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Collectable Guitars pt 39 – Fender Lead 1, 2 and 3 Models

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09tipdrop logofacebook481The Fender Lead series electric guitars were manufactured from 1979-1982.

They was produced in Fullerton, California factory under the direction of Greg Wilson and John Page.

They resemble Fender Stratocasters in appearance, but have a unique set of features. Steve Morse was one endorsee of the Fender Lead, and the whole series were probably designed to cash in the fashion for single pickup, Van Halen style superstrats  in the late ’70s and early ’80s

In 1979, Fender introduced the Lead I. The Lead I had a only one pickup, a humbucker in the bridge position. The Fender Lead series models all had the 25 1/2 inch scale length  of a Fender Stratocaster and  all Lead models were available with either maple or rosewood fretboards.

The Fender Lead I controls are unique. There is a 3 position pickup selector switch (Neck pickup, Neck & Bridge parallel mix, Bridge pickup) a phase switch, a master volume control, master tone control. The volume and tone potentimoters are 250k and the tone capacitor is 0.05 uf ceramic.

The Fender Lead I was manufactured until the end of the Lead series in 1982. The price of a Fender lead I in 1979 was $399.

Today a Fender Lead I in excellent condition sells for up to $1000.

The Lead II was also introduced in 1979.

It featured Two specially designed X-1 single coil pickups. The X-1 pickups were promoted as “wide range single coils” and are slightly hotter than a standard Strat of that era.

Both the Lead I and Lead II were normally finished in either black, wine red or brown.

Today a Fender Lead II in excellent condition sells for around the same price as the Lead 1.

The Lead III was manufactured in 1982 only. It had 2 humbuckers.

All of these guitars are becoming collectable now, as they are American made Fenders  and the youngest are at least 25 years old, which gives them an intrinsic value. They are quite rare, but still affordable, so it it worth tracking them down and snapping them up when available.

34 Comments

  1. scott says:

    I played with a guy in high-school who had a lead II. At the time I was not impressed because it was the 80’s and it was all about pointy guitars. Hind site being 20/20 that was a much better guitar than my crappy import flying V.

  2. Loki says:

    Fender Lead-series has the normal 25.5″-scale. I personally own Lead II.

  3. John says:

    Who in the world wrote this piece? They are absolutely CLUELESS about the Fender Lead Series.

    As Loki says – these were all (as in 100% of them) 25 1/2″ scale. If Fender used a different scale on a guitar back in those days it was likely 24″ like the Mustang, not 24 3/4″. The other color besides black was wine red – like the Lead I in the photo. And yes I also own a Lead II (wine red/rosewood fingerboard) and have owned it since 1979. Lead IIs have a 3-way toggle switch and a phase switch – handy for getting that “in between” tone found on Strats.

    Also the part about the Lead III is completely wrong about everything but the introduction date; Lead III’s had 2 humbuckers, not a humbucker and a single coil. I believe the writer is confused by the old ads that had Steve Morse playing a modded Lead guitar that did have the bridge humbucker and neck single coil (and 3 toggle switches) but that one was modded by Steve as a backup for his mutant Tele. Also, all the Leads were available in a wider range of colors over the time period from late 1981 until they were discontinued circa 1983.

  4. flyssy says:

    Thanks for your input John, I have made some amendments to the article. It just goes to show you can’t rely on the internet for quality research!

  5. Bill says:

    My son has a lead III, black with the HSC and is wondering about it’s value. We took it to a luthier and he says it’s in very good shape. Any ideas?

  6. steve says:

    hi bill,i also have a lead 111,which is in white,but has turned blond.it has its original fender tolex case,and was valued at around £1,000 as in may 2010.Hope that gives some idea of its worth..

  7. chris says:

    I have a lead III in Cherry sunburst. mint condition in its original case. Bought when I worked at Fender. It was one of 12 made in that colour for the German market.

  8. michele says:

    Nice web-site and interesting post. I was amazed to discover that my good old friend (a red Lead I) is a collectable! One nice thing about these guitars is that their body is slightly smaller (and, I bet, lighter) than that of a Stratocaster, which, in my view makes them easier to handle and play. Always loved it!

  9. Lenny says:

    I recently aquired a Lead III. 3rd owner. The first was a young boy who mistook it as a toy. So there are plenty of pick lines. The second owner bought it 25 years ago and never took it out of the case. I know that to be true. Other than the pick lines it’s in really fine shape. I had a high fret issue which has been resolved. I’m very happy with it. I love the weight. I won’t tell you how much I paid for it. You wouldn’t believe me.

