Odd and unusual Greco SE's

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Voidoid56
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Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Sat May 07, 2022 2:32 am

This thread is for the type of guitars I "collect" in the classic sense: Greco Strat copies that are unusual, rare, oddballs or just plain one-of-a-kind unicorns (at least until one more turns up...).

There are actually a lot of them around, including limited-run catalog model, guitars ordered under Grecos' "minor change" scheme that sport standard features in non-standard combinations, uniquely specced guitars produced in small batches for stores and store chains and also sometimes seriously weird, undocumented instruments produced during the last few months before Fender JV's replaced Greco Fender copies on Fujigen's production lines.

The reason for the existence of many of these guitars is the fact that Greco ran what amounted to a custom shop from the early 70's. The custom offer turns up in a couple of catalogs in the second half of the 70's, including the whole range from minor changes to standard models to full-on ground-up custom builds. Customers could order individual guitars through selected dealers and stores could have small batches made to their own specs.

The result are guitars that sometimes look like they're modded but turn out to be originals on closer inspection. To me, they're just fun enigmas, rare enough to be exciting to hunt down and interesting to research and almost invariably good to great instruments. I'll be posting what I have and what I find here, and please feel free to add your own. :-)

First up: 1979 Greco SE-500T Robbie Robertson No 2

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So this is a copy of one of two modified Strats used by The Band's Robbie Robertson in the movie "The Last Waltz". The most well-known is a '55 with bronzed body and a black pickguard, but he played a similarly modded early-50's sunburst with Eric Clapton and Joni Mitchell. The original was a hardtail, this one is not (in fact, the only hardtail Greco Strats I've ever seen were a couple of rare lefties).

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Yeah, I thought it was a modded guitar at first too. But after a bit of research: there are a handful of these around, and they are factory-routed for that pickup config, which mine also turned out to be. Why an extra indentation has been drilled in the neck pup cavity after finishing I've no idea, though.

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The guitar is near-mint overall, including a pristine, untampered-with harness with all the correct parts, as well as a pickguard with the expected Maxon date stamp. The switching is three-way: bridge - bridge + middle humbucking - neck.

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Attention to detail: The middle pickups is mounted in reverse, but the pole stagger correct, so it seems they used a pickup for a leftie guitar. Nice.

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August '79 Serial, Feb and March pot dates and June 28 on the pickguard. The two others I've found (links below) are also H79.

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The one-piece maple neck with pre-CBS headstock, small-caps "Super Sound" decal and Kluson copies with threaded bushings actually matches up with the 1979 version of the SE600, but the other guitars I've found have had SE500 stickers still in place.

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The pickups appear to be standard 31276-marked PU-119's.

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Since these pics were taken, I've changed the control knobs to Tele barrels to match the original. The guitars a fine player, with a huge, deep U-profile neck. Soundwise it's a bit strange to me, actually, two Strat singles don't really make the best humbucker in the world and I do miss access to the position 2 and 4 sounds, but that's more about personal taste than anything else.

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The original in action.

So what is it and why is it? No idea. But there are a few more around, which points to them probably being out of a small run for a store. I've seen a minimum order requirement of 40 instruments mentioned, but I haven't been able to confirm that. It might turn up in some store ad in an old Japanese guitar magazine eventually, but until it does, it's exact origin is a mystery.

Finally a couple of links:

Same guitar, but in three-tone sunburst. Note the SE-500 sticker.

http://www.music-trade.co.jp/g_80000064carte.html

This one's on Reverb right now. Get yer own!

https://reverb.com/item/52302883-1979-g ... r-brown-sb

Sigmania
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Sigmania » Sat May 07, 2022 4:49 am

Very cool! Keep ‘em coming. 8)
That’s alright ‘cause I still got my guitar… ‘79 LS80 GT Reborn, '79 ST100 Springy, '81 LS100S Hog, '81 ST70R Slab Springy, ‘81 ST80R V Neck Springy, '81 TE120 Arabesque Breezy, '82 LS120 Solid Flame, '82 JB45R Jazz Sounds, ‘84 ST70 Gold Star Maple Cap

mdvineng
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by mdvineng » Sat May 07, 2022 11:37 am

