Fender Champion Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1955)

Fender  Champion Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1955)
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Item # 9888
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Fender Champion Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1955), made in Fullerton, California, serial # 7079, yellow pearloid finish, hardwood body, original brown alligator chipboard case.

This 1955 Champion is a late example of Fender's "bread and butter" lap steel guitar from the first half of the 1950s. Although designed as a student instrument, the Champion Steel was -- and remains -- a great-sounding guitar fully suited to professional use then or now. The flashy plastic-covered symmetrical two-bout body has a chrome bridge and cover plate with dome-top knurled knobs. The serial number 7079 is stamped on the bridgeplate where the strings anchor through the body. The pots and wiring are original; the date codes on the pots are soldered over and there is no masking tape signature inside but the serial range puts this one around later 1955. Not long after this the model was revamped for 1956 with a less iconic pickup and overall design.

The metal fingerboard plate 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". The next year the Champion was re-designed with a new pickup and lost much of its early character. 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. It remains a fine-sounding steel guitar with a bright, singing tone and a genuine early 1950s Fender instrument at a relatively reasonable price!
 
Overall length is 29 3/4 in. (75.6 cm.), 7 1/2 in. (19 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.). Width of nut is 2 1/4 in. (57 mm.).

This is a nicely clean and original Champion, showing just light wear overall. The metal handrest, fingerboard and headstock show some small corrosion spots, while the body has just minor wear. The only alteration is invisible; the layout of the pots has been reversed, so the tone knob is now the forward control. This could easily be changed back, but is useful if one does tone manipulation more than volume swells.

The buttons on the original Kluson strip tuners have shrunken up somewhat but are not disintegrating. The original pickup and electronic components are intact and the steel sound fantastic. The pickup may have been re-potted in wax at some point but has not been re-wound. Sadly for these Champions the trend of stripping the vintage Telecaster-style pickups out of these has accelerated recently leaving fewer and fewer unmolested original examples. Except for the wiring rig just being turned around this Steel is pretty much as it left Fullerton in 1955, including the worn and more-or less functional original alligator grain chipboard case. Excellent - Condition.