Lake Placid Blue (Classic Fender Custom Colour)

Bob Leggitt | Friday 15 June 2012
Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster

Lake Placid Blue was a metallic finish from Fender, which officially became available as a custom colour on the company's guitars in 1960. The finish was originally achieved with an existing metallic blue car paint, sealed with an acrylic lacquer top coat. The top coat was switched for polyester when traditional style finishes were dropped by Fender in the latter 1960s. However, the look of Lake Placid Blue (often abbreviated to LPB – initially by Fender themselves) came from a single car spray, unlike Candy Apple Red, which was made from two colour stages – a metallic silver or gold colour base layer, coated over with translucent red.

The clear top coats on all the Fender metallic finishes were crucial. Without them, the high gloss pro finish could not be achieved without destroying the uniformity and effect of the metallic paint as the body was rubbed down. Although most of the non-metallic solid-colour finishes did also have clear top coats, the lacquer wasn’t absolutely necessary with those, and some non-metallic, solid-colour guitars were rubbed down and cut to a high gloss on the paint coats themselves. Such ‘unsealed’ guitars tend not to suffer from progressive yellowing to anything like the extent that clear lacquer-coated guitars do.

Given the variations in lighting, and the tendency of the photographic process to warp colour, it’s difficult to get an idea on the Internet, or indeed in books, of how a finish precisely looks in reality. However, I’ve made an effort here to ensure the colour in the illustration looks like what I consider the best representation of Lake Placid Blue. I use Adobe Gamma to keep my monitor as near to neutral as possible. But of course, if your monitor has a different colour rendition from mine, you won’t see the precise colour I’m seeing.

Lake Placid Blue was a fairly subtle shade, which could be described as a darkish blue. However, the metallic nature of the paint meant that changes in the lighting angle would brighten the appearance of the shade – potentially very significantly. What LPB wasn’t, is a rich, royal blue, or a turquoise. It was meant to represent a blue lake, and that’s exactly the type of colour it was.

The ageing and yellowing of the clear lacquer over the metallic paintwork could turn the finish greenish-blue. In fact, after the effects of ageing, an original Lake Placid Blue could end up almost impossible to distinguish from an Ocean Turquoise – which, confusingly, was actually a deep, greenish-blue, and not a real turquoise. The only way to tell them apart would be to pick away some of the clear top coat beneath the scratchplate around a screw hole. That would reveal the colour of the paint itself, without the yellowed lacquer. As new, the two colours were distinctly different, so with the top coat chipped away in an area not exposed to much daylight, there’d be no doubt which was which.

It should be stressed that whilst LPB became officially available in 1960, it was not a standard colour option. For Stratocasters, Jazzmasters and Jaguars, the standard finish was sunburst, and custom finishes like Lake Placid Blue cost extra. The Telecaster’s standard finish was blond. The original run for Lake Placid Blue in the Fender paint chart ended in 1973 when Fender completely abandoned metallic and indeed coloured finishes per se. Through the mid 1970s, only black, white, blond and sunburst remained alongside the natural wood options.

Lake Placid Blue notably returned on Fender’s The Strat – a welcome departure from the late ‘70s Stratocaster, introduced in 1980 and featuring a combination of preferred older features (four-screw neck, small headstock, etc) luxuries like gold-plated hardware, and modern ‘enhancements’. Subsequently, Lake Placid Blue was standardised as a colour for the American ’57 and ’62 Reissue Stratocasters – despite the real ‘57s predating the development of Lake Placid Blue as a car paint.

Alongside Candy Apple Red, whose history is expored in full in the Candy Apple Red article, Lake Placid Blue remains one of the most famous and best known Fender custom colours. These two finishes kept the original concept of stunningly attractive metallic colours alive for the longest period beyond the CBS era, outlasting Ocean Turquoise, Firemist Gold and Firemist Silver, which were the only other metallics to make it beyond the 'sixties. But since Lake Placid Blue predated the introduction of Candy Apple Red, it has to be considered the overriding stalwart of all original metallic Fender finishes.

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