8)
Tokai VSB80 OF, Michael Kelly Patriot custom, Epiphone Elite SG & EB3. 8)

Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Sun May 08, 2022 1:02 am

Greco SE-600 All-black, 1982

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On the theme of all-black oddities: this one's one-of-a-kind (for now) and a good example what you might come across as you get into the last six or so months of Greco Fender copy production. This one has a D82 serial, i e April 1982, which means that it's just days or weeks removed from the very first Fender JV guitars leaving the Fujigen production line.

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The pickups are the large-pole SE-1T's, copies of the Schecter F500t, tappable pickups featuring two coils, one inside the other. Output is around 9k with one coil, about 15,5k with both, so they're a bit hotter than the the originals. They came standard in the 1981 version of SE-700 (with no provision for coil-tapping) and the contemporary SE-800J Jeff Beck model, a high-end copy of a white Strat with Schecter Dream Machine electronics that Beck played during a 1978 tour of Japan with Stanley Clarke.

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The switching system is a nightmare. Seriously. It's about as intuitive as a combination lock. The switch is five-way and both control knobs are push-pulls. I've managed to count 15 separate settings in all. It appears that the volume knob switches the neck and bridge pickups between 1 and 2 coils, while the tone knob adds in the middle pickup in series... except it also does something in the 2 and 4 switch position, where the middle pickup is already in the circuit. Might be some phase or parallel-series trickery, I can't say, but it does affect the sound.
Sonically, it has a good range of standard Strat tones, even if the basic single-coil output is significantly higher, with more mid and a bit less shimmer. Once you start pulling the pots, you move into new territories, some nice and useful, others not so much. Both coils of the bridge pickups and one in the middle pickup in series, making like a 20kplus humbucker is... well, I think muddy is the correct word. Could possibly make sense in a high-gain situation, but it's not what I'm into.
Summing up: it sound just fine in many settings, great in some. The problem is remembering what the settings are. :-)

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The headstock decal is just the logo, nothing else, which is in line with what you se on other Greco Fender copies with black headstocks. Luckily, it had the SE600 sticker still in place, I would'nt have had a clue as to were to put it in the model system otherwise. The tuners are Greco's final Kluson version, with just Deluxe on the back with standard (non-threaded) bushings. Note the brass nut.

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The bridge appears to be a standard late-pattern pre-CBS unit with separate steel block, only with brass saddles. The saddles are the same shape as the cast ones used in the SE450 of the time.

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Finally, a pic of a somewhat similar guitar that's making it's way across the seas to me as we speak. It's red with matching headstock, not all-red, has a maple neck, keyhole brass bridge saddles and no brass nut, but the electronics and pickguard appear similar, it has the late-pattern tuners and an SE600 sticker. There's no standard dated serial on the neck plate, just an early-50s Fender-style four-digit number. Might well be a mod... but I've seen a couple of apparently very late basses with the same serial style. We'll see, it wasn't expensive (few of these oddballs are, actually) so I took a punt.

The exact what and why of the all-black SE600 is probably impossible to uncover at this point, unless documents are found (and disseminated - unlikely, corporate secrecy seems to be a really long-term proposition in Japan) or Fujigen ex-employees speak out.
As I see it, this one and other very late pre-JV oddballs could be 1982 Fender copy models that were designed, prototyped and possibly into early production at the time when Kanda Shokai started talks with Fender, and so never officially launched and marketed. Some are close enough to earlier standards to make this likely, imo. Others - like this one - are so unconventional that you start to suspect that it's basically just Fujigen making the most of the last batches of Greco parts. Time will tell. Or not.

Sigmania
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Sigmania » Sun May 08, 2022 4:22 am

That’s wild. They were shooting for something sonically with the brass to brass nut to saddles. Ibanez had a similar fascination with brass around that period (and before) in the quest for sustain, etc.

