He built it using parts from other guitars and played it like a maniac. Rock guitar players started copying his style and the demand for Stratocasters and Strat-style guitars skyrocketed
During those days guitars that looked like Strats, which more often than not were imported, started cutting into Fender’s market stronghold. An American made Fender Stratocaster sold for approximately $900 during that era. Asian made instruments were plentiful and had a much lower price.
CBS still owned Fender and the management was under pressure to create a lower cost model and make changes in production to regain the company market share. This change required production to move manufacturing to Japan where labor costs and resources were much cheaper.
Instead, the three springs were directly below the tremolo block where the string ends were held. A snap-in arm replaced the screw in arm. The microtilt mechanism was utilized; however, the company went back to using four bolts.
The pickguard was supported by 12 screws around the perimeter, which aided for support of the top mounted jack.
Fender’s management was so impressed that they took him aside and asked that he not show his guitar to any other people at the show. On the spot, they agreed to finish 300 instruments with Johansen’s finish.
To promote the Marble Strat and Tele, Fender produced posters, baseball style caps, and T-shirts. Dealers commented they liked the guitar, but it looked more like a bowling ball than a marble. Hence, the term Bowling Ball Stratocaster is the name by which they came to be known. Unfortunately, this guitar was not a success. No additional Bowling Ball Strats manufactured after 1985.
In 1987 an attempt was made to resurrect the Bowling Ball Strat, however Fender dealers were under whelmed and the project did not go forward. There were approximately 20 bodies produced as prototypes. Fender sold these to their employees.
Like all collectibles, limited production items command a higher price. Fifteen or twenty years after production of the bowling ball Stratocaster that sold with a list price of $999 and a street price of around $700 is now commanding a price of $2,000.
Nevertheless, the story does not end with the final Fender Bowling Ball Stratocaster.
Since Fender discontinued the line of Marble/Bowling Ball guitars in 1985, Darren Johansen was out of the custom guitar business. His contract with Fender had ended.
A year later Johansen approached Steve Vai and Ibanez guitars. Vai sent him a few Jem bodies to finish and he was pleased with the results.