Fender's Custom Shop can pretty much always be relied upon to come up with something a little special for the National Association of Music Merchants show in California, which kicks off tomorrow. Its Master Builders bejeweled a bunch of guitars this time last year, and then hit the drink for limited edition Blues Junior amps that were skinned in cabinets made from Kentucky bourbon barrels. Now they've tapped into some naval history for a couple of amps encased in oak left over from building the USS Constitution.
Construction of the famous three-masted frigate began in 1794, and she was launched on October 21, 1797. The USS Constitution began her illustrious career during the Quasi-War with France, went on to defeat a number of British warships in the War of 1812 and even sailed around the world before eventually being designated a museum ship in 1907. "Old Ironsides" is currently undergoing restoration work in dry dock (check out the ConstitutionCam for a photo-feed of the ship in dry dock).
So that's a little potted history, but what's that got to do with Fender? The company says that wood used to repair the frigate was pretty scarce until construction crews in Boston's former Charlestown Naval Yard stumbled upon a huge bounty of centuries-old oak beams used in tall ship construction and repair. Still in good condition, the Navy kept most of it, but a portion of the stockpile was made available for public sale and Fender managed to snag some of it.
The appropriately-named Old Ironsides Pro and Old Ironsides Champ tube amps are encased in age-old oak cabinets with a hand-rubbed oil finish, sport eye-catching dock-cleat handles, and have been treated to brass top panels, control knobs and hardware. The 26-watt Pro model is based on Fender's '57 Custom Pro combo, while the 5-watt Champ riffs off of the '57 Custom Champ. Both benefit from hand-wired circuitry, "specially modified" components and US-made speakers.
Strictly limited to single examples, the Masterbuilt Old Ironsides Pro is being put up for sale at NAMM for US$20,000, and the Old Ironsides Champ comes in at half that ticket price. We think they both look absolutely stunning, and even at eight or more times the street price of standard tweed-covered flavors, they're sure to be snapped up quickly.