And the coil tapping reminds me of the Yamaha SBGs I had, but they had humbuckers and spinex surgical steel in the poles.

I guess everyone was trying to unlock that magic combination for tone and sustain, so the combination lock analogy fits. Had they found it we would still be seeing it I guess?
That’s alright ‘cause I still got my guitar… ‘79 LS80 GT Reborn, '79 ST100 Springy, '81 LS100S Hog, '81 ST70R Slab Springy, ‘81 ST80R V Neck Springy, '81 TE120 Arabesque Breezy, '82 LS120 Solid Flame, '82 JB45R Jazz Sounds, ‘84 ST70 Gold Star Maple Cap

Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Sun May 08, 2022 7:06 am

Greco SE-500/-600 (?) with neck binding

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This one's a favourite. It appears to be based on either the SE-500 or -600 model, which both had the slightly narrower bridge with 10 mm saddles with the corresponding slight reduction in string pitch and the PU-100 pickups to go with it in 1978. This one, however, has the smaller headstock, not the CBS-style of the standard items. The finish is also completely non-standard, catalog guitars came in two sunbursts, black, white and natural without even any options at the time. This one is in a weird metallic red shade, ranging from copper red to almost CAR depending on the light. It also has a matching headstock, which was not a feature of any standard SE at the time.

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And of course, it also has a bound fretboard. Not really a common feature on any Strat from any manufacturer, even if Fender apparently made a few bound-neck Strats in 1966. The fretboard radius is also much flatter than the normal 7, 25 in, I don't have a gauge, but it seems to be in the region of 11-12 in at least. Combine this with a reasonably chunky D profile and you get a guitar that plays more like a narrow-neck Les Paul that a Strat. Very comfortable.

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Nothing remarkable about the headstock except the matching colour. You can see the coppery tone toward the nut. Standard (and excellent) MH-803 tuners, used on both the SE500 and -600.

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Nothing that remarkable about the electronics either. The PU-100 pickups have slightly narrower pole spacing to match the 10 mm bridge saddles. The switch is a stock 5-way, which is unusual.

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August 1978 serial.

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Just a nice-looking guitar. I love how the pickguard has faded to beige.

In general, it's a lovely little player. I normally prefer wider and bigger necks, but there is something about this one that just works. Also, it has just about the best 2 and 4 position tones of any Strat I have, for some reason.

The exact what and why of this one is unconfirmed, but I'm pretty sure it's a store order original of some kind, because it's not the only one.
So far, I've come across three more. One is in Japan Vintage Collection vol 2, a Japanese photo book. There's no useful background info on it whatsoever, just a description (which claims that the finish is red over a silver coat, not metal flake). This one has a July 78 serial.

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Here's one I came across in the Strat-Talk forum, bought used in the Philippines. Looks identical, H78 serial, abt 700 higher than mine. In lot worse condition, though.

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And lo and behold, only last week I found and actually bought one more! It's got a different turqoise-ish finish and an actual bound maple fretboard, but it's obviously the same guitar otherwise, Another H78 serial, exactly 400 higher than the red one, so so far they're all from a really narrow time window, another reason to suspect a store original.
Looking forward a lot to recieving it, I'll add info here when I receive it. Don't hold your breath though, I ship surface. :-)

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Sigmania
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Sigmania » Sun May 08, 2022 7:12 am

Mind blowing... Never seen a bound Strat fretboard like that.

And 1978??? That is early. Very special find.

For me the sweet spot is the range from 1978-1982 on MIJ guitars.

