After hearing the announcement from Fender/Squier during Summer 2014, I was eager to save up $300 and purchase their new offering, the Squier Vintage Modified 72 (VM72) Thinline Telecaster. I’d lusted after the Fender MIJ 72 Thinline Tele (and later MIM) years ago, but as merely a semi-pro/amateur player, I could never justify spending $800 on an instrument that might never leave my home. With solid recent reviews published about both Squier’s Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified series’, I hoped against hope that the build quality of these new instruments would prove it to be a steal, and it sure has been! The reasons I wanted this exact model are several; hardtail bridge for sustain, ash body prefered over basswood, semi-hollow for resonance, glossy vintage maple neck and fretboard, ‘Genuine’ Fender Wide Range Humbucker (WRHB) pickups and flexibility in body routing in case the re-worked pickups were god awful and needed replacing, and two of my favorite finishes, natural and 3-tone sunburst (sorry guys, no black). I know that buying an entry-level+ guitar in the $200-$400 means that modifications may be needed, and sometimes necessary. I was prepared for that and have done moderate repair and upkeep on all of my instruments for years, and figured that if anything was needed to bring the instrument up to my standards, I could afford to invest the time, money and effort into small-ish fixes over the coming months and years. To my great surprise, the instrument was in wonderful form straight out of the box. It needed a setup, as nearly all instruments do, but soon after I had it intonated and set up to my preferred specs, it had all I needed from such an affordable instrument; good tuners that hold, resonant wood with an attractive grain, solid build, and a very workable tone. As time wore on, I continued to play it, learn about it reading this and other forums, and think about how the instrument might be improved. The following are my collected thoughts on this guitar. I called Musicians Friend to order because I heard but if you order through them over the phone, they will offer you 12% off their list price. It was true! Down to $260. Within a few days, I had a new VM72 in Natural finish. The bridge sandals are, in fact, the wrong size. The stock instrument comes with spacing of 2 1/8" saddles when the instrument should be retrofitted with 2 1/16" saddles. They and the other parts I will list below can easily and affordably be purchased through www.guitarpartsresource.com, who I find to be simple to use and affordable. As is standard recommended practice nearly everywhere, I decided to gut the electronics and replace the pots (CTS 500k), caps (Orange Drop .022), switch (CRL) and jack (Switchcraft) with premium parts, hoping to brighten what I had found, in comparison to nicer instruments, to be a bit of muddiness. By the time I had the energy, thought and resources to go about plotting and making these changes, I had enough money saved in my NGD fund to buy another of these beauts before Squier inevitably jacks up the price. So, I purchased a second VM72, this one in sunburst, specifically for heavy modding and customization (more on that later). So while I had these 2 identical guitars, I figured I would set up the second, make the planned electronics upgrades to the original, and see what I could glean from the differences between the two. The other thing I was now freed up to experiment with was the wax potting in the WRHB pickups. We all know that wax potting didn't become the norm until after the electric guitar's 'golden age'. It is also well known that cheap pickups, especially, are not only treated with this feedback preventing/sound-dulling treatment, but often paired with substandard or at times ‘just-plain-wrong’ electronic components at the factory to either save money or make more lucrative instruments appear better. (The most common mismatches are incorrect potentiometers.) So, while the setups on these two VM72s are not identical but only approximate, here is what I can say about what I've learned with a fair amount of certainty. The cheapest and easiest mod for better playability is to replace the bridge saddles. It’ll only set you back $18 for the correct sizing. I went with the IMPORT KIT available on this page http://www.guitarpartsresource.com/saddles_genuinefenderstrat.htm After having read different, it turns out that both of my VM72s were fitted with correct 500k pots. They were cheap small ones and I replaced them with CTSs anyhow, but let it be known that mine, as least, did not come with the incorrect 250k pots. While I have not cranked up the newly un-potted WRHB pickups (I live in an apartment), I can say with some authority that removing the wax from inside the pickup covers brightened up the sound a little. It becomes most apparent when I really dig in. (FYI, to remove the wax was fairly simple. First remove the pickup from the pickguard, then unsolder the two points that attach the cover to the pickup, then unscrewing the four screws near the four soldered lead points on the pickup’s base. After that, the two coils are wrapped with a strip of black foam rubber and coated in paraffin wax. If you remove the strip of foam rubber that binds the two coils, they will come apart, and the bar magnet situated underneath the coils and between them and the baseplate will come loose, as well. Once everything is uncovered, though, you can easily heat, melt, and wipe away the wax with some gloves (for protection from the heat), a hairdryer, and some paper towels. Always be careful when doing this work yourself or hire a professional.) The total of all I did was $60, which finally brings the guitar’s cost up to the $300 listed on most websites. Overall, I’d say this joins a very small segment of current production models that constitute Best Bang for the Buck. As a base instrument, this thing has value far beyond its price tag. Which brings me to the changes I have planned for the second VM72 that I bought. Over the last couple of years, I’ve acquired some oddball pickups that have been looking for a project. I was so impressed with the quality and versatility of the VM72 that I figured that it would make a great instrument with which to experiment. Here’s the rundown of what I’m thinking: I have two sets of pickups that need a home. The first is an unmatched set of gold foils from a pair of Teisco guitars similar to those seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhiyPTJqIvQ?t=1m51s, and heard here: . The other set I have are a matched pair of Gibson Memphis Historic Spec (MHS) humbuckers from a brand new Gibson ES-345 Limited Edition, a set of these pickups can be heard in a similar guitar here: . Another thing I’ve wanted to experiment with is open G tuning, heavier strings (I typically play .009s, but would use .010s), and adding a jazzmaster-style tremolo/vibrato/bridge system (Fender, Staytrem or Mastery, undecided). Troubles with mounting the goldfoils in routs (they are surface-mount) means that I’ve decided to mount one of them in between the two MHS humbuckers and cut a custom pickguard. I also wondered about the switching and pots/caps situation between these two very different sets of pickups, but as it turns out, they both use 500k/.022!!! The reasoning behind all of these mods of a guitar that is perfectly fine the way it is, is all in the name of versatility. Between the two instruments I’ll have two different finishes, a hardtail and a trem (in the style of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine), three varied pickup styles (two of which, being vintage-style humbuckers, fall somewhere between single coils and true humbuckers, the other of which is true vintage and in the style of Ry Cooder), and two different (and both useable) tunings. While I understand the irony of ‘tricking out’ a budget instrument, putting double an instrument’s value into its own mods, I feel like these could turn out to be a couple of seriously cool instruments when they’re all finished. What do you think?