Eric Clapton’s 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Prototype (V000007)access_time First seen circa 1986
This is the prototype of the Eric Clapton Signature model based in part on the Fender Elite Stratocaster, a ’57 Reissue Strat, and Clapton’s own Blackie. Based on photos, Eric started using it in early 1986, alongside two other prototypes finished in dark grey. They were all built by George Blanda. [Lot 62, A 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Signature Model – Christie’s]
The prototypes were based overall on the Blackie, meaning the vintage-style headstock and spaghetti logo, body shape, and contours. The maple neck itself was based on a ’57 reissue model (a guitar which Clapton had access to since the ARMS tour in 1983), and it featured a slightly softer V-profile neck than what Clapton was used to on the Blackie. Although an exact replica of the Blackie’s neck was apparently Clapton’s initial wish, he ended up liking the softer V neck, and it remained on his Signature model ever since.
The electronics were largely based on the Fender Elite Stratocaster. As noted previously, that model had Alnico 3 pickups, a YBX tone control, and the MDX midrange boost. The pickups and the mid-boost circuit were likely taken as they were, at least on these early prototypes.
At some time before the guitar reached production, the pickups on the EC model were changed to Lace Sensors Gold, and the boost was adjusted to 25db from original 14db. Some sources claim that these three guitars (the red one and the two grey ones) had Gold Laces from the very start, but based on the photos [Photo of Eric Clapton; performing live onstage with the red Strat, 1986] there’s no visible branding on them.
This would evolve into the Clapton circuit, with Eric wanting more and more of what he called ‘compression,’ so we kept increasing the midrange boost until we maxed out at 25db. [The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat, Tom Wheeler, p.222]
Eric used this red prototype in 1986 and in 1987. It was seen most notably on June 20th, 1986 at the Wembley Arena, on July 9th/10th 1986 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, January 9th, 1987 at the Royal Albert Hall. The guitar disappeared from the line-up towards 1988, as Eric started using a gray prototype with a 22 fret neck.
Clapton apparently gave this guitar to English cricketer Ian Botham as a gift in exchange for his bat. [Lot 62, A 1986 Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton Signature Model – Christie’s]