Great score!
That’s alright ‘cause I still got my guitar… ‘79 LS80 GT Reborn, '79 ST100 Springy, '81 LS100S Hog, '81 ST70R Slab Springy, ‘81 ST80R V Neck Springy, '81 TE120 Arabesque Breezy, '82 LS120 Solid Flame, '82 JB45R Jazz Sounds, ‘84 ST70 Gold Star Maple Cap

Sigmania
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Sigmania » Sun May 08, 2022 7:14 am

That’s alright ‘cause I still got my guitar… ‘79 LS80 GT Reborn, '79 ST100 Springy, '81 LS100S Hog, '81 ST70R Slab Springy, ‘81 ST80R V Neck Springy, '81 TE120 Arabesque Breezy, '82 LS120 Solid Flame, '82 JB45R Jazz Sounds, ‘84 ST70 Gold Star Maple Cap

Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Sun May 08, 2022 7:20 am

Sigmania wrote:
Sun May 08, 2022 4:22 am
That’s wild. They were shooting for something sonically with the brass to brass nut to saddles. Ibanez had a similar fascination with brass around that period (and before) in the quest for sustain, etc.

And the coil tapping reminds me of the Yamaha SBGs I had, but they had humbuckers and spinex surgical steel in the poles.

I guess everyone was trying to unlock that magic combination for tone and sustain, so the combination lock analogy fits. Had they found it we would still be seeing it I guess?
Yeah, this guitar is very much of its time, I'd say: the Age of Mass and Brass. :-) Also, this was also when a Schecter Dream Machine actually was what everyone dreamed of. As I recall, they cost like 3-4 times the price of a Fender Strat. Then Knopfler made Tunnel of Love and everybody wanted them, or at least the F500t pickups. But that's certainly blown over. Just by chance I happened to land three original ca 1978-80 F500ts last year, they came installed in an '81 Tokai ST-60. I put them up for sale (just here in Sweden, though) an finally ended up selling them for 350 USD after four months of zero interest. So it goes.

Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Mon May 09, 2022 6:11 am

Greco SE-450CS, 1981

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Here's the Ice Lolly, an otherwise unremarkable Nov 1981 SE-450 in a very unusual finish: Cherry Sunburst. I've found pics of 2-3 more, all late '81 or '82, so possibly simply a new finish option for the 1982 range. It's real purdy over that nicely grained sen, though. I personally can't stand Les Pauls in this finish ("clownbursts") but it works just great with the Strat body shape imo.

Greco Strats are usually pretty boring in terms of finishes. The standard catalog models came in two- and three-tone sunburst, black, white and natural, period, basically all through the 70's and until the final catalog to feature Fender copies in 1981. No CAR, LPB or anything fancy like that. But we do see variations right at the end, especially with SE450s, where a few metallic finishes have been spotted aside from this one.

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It's very unusual to see any sort of decipherable color codes in Greco SE bodies, but this guitar has one: CS in what appears to be crayon, still visible under the clear coat.
The body routs are the squared-off 1970s style, retained after 1980 in the SE-450 and SE-700 only. Those models are basically the same guitar with different electronics.

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Greco production markings are notoriously random and inconsistent, but the neck-heel plaintext model number is another late-production feature, turning up in late 1981. What the initial D stands for I've no idea, could be some production info, or perhaps the designations were slated for a change in 1982.
The roman-font capital stamps turn up during the second half of the 70s, but inconsistently located and sometimes with two different letters in the same body. Looking at late guitars, it seems likely that it's a model indicator. If SE-1200 is A, SE-1000 B etc, F would indeed be SE-450. It seem pretty plausible at this point and it lines up well with how Fujigen marked the Fender JV models that followed the Grecos.

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The electronics have been modified. The pickups are indeed the expected 31276-stamped Excels, but the the original coaxial cables have been replaced with individual hot and ground leads. The rest of the harness is CTS and CRL with a lemon drop cap.