  10. Chris says:

    I had a Lead II (black) back in the late 80’s and used it as a 2nd guitar as there were some gigs where I did not want to take my vintage 67sg to. Unfortunately I sold it when the band dispersed and I’ve regretted it ever since. What was an intended knock about guitar turned out to be a fantastic instrument and I am now looking for a replacement as I miss the sound, weight and action.

  11. j weatherly says:

    I have a fender lead III i bought in 1981 the s# starts as E 1xxxx so I think someone is mistaken about 1982 being the first

  12. J Perry-Brown says:

    I was in Newtown in Sydney, Australia just yesterday, and I saw a wine red Lead II. It was love at first sight! I went in later that day and asked how much, and they said that it had been sold for $1200 that morning after I had seen it. I was DEVASTATED! It was amazingly beautiful! The paint was a bit worn, but the guitar on the whole had SOOO much character about it. I’m annoyed I didn’t buy it that morning when I was in there…

  13. Pooker says:

    Just picked up an 80’s Lead 1 in fairly good shape. Has a great feel and I’m anxious to plug it in! Has that comfortable, “fits like a glove” feel to it.

  14. David Rubio says:

    I have a fender Lead III black and is on sale, I’m in Trujillo Peru, you can find me in davidrb77@hotmail.com, for $ 800.00 in perfect condition

  15. Dan says:

    I remember back to when they were all introduced and consider myself lucky to be in a second hand shop back in ’84 in Johannesburg, South Africa when I purchased my Lead ii, for an absolute bargain(mainly due to the proprietor not having a clue what he was selling). I managed to get Fender custom shop to send me all relevant literature and have traced it’s origin back to being manufactured at the Fullerton factory in ’79. I have had to replace the tolex case for a generic tweed style strat case, but apart from the average wear to the maple neck over the years it is in great condition. Action and sound are perfect. I would not consider selling it as I still take it out for a blast occasionally and also have become very attached to it over the years. It resides with me and my other guitars here in the UK now. As some of you seem to have extensive knowledge of these forgotten gems, perhaps you could advise of its worth, as I am not prepared to entertain paying an appraisor for a thumb suck guess!

  16. gord says:

    I just picked up a Lead III at a local pawn shop.
    It is black with rosewood fingerboard and has a kahler tremelo and lock nut.
    It looks like it came from factory this way – has anyone heard of a factory tremelo option I cant find any references
    thanks

  17. John Coetzee says:

    Hi Every One,
    I collect minature guitars. I have collected about 20 From Strats to Flying V`ees.
    I am a Telecaster fanatic and would love a acale model.
    Any body know of a Importer or a collector in South Africa that could assist

    Regards

    John 082 339 4512

  18. RJ Evans says:

    My first guitar was a Fender Lead II; red, with maple fretboard. Wonderful instrument, and to this day i regret letting it go. Shortly after getting it i had it customized (British flag pickguard from WD, and a DiMarzio humbucker in the bridge). From what i recall – this was SO long ago, lol – i traded it at a music store in Salisbury, Maryland. Oh how i would love to have it back!

  19. Kern says:

    I have a sianna burst Fender lead 2 that I love! The neck on this guitar feels like no other! I have a blade in the bridge and a stacked single coil noisless vintage in the neck.

  20. Steve says:

    just got a nice Lead 2 in red with white pick guard. the 2 toggle switches let me run out of phase for unique sound. It has original owners manual and Factory case. It was covered in nicotine from playing in bars and natural wear on the neck. It plays like a dream. The 2 single coils give me lots of cut and bite for lead work. I can see why they are highly praised.

  21. Fred says:

    Je possède une lead lll black de 1981 encore en bon état pour son age.
    J’habite en Europe (Belgique) et ce type d’ instrument ne semble pas avoir une valeur très élevée +- 500 Euros.Il semble que l’on qualifie ce modèle de ” sous-Fender” parce que fabriquée pendant la période CBS ainsi que le boddy plus petit par rapport à une strat..Je ne suis pas un excellent guitariste mais je sais reconnaitre un instrument qui sonne bien et qui de plus est polyvalent, avec une gamme de sonorités géniales.Le seul petit bémol que je puisse apporter est le manque de vibrato et la qualité de la peinture qui s’est légèrement craquelée au fil du temps, mais ça fait partie de son charme.Si vous avez la possibilité d’en tester une un jour, vous pourrez juger par vous-meme de la qualité de cet instrument et si comme moi, vous avez la chance d’en posséder une, garder la bien précieusement!

  22. Neil says:

    I have a Lead III I bought new In 1984….Bone white…yellowing beautifully.I have to replace my bridge saddles as the “E” saddle is completely worn away…(damn my lazy pick hand)I have searched the net high and low…found no replacement parts.Fender web site doesn’t even list them as being made!Ifound one for sale in the south-west U.S.A….$1800…very cheep for such a rare bird,especially considering that a ’57 strat goes for around $25k….I played a ’57 strat…I like my Lead III better.

