practical, but it’s definitely a cool idea.

An idea born at the bar

This Saleen-inspired Fender Stratocaster is a carbon-fiber work of art
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Ask any band about how they came to be and most answers will revolve about an idea someone had at the bar. This is how the Fender Stratocaster 1 came to life as well.

You see, the Fender and Saleen headquarters are located next to each other in Corona, California. Word has it Ron Thorn, Fender’s main master builder (and a car nut) ran into a Saleen employee at a bar. When he asked what Saleen was working on, the employee replied "about 1,000 horsepower." These three words prompted Thorn to build a hot-rod guitar.

This Saleen-inspired Fender Stratocaster is a carbon-fiber work of art
- image 887248

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first Fender guitar based on a sports car. In 1999, Fender built a chrome edition of the Stratocaster for the 35th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. It features a full chrome finish and Mustang badges on the fretboard.

Fender also built a Carroll Shelby themed Strat, this time around with photos of Carroll and some of his iconic cars printed on the body.

They’re all rare and expensive collectibles now.

The Saleen S1 is due in 2020

2019 Saleen S1 Exterior
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0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds

The S1 is Saleen’s first original design since the S7 supercar, discontinued in 2009. But unlike its predecessor, the S1 is a less aggressive sports car that features a smaller engine and an overall lighter design. Developed after Saleen established a partnership with a Chinese company from Jiangsu, the S1 features a mid-ship layout and a turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out 450 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

The sports car is expected to hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and charge to a top speed of 180 mph. The interior is of the premium variety, featuring leather, suede, and Alcantara, but it’s also fitted with modern technology and features like Apple CarPlay and a six-speaker audio system. Saleen will also launch a GT4-spec race car in the future. The road car will be limited to 1,500 units and priced from around $100,000.

Saleen S1 specifications
Engine 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 450 HP
Torque 350 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 3.5 seconds
Top Speed 180 mph
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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