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Now it gets weird.
The serial i K81, i e Nov 1981, but the datestamp on the pickguard actually reads Dec 12th. To make it interesting (I guess), Fujigen decided that in date stamps beginning with a 5, the next digit is the last of the year, while the following four is the month and day in reverse. So 2121 is actually 1212. Stamps beginning with another digit (2 is most common) read normally from left to right. Super-weird, but reverse dates occur in other guitars as well (notably pre-Revival Fernandes Fender copies), and it's the only way that the 5 series date stamps consistently make sense.
Anyhow, so we have a pickguard dated at a minimum 12 days later than the serial. But it's still most definitely an original Greco pickguard, and the undisturbed screw holes in the body implies that it could well be original to it. Go figure.
Another problem is that it really should have a 1976-style black pickguard. It's the only option in the catalog, and I've never seen anything else on standard SE-450's, incl the 2-3 more in this finish I've seen. And it's gets worse: no official Greco SE model had a stock white 11-screw laminate guard in 1981. The pre-CBS models all had single-ply 8-screw guards, the CBS models (450 and 700) both had black lam-11 guards.

So, I've no idea where this pickguard came from or why it's on the guitar. But it looks a lot better than a black one imo.

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Either way, it's a very pretty guitar. And not only pretty, the 1980-82 SE-450 version is generally a bit of a hidden gem imo. Don't be fooled by the low model number. Much like Tokai Silver Stars, they're built to the same standards as higher models, but were probably less desirable than the pre-CBS copies and thus lower-priced. These are great guitars, lovely wide necks (usually around 43 mm at the nut) and superb PU-S5 Excel pickups. And since the hype is close to zero, they're still often quite affordable.

Sigmania
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Sigmania » Mon May 09, 2022 6:39 am

Cool finish. Looks good on that guitar.
That’s alright ‘cause I still got my guitar… ‘79 LS80 GT Reborn, '79 ST100 Springy, '81 LS100S Hog, '81 ST70R Slab Springy, ‘81 ST80R V Neck Springy, '81 TE120 Arabesque Breezy, '82 LS120 Solid Flame, '82 JB45R Jazz Sounds, ‘84 ST70 Gold Star Maple Cap

MnMs
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by MnMs » Fri May 13, 2022 8:13 am

Super cool thread. Really dig these unique guitars!

Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Sat May 14, 2022 12:34 am

This one is not mine (sadly - but I'll keep looking! :-) ) but another good example of whatever shenanigans Fujigen were up to while wrapping up Greco SE production in April 1982. It turned up in a 2014 blog post while I was searching for other all-black SE's.

It's clearly based on SE-450/-700, with a large headstock, bullet truss nut and three neck bolts, but sports just the one humbucker with volume and tone controls. The pickup cover and Gibson-style mirror top knobs were added by the blogger. It has a brass nut but the bridge saddles look like they're just gold-plated. The serial is 103 higher than my all-black SE-600.

So, who knows what else is out there?

Here's the two blog posts about it:

https://japaneseguitars.blogspot.com/20 ... strat.html

https://japaneseguitars.blogspot.com/20 ... art-2.html

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Stratgo
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Stratgo » Sun Sep 18, 2022 12:50 am

I have a April 1982 oddball. SE1 pickups and push pull pots the same as the all black strat towards the top of this thread.Brass nut and saddles. Also has an alder body.
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Voidoid56
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Re: Odd and unusual Greco SE's

Post by Voidoid56 » Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:54 pm

Stratgo wrote:
Sun Sep 18, 2022 12:50 am
I have a April 1982 oddball. SE1 pickups and push pull pots the same as the all black strat towards the top of this thread.Brass nut and saddles. Also has an alder body.
Nice one, thanks for posting!

Yeah, seems identical. Beautiful guitar, looks near mint? Its serial is 27 higher than mine, so we're obviously looking at a very narrow time window here.

The red one in the final pic in my post has arrived, I haven't done full forensics on it yet (will post pics when I have) but it appears to be the same guitar as well, with two detail exceptions: it has a four-digit serial on a neckplate with thinner and more small-headed mounting screws than standard (which seems to be an actual thing with some super-late Greco Fender copies - I'll get back to that), and also brass keyhole bridge saddles, not the type used on yours and the black one.


Quite a variety of finishes on these. But there is definitely some level of series production on here.

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