When I first started playing bass more than 15 years ago, I noticed that Fender sunburst finishes were priced a little higher than solid colors. What’s interesting is that Fender only offered sunburst as the standard finish from the late 1950s through the 1960s. If you wanted any other color, it was a 5% up-charge, known at the time as a custom color job. They offered several custom colors, all of which were based on American automobile paint options of the era. I’ve listed 12 of my favorite vintage Fender custom colors from that time period.
The 12 best vintage Fender custom colors?
These are the colors that I think deserve to be highlighted. They’re classic, iconic, and beautiful.
I might be biased, but these are the 12 best.
1-Lake Placid Blue 1960-73
I’ve always been a fan of blue basses, and LPB is my favorite. I’ve never owned a bass in this color, but one day I will. It’s a beautiful metallic color that ages to a nice blue-green hue. It l
2-Olympic White 1958-present
When I first started playing bass, this was one of my least favorite colors. About three years ago, I picked up a used ’62 reissue Precision Bass in aged (cream) Olympic White and eventually fell in love with the color. Depending on whether Fender used a clear coat on top affected the way the color would age. Some really early examples had no clear coat, and therefore, never yellowed over time. I prefer a rosewood board and tortoiseshell pickguard for that classic ’60s look.
3-Surf Green 1960-65
A very rare Fender custom color that I’ve always loved. I especially like how it ages from its original shade to a slightly paler minty green. This color became very popular for a brief time during the surf music craze and then all but disappeared. Lately though, Surf Green has become more popular again, which is great to see. I like it best with an aged white or mint green pickguard.
Yup, good old black is one of my favorite custom colors. Always in fashion and always a classic look. Works especially well on a Jazz or Precision Bass with a maple board and either a mint green or tortoiseshell pickguard. Along with Olympic White, this custom color is always in demand and always in production, regardless of the latest color trends.
5-Ice Blue Metallic 1965-69
Amazing color with an almost iridescent glow to it. Warm and cool at the same time, Ice Blue is very rare and hard to find in vintage basses. Only made for a short time, it’s highly sought after by collectors for its scarcity and beauty. Ages really well, often turning slightly green. Looks best to me with a white or off-white pickguard.
6-Fiesta Red 1960-69
One of the coolest and most mysterious looking Fender colors, especially when it ages to a coral pink-like shade. Must have a mint green pickguard and rosewood board for the right look, although with a tortoiseshell guard, it can be quite striking and unusual. This color became very popular in Britain in the 1960s and has become pretty common in Fender reissues today.
7-Sherwood Green 1960-65
Very rare custom color that I really like. It’s a beautiful metallic finish that looks like completely different shades from different angles. Can appear very dark green to a deep blueish shade. Should have a white pickguard and rosewood board to look period correct. You almost never see this color in reissues for some reason.
8-Sonic Blue 1960-72
Very light blue pastel color that looks awesome on a Precision Bass with a mint green guard and either rosewood or maple board. Ages nicely, often turning so light that it looks almost cream colored with just a touch of blue left. This color might move up the list soon.
9-Burgundy Mist 1960-65
Another custom color that I didn’t like as much before but has grown on me. It’s a metallic finish that can look kind of pinkish or dark lavender depending on the lighting. The best ones I’ve seen are aged to a mellower, darker shade and are paired with an off-white or mint guard and a rosewood fretboard.
10-Foam Green 1960-69
Also called Sea Foam Green. Similar to surf green but darker and more green. A very cool classic ’60s color that looks awesome on a Precision Bass. Usually paired with a white or mint pickguard, although I’ve seen some with tortoiseshell, and they look very striking, although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Either a maple or rosewood board works well with this color.
11-Inca Silver 1960-65
Extremely rare Fender color that I’ve really grown to like over the years. Another beautiful metallic finish that looks especially great on a Jazz Bass with white or mint pickguard and a rosewood fingerboard.
12-Charcoal Frost 1965-69
Another very rare metallic color that I love. Became available in the mid-1960s, but it must not have been that popular as you hardly ever see them today. Often mistaken for aged black, this color actually has subtle sparkly silver highlights that look great under bright lights. Looks best with an aged white or mint pickguard.
Vintage Fender custom colors wrap up
Color is such a subjective thing.
The right color can make you feel certain ways about owning, holding, and playing a Fender bass. It goes far beyond just the “look and feel” of the bass. It helps create a mood and can even make you want to play more and practice longer.
These vintage colors hold history and say something about the culture of the time that they were popular. They look great, and they tell us something about the music scene we love.