Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fender 51 Precision Bass Re-issue


I was searching through some old posts and thought I had written about these basses before, but I guess I had not. So, for your consideration today we are looking at a Japanese Fender 1951 Re-Issue Precision Bass, finished in 2-tone sunburst with a maple fretboard. This is one of the Made in Japan models that put the US made Fenders of the time to shame, and therefore were not originally imported to the United States. I found this one in Japan on a business trips.

Please note that this is a “Made in Japan” bass (not “Crafted in Japan”) with a serial number of K020XXX, which dates it to around 1990. This is the earliest Japanese 51 re-issue Precision I have seen, and there are a few notable differences between this and the newer ones. Including:

The ferrules are larger and are recessed into the body, more like the originals.

The wiring harness goes through the body, not through a route under the pickguard.

It uses higher-quality large potentiometers, unlike the mini ones on the currently produced basses. Accordingly, it has a larger cavity for the pots, making it like the originals. It would be hard to fit the larger pots into one of the newer ones, due to the smaller cavity.


A thicker, higher-quality pickguard that looks more period correct.

The super-chunky neck is really nice -- it is true, and the truss rod works freely. The neck to pocket fit is excellent too.

The frets are fantastic, with only light wear despite its age, and are nicely finished on the edges, unlike many of the newer Fenders I have seen. It has American reverse-style tuners which are as solid as a rock. I have been unable to determine if Fender Japan used this style of tuner or not, but I’ve had other early 51 reissues with the same tuners. These tuners have tarnished quite a bit, lending it a nice vintage vibe.

It has the original finish, and it is in very good shape. There are just a few small nicks and scuffs as a result of normal use, not abuse. It has a nice vintage vibe to it. Pickup and bridge covers were added at some point along the way.

This Precision Bass has its original electronics, which include one single coil pickup along with volume and tone controls. This is about as simple as it gets.

It plays well, and has a great Motown sound and vibe, but I can never get into these basses, and there are a few reasons: 1. they are always really heavy (nearly 11 pounds) 2. I prefer contoured body basses 3. single-coil Precision Basses sound so different than split-coil P basses that I do not connect with them.

But, I am a gear freak, and realize that everybody is looking for something different. For the single-coil Precision Bass fans out there, this instrument would be the prime ticket.



  1. Get you a split coil Nordstrand or Lollar replacement pickup, and you'd be in Thump Heaven.

    Of course, you'd still need to play it sitting down...

  2. Shame it has no cloth covered wiring

  3. Has this bass got the cloth covered wiring like the originals???,Thanks.

  4. If you put the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Stacked Stinger Pickup in these Basses it will sound like a Hot Split Coil. This is the Pickup Dusty Hill put in his Basses. I just recently got my first one (it was wound to 31.2K) and I'm very impressed and amazed at the difference from stock or either Lollar. I play in a ZZTop tribute Band and not having the arm contour doesn't bother me whatsoever.