The Fender Jaguar MIJ '62 Reissue

Bob Leggitt | Saturday 7 July 2012

Fender MIJ '62 Jaguar Reissue in Candy Apple Red with matching headstock

Candy Apple Red with a matching headstock was one of four finish options for the regular Fender Japan Vintage Jaguar Reissue.

Fender’s ‘surf’ guitars, with their distinctive offset contour body shape, were initially only quite briefly dominant in the popularity stakes. The Jazzmaster, and the later Jaguar, were billed as state-of-the-art instruments upon their respective introductions in 1958 and 1962, and in terms of innovation they were pretty spectacular.

The offset body contouring undeniably helped the guitars ‘fit’ the player very comfortably in a seated position. Meanwhile, the broadening of the tone circuitry to allow easier, more dramatic and more rapid tonal changes than ever before, would surely have been a hit in the days before effects pedals. The Jazzmaster and Jaguar also came with smooth-action vibrato units – another exciting way for guitarists to produce special effects in a pedal-free age.

The Fender Jaguar took innovation and richness of features to their most advanced level within the Fender range, but this came at a price.

Not only was the Jaguar Fender’s most expensive guitar – it was also a compromise on the perfection of the significantly cheaper Stratocaster. The Jaguar's vibrato system rendered inferior sustain, and its electrical architecture brought a mildly confusing switching arrangement littered with the danger of cutting the sound completely during a performance. The guitar also had a shorter scale length which exacerbated the loose, flappy feel of the strings. And some have perceived the Jag to have a slight ‘ugly duckling’ appearance compared with the Strat’s aesthetic beauty.


You can find a detailed exploration of the Jaguar in From Surf to Grunge: The Fender Jaguar's Life in Pop and Rock Culture, which documents the guitar's players, its workings and its ups and downs. But to pick up on the model covered by this post... The Made in Japan (MIJ) Vintage Jaguar Reissue was part of an enormous revamp in the Fender product line, which took place forward from late 1984...

At that time, Fender USA sat amid dire turbulence. During July '84, the parent company CBS - who'd discontinued the American Jaguar in 1975 - had declared that they were no longer interested in the then badly-performing Fender company and were selling off the brand.

After a hasty employee buyout, the situation worsened, since the investors could not afford the Fullerton production plant, and were forced to set up from scratch in a completely new facility in Corona. With Fender USA essentially shutting down mass production for a very considerable period, the fledgling Fender Japan would become the only source of new Fender guitars in 1985. The result was a massive influx of new, very high quality, fully Fender-branded MIJ models (previous Japanese exports to the UK had all been Squier-branded), along with a revival of numerous oldies which had for long been out of production.

The Jaguar was essentially a vintage reissue, most closely following the 1962 template, with an unbound, dot-inlaid fingerboard. Unbound dot fingerboards had survived until 1966, but in 1963 the spacing of the dots at the twelfth fret had narrowed. Fender Japan's reissue copied the wider spacing of the pre-'63 dots. Pre-'63 dots were also of the 'clay' variety mimicked by the MIJ reissue. Post-'63 dots were pearloid.

Officially, however, the MIJ Jag was not billed as a Vintage Reissue. It was one of 26 guitars and basses in Japan's Collectible Series. There was no major difference between the Collectibles and the official MIJ Reissues beyond the production volume. The Reissues were produced en masse, whilst the Collectibles saw limited production. Fender's own literature cited the MIJ Jaguar as a '62 replica and gave it model number 027-7800.

However, the model code in the Fender Japan catalogue was JG'66-75, which suggested a 1966 designation. The 'JG' stood for Jaguar, the '66' denoted the year, and the '75' was the launch price in thousands of Yen. The build was definitely more in keeping with '62 than '66.

Features that differed between those two years included the type and spacing of the fingerboard dots, the type of fingerboard, and the pickup polepieces. '62 Jaguars had flush-poled pickups (like the MIJ). But by 1963, they'd switched to staggered poles. The very earliest real 1962 Jaguars also had ‘slab’ rosewood fingerboards. This original type of thick rosewood board was replaced with a 'veneer'-type rosewood fretboard in the summer of ’62. The MIJ reissue featured the 'veneer' type of fingerboard, but that could still tie in with a 1962 designation. 1962 made a lot more sense than 1966 as regards the JG'66-75.

