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Fender Custom Shop: Vince Cunetto

July 24, 2017

Today, his name is attached to an entire genre of guitars, and much to his surprise, they've already seemed to have become modern collectables.  At the beginning. The Relic (and what would later become the Fender Time Machine series) story began in 1994. John Page was the manager of the Fender Custom Shop. Page was introduced to Cunetto through Jay Black ( a custom shop master Builder ) Black was aware of Cunetto's skills in making repro Telecaster bodies, pickguards, "aged" Tele blackguards, and a few "aged" Fender replicas that Cunetto had built for himself. Page was so impressed with the quality that he Gave Black and Cunetto the green light to produce some "aged" replica samples for the 1995 Winter NAMM show. Consequently, these were a hit ( meaning dealers were willing to place orders). Its said that These "aged" replica prototypes give birth to the Fender Relic.

 

 

 

In 1995,  Page decided to outsource the instrument components that need to be "aged" to the originator, Vince Cunetto, and in April of 1995, Cunetto sets up shop under the name, "Cunetto Creative Resources, Inc.," in Bolivar, Missouri to produce the components. Cunetto's new shop receives its first shipment of raw bodies, necks and parts from the Custom Shop by the end of May, 1995. On June 27, 1995, Cunetto shipped the first reliced components back to the Custom Shop -- enough parts to produce twenty reliced Nocasters. Cunetto describes the role he and his shop played in the production of the Relics from 1995 through May of 1999:

 

"Our work involved complete prep, finishing and cosmetic distressing of necks and bodies. We also aged and distressed all hardware, pickguards and metal parts. We got it down to a 20 piece per week schedule, and every Friday we'd lay out the week's guitars on a large, 24-foot padded table. Every single part on the guitar was then matched for visual consistency and appearance. We'd match necks to bodies, wear on guards to wear patterns on necks, hardware to body wear and on and on. Each part of each guitar was then labelled so that they'd be sure to be assembled as a unit after being packed and sent to Corona for final assembly." 

 

 

 

 

Relic order numbers continued to grow, as did the number of custom and one-off orders. In May of '96, they moved the company to a larger, better-equipped facility and continued production. Over the course of '97,  the regular Relics began to stabilise and taper. Page began work on a new idea for the Relics, which was dubbed "The Relic Classic". The concept was simple: a nicely "aged" guitar in good shape. They'd had requests for pieces like this in custom orders and had done a few prototypes for the Custom Shop, which were well received. In late '97, the "Relic Classic" became the "Closet Classic", By the latter part of '98, the Custom Shop had seen a lot of changes. John Page had left to run the Fender Museum. Because of new Custom Shop management and corporate policies, it was decided that the Closet Classics would be done in-house at Custom Shop. They continued to do the majority of the "standard" Relics during '98, although there were a few done "in-house" as Custom Shop honed their "relicing" chops. In March of 1999,  Mike Eldred, the new Custom Shop manager, decided to do all Relics in-house after they finished the then-current back order.

 

 The last Shipment of "Cunetto Relics"  was in May of 1999. The Stratocaster Relics in which Cunetto and his shop played a role in producing (in addition to various Telecaster and bass models), have come to be known on the street as "Cunetto Relics". As most of you are aware they are receiving ever growing attention from buyers, players and collectors.  It is believed by many that the care and attention given to the parts "aged" by Cunetto and his shop distinguish those earlier instruments from their current descendants. Vince Cunetto, however, would like for Strat enthusiasts to know and remember the role he and his staff played in the production of the "Cunetto Relics": 

 

 

"Again, let me clarify our involvement. My company did not "make" or "build" the Relics. We did not cut bodies or necks. We did not make the parts and we did not assemble them, set them up, etc. We sent all the parts back to [the] Custom Shop, where they were assembled, wired and shipped. Somewhere along the line, the word got out that we'd been doing them, and my name became associated with the guitars from the inception to early-mid '99. The point is, I don't really care who gets the credit for the guitars or whose name is associated with them. All I really care about is the fact that me and my team put every bit of heart and soul we had every day into those guitars... to try to make each and every one have a "connection" on some level to anybody that picked it up"

 

The growing interest in "Cunetto Relics" indicates that the connection was made.  Thanks Vince!

 

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