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The Fender Cumberland River Floodwater Lucite Esquire

The Fender Cumberland River Floodwater Lucite Esquire

A lucite Esquire filled with floodwater from the Cumberland river built by Fender''s R&D team for a charity auction

There are one-off guitars, and then there’s Luci. Built in fall 2010 by Fender’s R&D department, this Lucite guitar—Luci for short—is unlike any Fender-produced instrument ever made. It was conceived for NasH2O, a set of auctions to benefit Nashville musicians without resources and insurance who lost their instruments in the spring 2010 flood, and was filled with floodwater from Nashville’s Cumberland River.

The guitar is essentially an Esquire. And its simple design—besides conjuring the images and tones associated with classic Nashville twang—allowed Fender’s designers to craft channels so that the water flows through the entire body when tilted.

Fender’s R&D team of Mike Bump, Scott Buehl, and Josh Hurst designed and built the instrument using CNC techniques to cut a block of Lucite with channels for the electronics and water—not an easy task, as the material is known to crack or melt if worked improperly. The guitar was finished with a 1/4" thick slab Lucite back with a special adhesive that essentially welded the two halves together for a watertight seal. Once finished, the guitar was filled with floodwater collected from a pond on a farm that had been dry prior to the flood, and retained the floodwater after the Cumberland receded.

Despite being filled with water, the guitar is fully functional—though heavier than a standard guitar—and stocked with Fender’s ‘50s reissue neck and hardware. It features a ‘50s reissue one-piece maple neck with “skunk stripe” truss rod fill, 7.25" fretboard radius with vintage-style frets, vintage-style tuners, vintage Tele bridge pickup with ‘50s style cloth wiring, vintage volume and tone setup with Greasebucket tone circuit, a reverse control plate (a common Nashville modification), and an ashtray bridge cover.

How rare is Luci? Just ask the designer. “We build a Lucite guitar every once in a great while, but I don’t recall seeing—or even hearing of—anything filled with water,” said Bump. “And the fact that it is actual water from the flood, well, I can say for certain nothing like this has ever come out of Fender.”

Luci is up for auction at through January 8, 2011.

A special thanks to Erica Erwin and photographer Rusty Russell of NasH2O for providing photographs and details on this unique instrument.