Whilst the build of the guitar was broadly very faithful to the original, for some reason the MIJ was given a 1970s-style Fender logo in black, with gold lining and a circular "registered" mark after the word Fender. The original '62 Jaguar had featured a gold 'transition' logo with black lining and no "registered" mark.

Exactly why Fender applied these period-inaccurate logos I've never found out. They used a correct 'transition' logo on the Jazz Bass, so there was no problem with producing the transfer itself. It might have been that they originally intended to produce the Jag as a '70s model, but then decided the '70s block inlays and fingerboard binding would be too expensive. Could even have been that they still had some original '70s Jaguar logos in stock. Who knows?

The MIJ Jaguar, which began to appear in UK shops from 1985, typically priced between £350 and £400 in the real world, was offered in four finishes. Three-tone sunburst, black, Vintage White and Candy Apple Red. All except the red one shipped as standard with tortoiseshell scratchplates and clear-honey lacquered headstocks. The metallic red featured a white scratchplate and matching red headstock. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine played the white one, although his had a black scratchplate rather than tortoiseshell.

Candy Apple Red did not appear as a Fender colour option until 1963, meaning that CAR was the only available finish that was not period-accurate for the model's 1962 designation.


If you want to exploit the classic 'surf' sound of the Jaguar, you need to push the amp gain just to the onset of overdrive, and pile on some heavy, warm spring reverb. Drenched in 'verb, the sound of the Jag's unslanted bridge pickup is spine-tinglingly reminiscent of 1960s surf. There is no better guitar in the world for recreating that sound. The Jaguar was the guitar that originally defined it.

But unlike a good Stratocaster or Telecaster, a Jaguar typically represents a battle for guitarists who want something more modern. If you need a good level of versatility which will accommodate intricate rock solos and the like, you’re going to need relatively light strings and a low action.

The problem is, if you set up a Jaguar with light strings and a low action there’s just no substance to the guitar’s output. There’s barely any resonance. Plus, the break angle of the strings across the bridge is so shallow that the strings are in constant danger of being dislodged from their grooves in the saddles. All the more so given the short scale length, which gives light gauge strings a very slack feel indeed. It’s not quite fair to say the result is akin to playing elastic bands stretched across a dinner plate, but I can easily see why analogies of that nature came about.

So if you want a Jag to give you something back, you really need to use heavier strings, and raise the action to inject a bit of resonance. On my original ’66 Jag I actually even tune the strings UP a semitone to give the guitar sufficient substance! But once you tighten up the feel of the guitar to that extent, you can start getting issues with rattling components, and you say goodbye to the light-touch feel suitable for more demanding styles. At root, the Jaguar was designed so specifically to cater for early ‘60s styles, that it boxed itself into that era, and mechanically, has never managed to escape.

I bought my Candy Apple Red MIJ ’62 Jaguar Reissue brand new, for £399, at the beginning of 1991. I found the sound cold and brittle, but I was convinced that fitting a set of Seymour Duncan Vintage Jaguar pickups would nicely thicken up the tone.

Unfortunately, the replacement pickups barely made any difference, and in the end I decided to fit a resistor across the tone control to reduce the maximum treble level and make the guitar seem fuller in tone. This helped a lot more than changing the pickups, and I did use the Jaguar quite a bit for a while. However, once I found a really nice 1960s original Jag in the mid 1990s, I sold the red MIJ. I now wish I’d kept it.

The reissues weren’t that common a sight in the English shops. They certainly weren’t found on the racks of every Fender ‘Rock n Roll Centre’ as the Strat and Tele reissues were. In fact, there were times when imports completely ceased, and no matter how hard you looked, you wouldn’t find an MIJ Jaguar at all. The number of these sold in total would be almost inconsequential compared with the vast quantity of MIJ ’62 Strat reissues. Accordingly, a Fender Japan Jaguar would be a pretty cool guitar to own today. Wherever mine ended up, I bet the tone has warmed and mellowed a bit since I ditched it too.