You may be too young to remember the 1980s. It was a great decade for guitar and guitar playing. Fender went through some rough times, but their Japanese-made guitars still stand the test of time.
I traded a 1985 Fender Japan Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red for the blue HM in the photo to the right in late 1988 at KK's Music in Manchester, Tennessee.
We had been introduced to the HM at the 1987 Chicago NAMM Show. Mr. Bill Carson was there at the Fender booth, and he told us about the HM and he said it was the most labor-intensive Strat ever made due to the routing and body contours. We loved the thin 24-fret neck, the dive bomb Kahler trem, and the killer Dimarzio humbucking pickup.
In 1988, retail for the HM was $669 + $95 for the molded case, or $764 total; that is about $1,900 in today's dollars plus almost $200 in Tennessee taxes.
I remember how excited I was when I heard about the reissue in 2019. Click here to see the Fender website dedicated to the reissue HM.
About this time we started seeing all of the Charvel reissues, and that is what originally sparked the interest in going to Guitar Center and buying a new guitar. After trying a few guitars, we decided what we really wanted was a new HM Strat.
In January 2021 we paid $950 less tax for the guitar and gig bag at GuitarCenter #720 in Nashville.
Comparing the two Strats;
Both of them weight in at 7.3 pounds, and they hang on a strap almost exactly the same. As you can see, they look almost exactly the same.
It was readily apparent that the neck on the Reissue was very different than the original. We know that Fender bought Charvel in 2002, and the majority of the Charvels - at least the ones in the $1,000 price range, were made in Japan in the Fender factory.
We have a 1986 Charvel made in the Chushin Gakki factory in Nagano, Japan with a Fort Worth, Texas neck plate. The first Charvel Japanese-made imports were delivered in 1986. These are very different guitars than the current Fender Charvels.
The back plate on new HM is recessed while the vintage is not. This is about the only difference in the bodies because the contours are almost exactly the same.
Hardware: The old HM has a Kahler trem, while the new HM has an import Floyd Rose. I wound up replacing the Floyd Rose with a German-made original, and it fit perfectly. I'm not sure if it affected the tone, but somehow I just liked it more. I also upgraded the screws with some titanium from Floyd Upgrades. Again, not sure if tone was better or worse, but the new hardware can take some abuse.
Necks: The necks are very different. Both have a 24 fret neck, but the old HM is just a bit wider all the way down. The new one is clearly a Charvel carve. The old one has almost an Ibanez Wizard carve, and is very similar to my 1986 Charvel Model 3A but has smaller fret wire.
I know they say the new fingerboard is rosewood, but it is not the same wood as found on the original. The old one has a gloss finish and a "skunk stripe", and the serial number is on the neck near the neck plate. The new one has a serial number on the neck plate.
Electronics: The electronics are very different, too. The old HM had a Dimarzio Super 3 and two Fender Japan single coils. They also had two TBX tone controls. The new HM has some unbranded pickups (two singles and a humbucker) with standard Alpha brand pots. I was disappointed in the electronics so I ripped them out of the guitar within a week of bringing it home.
The Dimarzio Super 3 was designed for the original HM Strat. It didn't have a name at the time, but was sold as the Super 3 after being introduced in the HM Strat.
The Dimarzio I installed in the new HM is an original late-80's HM Strat pickup
I bought years ago as part of a HM Strat harness. I also added a Dimarzio
Chopper and Fast Track to round out the trio of Dimarzio humbuckers.
The Dimarzios really added some "oomph" to the new HM.
For more information, check out my friend Jim's HM website at -
Front view of the HMs: 100% Original 1988 version
on the left; 2020 reissue on the right. OK - how metal is this
View of the backs. the contours and neck joints are almost identical.
Note that the headstocks and logos are nearly identical. Also note how different the fingerboards look.
The old HM has the original Kahler nut while the new HM has a Floyd Rose nut.