Fender / Champion Lapsteel / 1954 / Yellow Pearloid / Guitar
Fender Champion Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1953), made in Fullerton, California, serial # 6786, yellow pearloid finish, hardwood body, original tweed hard shell case. This is a really superb example of Fender’s “bread and butter” lap steel guitar from the first half of the 1950s, one of the still-growing company’s most important cash-generating products. Although designed as a student instrument, the Champion Steel was — and remains — a great-sounding guitar fully suited to professional use then or now. This one has the serial number 6786 stamped on the bridgeplate where the strings anchor through the body. The original pots and wiring are completely untouched. The Champion model was revamped for 1956 with a less iconic pickup and different overall design, and these earlier versions have since been widely considered superior both sonically and aesthetically. The flashy plastic-covered symmetrical two-bout body has a chrome bridge and cover plate with dome-top knurled knobs. A metal fingerboard pinned to the body has black paint screening to outline fret positions. The headstock has metal facing with integral nut stamped with lighting bolt logo and “Fender Electric Instrument Co. Fullerton, California”. Over the years many of these 1949-55 Champs have sacrificed their pickups to provide the engine for vintage Telecaster recreations — this one has fortunately avoided that fate and remains pretty much as it left Fullerton. It remains a truly fine-sounding steel guitar with a bright, singing tone and a genuine early 1950s Fender instrument at a relatively reasonable price ! This is an especially nice original Champion, showing some very minor wear overall but no notable issues. The metal handrest, fingerboard and headstock show some light wear, while the plastic body covering shows a few minor nicks and dings. Most of the flocking is gone from underneath the body, as is nearly always the case. The buttons on the original Kluson strip tuners have disintegrated, the originals have nearly always crumbled by now so this is almost unavoidable if the instrument is to be played. The original Telecaster-style pickup and electronic components remain complete and unaltered, all solder joints are untouched original. This steel sounds excellent, with that singing Fender treble tone but a wide range of expression available via the very effective tone control. Sadly the trend of stripping the pickups and wiring components out of these original Champions for Telecaster reproductions has accelerated in the last few years leaving fewer and fewer unmolested original examples like this. Other than its original dome knobs being replaced, it remains pretty much as it left Fullerton in 1953, including the excellent original tweed-covered hard shell case which is a rarity in itself as many period buyers went with chipboard or a canvas bag instead, to save a bit of cash.