The only factory original long scale Fender Mustang?
Posted on July 19 2022
I spent nearly two years chatting with the long time owner of a guitar collection he was considering selling. He owned a music store in the 1970s and was known to be the guy who would trade new guitars for vintage guitars from Fender and Gibson. He amassed a collection which included a 1954 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul, 1968 Fender Telecaster Custom, 1964 Fender Jazzmaster, and some other great guitars. I made an offer to buy his guitar collection which included a very clean 1972 Fender Mustang with a hidden feature that I didn't even know about until I got it home. It appears to be the only long scale Fender Mustang to ever come out of the original Fender guitar factory in Fullerton, California.
Fender Mustang Scale Length
Fender's Mustang model was a very popular addition to the catalog in 1964 which sat at the very top of the student level solid body electric guitar line. It was initially offered in both the very short 22.5" and sort of middle ground 24" scale length like the Jaguar, but production of the 22.5" scale length seemed to tail off by late 1965. The 24" scale length neck is exactly the same as that found on the Jaguar model, but the Mustang's student level pickups and simplified bridge and tremolo seem to set it up firmly apart from the top of the line Jag.
While some Mustangs from 1964 and 1965 can be found with the very short 22.5" scale length neck, effectively all of them made in the original Fender factory from 1966 until production tailed off in the late 1970s were made with the 24" scale length. So please forgive me that I didn't spot this anomaly while buying the collection of 5 vintage guitars! It was not until I shipped them back and began the cleaning and set up process that I noticed that this 1972 Fender Mustang was a bit different than all of the examples I've ever seen. I cleaned and conditioned the fretboard before restringing with a set of 10-46 strings out of habit. I realize now that I typically string 24" scale length neck guitars with 11-48 gauge strings to make them feel more like 10s on a long scale guitar. I didn't even notice that the feel was different at first.
So with a new set of 10 gauge strings, I tuned the '72 Fender Mustang up to pitch and strummed a few chords. Everything felt fine until I played those same chords as triads up the neck and found them to be nearly a half step sharp! I looked down at the bridge and the saddle positions appeared to be exactly where they should in order to intonate properly. I then remembered that I installed 10 gauge strings on this Mustang and that the tension felt normal. I grabbed my tape measure to inspect the scale length of the neck. I positioned the end of the tape measure right up to the front of the nut and took the measurement right at the 12th fret. It measured just about 12 3/4", so I doubled that and found that the intended scale length of this neck is a full 25 1/2". Not only that, but that the bridge was in the same position as all the other 24" scale length Mustangs which is why my triads were nearly a half step sharp!
How to spot a long scale Fender Mustang
I'm a bit embarrassed that I was not able to spot this rare long scale Mustang when I picked it up as part of the guitar collection! But I typically look for Stratocasters and Telecasters, so I suppose that's why this one didn't stick out to me. But now that I have it, it's easy to spot a long scale Mustang. Take a look at the fretboard marker at the end of the fretboard. A typical 24" has an empty fret with no marker at the end, but this one has a dot marker at the very last fret. Not only that, but 24" Mustangs and Jaguars have 22 total frets, but this Mustang has only 21 like a Stratocaster, Telecaster, or Jazzmaster. Have you ever seen a long scale Fender Mustang like this from the 1960s or 1970s? I would love to know if there are more out there. Do you have one? You can contact me here: Sell a Fender.
I decided that it was necessary and beneficial to take the neck off to be sure that this neck was original to the guitar. The condition of the finish on the neck and inside the neck pocket appears to confirm that this was the original neck for this body. Not only that, but the red SPECIAL stamp underneath the finish also supports the fact that this neck was indeed specially made to be a 25 1/2" scale Mustang neck. It seems strange to me that they would go through the trouble of finishing a long scale neck with Mustang logo but forget that the bridge would be in the wrong spot, but here it is. I'd be happy to hear your educated guesses as to why.