NGD: Vintage Fender Champion Lap Steel

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by blackbelt308, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. blackbelt308

    blackbelt308 Tele-Holic

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    Hi all!

    Would love to get some expert comments on the Champion Lap Steel I picked up this past week. It is in remarkable condition, and appears to be all original with the exception of a modern capacitor and replacement tuner buttons.

    I'm guessing late '49, early '50 but there are no date markings anywhere, and no serial number on the bridge plate.

    Some features:

    - all slotted screws ('51 or earlier?)
    - pot codes are both "304930" (Stackpole, 30th week of 1949)
    - NO serial number on the bridge (WTF??)
    - original Kluson single line tuners, "pat appld", correct for late 40's Fender
    - tuner buttons are near perfect; pretty sure they are replacements
    - no masking tape label in the control rout
    - milled jack cup, correct "Broadcaster" control knobs
    - yellow MOTS, blue felt on rear; both in great condition
    - pickup appears to be original; I have not desoldered the leads to measure resistance; it works fine, however.
    - the body wood appears to be pine; is this typical for an early Champion??
    - same case as yours, with blue plush interior

    The guitar has great sound through my '64 Princeton!

    Thanks,
    Rick

    Here are a bunch of pics:

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  2. Weaselcoon

    Weaselcoon Tele-Meister

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    I want one of those so bad!
     
  3. MrEcho

    MrEcho TDPRI Member

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    Impressive find! The lack of a serial number is a mystery. I have never heard of a Champion that did not have a serial number. In the Fender video about his signature Telecaster G.E. Smith talks about and plays his "1948" Champion and mentions its serial number ("22"!). So even the very early Champions do have a serial number. But apparently some left the Fullerton factory without getting stamped with one. Maybe your Champion started out as a demonstration model made for trade fairs or sales personnel? Some say the rare blue Champions were made for presentation purposes, but the blue Champions I have seen did have serial numbers! Confusing.

    Unfortunately there is no real documentation of Champion serial numbers (or the lack thereof). So even if the instrument does have a serial number it's no surefire way of dating it. I have found documentation that says the early models have serial numbers starting in the single digits (1, 2, ...), but that Fender started over with a multiple digits system before reaching the 1000s (0001, 0002, ...).

    I am not sure at what point Fender started to put the dated masking tape inside of the Champions.

    In addition to the pots dated 1949 the slightly fatter fretboard markers make your guitar a very early Champion. The case also has all the markings of an early model (no leather ends and plastic/bakelite handle instead of leather handle). I have a Champion with the serial number in the 1000s, which also came with the original hard case (also no leather ends). My case differs in two details, though. It has a slightly different lock (hinge and release button arranged differently: hinge on the left, release button on the right). Furthermore the handle on my case does not have the circular decorative profile on the grip.

    Another interesting detail: Some early Champions have a slightly different body shape. It's more contoured, like a Spanish guitar, while most Champions have a more streamlined body. Your instrument has the streamlined body. There was a Champion on eBay recently which had serial number "152", the contoured body and the fatter fretboard markers. G.E. Smith's Champion has the streamlined body and what looks like the thinner fretboard markers, so I assume his "22" serial number probably reads "0022" and is from the second batch. But who knows?

    Champions – gotta love them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2011
  4. MrEcho

    MrEcho TDPRI Member

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    Yeah, they are fantastic instruments. Great for country when played clean and fantastic for rock and blues when played through a cranked tube amp. Also works great with the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver pedal for added grit. The tone of the Champion locks nicely into the sounds of the BD-2.

    Ron Wood has one of the yellow pearloid Champions and sometimes plays it onstage with the Rolling Stones. Here he is presenting his touring guitars (including the Champion): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXvKtt2zwZc
     
  5. TucsonTele

    TucsonTele Tele-Meister

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    What a beautiful lapsteel.

    I noticed from the shadows on the pickup that the strings are very close to the pickup. I have a 1938 Gibson lapsteel that has the strings that close to the pickup also and I find it very difficult to play without the strings touching the blade.

    How about this one?
     
  6. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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    here is one from 49/50 I think.. non orig pots pine body different style body and fingerboard from later ones -- and no no. on bridge..[​IMG]
     
  7. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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    how do I insert an image ?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
  8. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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    champion pix

    pics for above posts
     
  9. Texsunburst59

    Texsunburst59 Tele-Afflicted

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    That's SO awesome. I'd love to find one of those at a great price. One of those lap steels in on my short list.;)
     
  10. José

    José Tele-Afflicted

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    Nice, that pickup will be a killer in a telecaster.
     
  11. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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    and mine is made of pine
     
  12. wallis222

    wallis222 Tele-Afflicted

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    Me too
     
  13. Fenderized

    Fenderized TDPRI Member

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    Do you know the output of that pickup. Mine is 11.64k!
     
  14. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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    when I got mine the pickup coil was open had it rewound to 8 k if i remember correctly...
     
  15. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

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    Sorry to say this, but I really hope you never find one of these. It breaks my heart when these lovely old instruments gets cannibalised. When prices were lower a few years ago, this happened to so many Fender and Gibson lap steels.

    I say leave it as it is and learn to play it - much more satisfying than sticking the electronics into some partscaster.
     
  16. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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  17. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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  18. hopper

    hopper Tele-Meister

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    I agree. Sometimes these get sold as 'all original' to unsuspecting buyers with the pickup replaced. I saw one at a show a few years ago. The seller was willing to take a loss rather than pass on the rip-off to someone else. I got the story from the buddy who was watching his booth. The owner showed up while I was looking at the Champion and a nice little Magnatone he also had. He didn't want to talk about it, just frowned at it. The pots and cap might have been swapped out too, I didn't ask. :(

    I might buy one that had been gutted though, if the cover/control plate etc. were still there, and priced accordingly. A Duncan Broadcaster or something similar could make for a decent transplant.
     
  19. blue56

    blue56 TDPRI Member

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  20. Mojolarry

    Mojolarry TDPRI Member

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    Hi! I have a question - I'm restoring my early 50's Champion lap steel, I have all the original parts except the string ferrules on the back. The holes are 7/32 - a standard "vintage" Tele ferrule is to large, and I don't want to drill them out! I cant seem to find the smaller ferrules anywhere - does anyone make them? Help! Thank you! "Mojo" Larry
     
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