  23. Robin macdonald says:

    I have a Fender LeadTwo in perfect condition,still in original case with original handbooklet about how to care for your fender! Due to arm amputation I am unable to play anymore but would like to sell to someone. anyone interested in buying should contact myself.

    Robin
    E-mail. macatmoc@yahoo.co.uk

  24. carmin davis says:

    I have a 79` lead 2 see through red,maple neck,i reversed it since i`m lefty.
    the weight of this guitar is over 8lbs. the neck is like a 50`s strat. it begs to have blues played on it,and that whati`m doing…

  25. Isaac bergen says:

    ok I have conflicting information and I have the 1 and 2 if some one know something about the neck from the 1 2 3 mine has the very large neck both of them and strange brown makings on the tip of the head stock 1 allot more then the 2 and on line I find most other lead 1 2 3 have no markings like a cegerate on the head stock but this looks like its done in the plant and the markings are both under varnish and theys are all in oridgenal condition even the case any one thanks isaac

  26. Isaac bergen says:

    I just love the fenders the leads 1 2 3 but I have yet to try the 3 haven’t found 3 yet but to me just a wannabe player that fender 1 2 when friends come over every one enjoys this evening all who have played my fenders are just a little jellos thanks Ike

  27. John says:

    I have a red Fender Lead 1 for sale $485 if anyone is interested…I’m in the Syracuse, NY area. It is in great playing condition but the finish is cracking as that was common with these. It has the maple neck and because of the cracking poly the neck appears dirty. All electronics work and it shreds…I’m switching gears to an electric hollowbody plus I stole this guitar 2 years ago so I wouldn’t mind making a buck or two. Original case comes with it

    http://syracuse.craigslist.org/msg/4652262681.html

  28. Gareth Bowen says:

    My son has a Lead III, in Black, that he purchased from a London guitar shop. We are fairly sure that it is a 1982. It’s absolutely perfect in every way. No scratches, rust or buckle rash. Looks unused.

    He has 3 other Fenders…

    1. An American Telecaster modified with a 72 Reissue pickup at the neck and a Seymour Duncan Little59 at the bridge that can be coil switched.

    2. An American 1970 Stratocaster Standard modified with N3 Noiseless pickups and S1 switching.

    3. A Mexican Fender Pawn Shop Offset Special this is a kind of marriage between a Strat and a 69 thin line Telecaster. Then Fender threw some P90s at it and because it didn’t look quite off the wall enough a Jag tremolo to boot. This was his first Fender.

    (He is currently in negotiation with a dealer over a Fender Customshop Telemaster with Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups. He has played it and it sounds like “Angels Singing”. This is a very rare guitar.)

    He also has 2 Gibsons…

    1. An American Les Paul Standard Premium Quilt in Rootbeer with Burst Bucker Pro 1+2 , Push/Pull Coil Taps, Phase changing and Pure Bypass.

    2. An American Les Paul Zoot Suit this is made from multi coloured laminate limited to 400 world wide. Love it or hate it it makes an impact.It has a P-90 pickup in the neck position and a 498T humbucker in the bridge.

    He also has a Burns Red Special, The Brian May Signature guitar, fitted with Burns Tri-Sonic Pickups.

    He has been having guitar lessons since he was 7 and now at the age of 18 is going to university in London to study Guitar Performance and Production with a view to becoming a session musician and producer/arranger.

  29. Bradley says:

    @Chris,I hope you get this, can I have more info on the Sunburst Lead 3?

  30. Steve says:

    I have a 1982 Fender Lead III with 2 humbucker pickups (split coil and phase reverse toggle switch). I’s black on black with maple fingerboard. Had a good friend of mine install an original Floyd Rose Kahler tremolo (with the brass rollers). Serial number on the tremolo is 61. Action is down to about 1/32 of an inch. this guitar almost plays by itself. Love it! I’ts my baby…

  31. johann says:

    I am looking for a FENDER LEAD III,

  32. Richard England says:

    Hi I have a lead 2 that I bought in the early 1980 it plays lovely I would never sell it .the varnish is falling off ,due to the many hours of use I have other guitars but this is my faverite keep rocking. Rick England know as the rocker

  33. Renee Moore says:

    I just picked up a Lead 11 today. $399 Australian dollars. Its paint is worn in some areas. The maple neck with Rosewood fretboard is in great condition! Love it

  34. Anthony says:

    I have a 1981 Fender Lead III. Yes its an 81. The sn is E106080. Showing it is an 81. They werent only made in 1982. Its amazing. Need to refret it though lol

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