In the early eighties when Fender went looking for an offshore manufacturer to make Fender licensed guitars they settled on a Japanese manufacturer who was making equal, or even better instruments than Fender was making in the US. This factory was making most Fender models with such precision and quality that Fender was shocked at how good they were. So, in 1982 a deal was struck and Fender Japan officially established the first official Fender guitars not made in the USA.
The first series to hit the market were the JV (Japanese Vintage) Fender guitars and were built from the original blueprints supplied by Fender and made in the Fujigen and Mastumoku factories by the people who had been making the Greco Fender copies. These JV Fenders were domestic market copies of the '57 and '62 Strat and P bass, the '52 Tele and the '62 Jazz bass.
Due to demand for these new models overseas FJ decided to make a Squier series of guitars for export that would run side by side with the JV Fender series. The Squier name had been purchased by Fender back in '65 and was originally a string manufacturer but Fender decided to use it for their export Japanese made Fenders. At this point Squier was not a cheap, "knock off" name used by Fender for inferior quality look-a-likes but was a name they owned that could be used to differentiate the domestic product from the export one.
In late '82 the SQ Squier (there was a JV Squier too) series was introduced into the Japanese market.
This particular one is an SST-50 and features a very early 70's aesthetic. While the JV Fenders and JV Squiers were very high quality clones using US hardware and pickups, the introduction of the new SQ Squiers was meant to be a more cost effective "Fender" for the market. This is not to be confused with "cheap" or cost cutting as the Japanese manufacturing of this time was second to none and all the hardware was still of great quality but could be made more cost effective in Japan, making the guitars more affordable.
While the JVs and early SQs mainly had Sen Ash or Alder bodies, these domestic market series mainly used Alder or Basswood and Japanese pickups and hardware were used to again, make them more affordable. The quality of machine work, finish work and assembly is the same as the higher cost series as these were made in the same factories, by the same people as their more expensive siblings.
This guitar has had genuine US Fender pickups fitted to the bridge and neck position (there are rare cases of this being factory) with an unknown (probably not original) middle pickup but everything else appears to be original. There is a small rout in the bridge position body cavity that seems to make little sense but no other modifications have been made.
Being the SST-50, which was the high end of this series (there was a 30 and 45 as well) this has a nice big block vibrato with cast saddles. It is missing the original back plate.
The original SQ serial number three bolt neck plate is intact and the neck has a penciled date of 20 Jan '84 and the pots all date late '83 making it a domestic model made around the same time as the first export SQ Squiers originally intended for the US market to give Fender a sub $500 guitar in the market.
All in all it's a really nice playing and sounding Strat with a name (like Epiphone) that unfortunately has been abused by it's owner to mass produce some questionable quality (and great) guitars over the years but don't let that name fool you. Japan was making such great guitars at this stage that Fender used them to make quality clones to fit all markets and these SQs have a great look and feel and are so well made they're great value for money.
We currently have a couple of great SQ Squiers in the shop.