Odds are you’ve never encountered one of Fender’s vintage “weight-relieved” Telecasters.
Profound social and cultural change was sweeping the nation in 1967, and by coincidence or design, that year also marked an imaginative, inventive period for post-CBS Fender. The recipient of numerous fresh ideas turned out to be the company’s first solidbody electric Spanish guitar—the Telecaster. One of these new concepts was to make the Telecaster lighter. The first primitive attempts built in the summer of 1967 are known today as “Smuggler’s Teles.”
While Smuggler’s Teles appear outwardly identical to regular ones, a few light taps on the pickguard foretell something different underneath. Removing the guard reveals three rather large cavities where part of the ash body was removed. Only a few of these Teles were made that summer before Fender engineers decided to pursue more drastic modifications. This led to the creation of the Telecaster Thinline in 1968.
Whoa! You could stash a lot of contraband in there.
The September 1967 Smuggler’s Tele spotlighted this month has features common to Telecasters of that year. These include a large black headstock logo, F-stamped Schaller tuning keys (replacing the earlier Klusons), and a separate maple fretboard (previously used only for special custom orders). The body and neck were still finished in nitrocellulose lacquer, which would change to durable polyester during 1968. Even with the hollow space under the pickguard, this guitar is still fairly heavy at 8.6 pounds.
The large black headstock logo and F-stamped Schaller tuning keys were common features on ’67 Telecasters.
The 1967 list price was $214.50 plus $57.50 for a case. On this example, an additional 5 percent was added for the maple fretboard option. The current value for a Smuggler’s Tele in excellent all-original condition is $8,000.
Behind the Tele is a 1968 Fender Pro Reverb. The 2x12 combo is driven by two 6L6 power tubes and puts out about 40 watts. The Pro Reverb was added to the Fender line in 1965, replacing the 1x15 non-reverb Pro. The original blackface look was updated in 1968 with a silver control panel, bluish grill cloth, and aluminum trim (the “drip rail” only lasted through 1969). The 1968 list price was $399.50. The current value for the amp is $1,500.Sources for this article include The Fender Telecaster: The Detailed Story of America’s Senior Solid Body Electric Guitar by A.R. Duchossoir, The Fender Telecaster: The Life & Times of the Electric Guitar That Changed the World by Dave Hunter, and Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and John Sprung.