Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Fender D'Aquisto Models

Fifteen years ago I went to a guitar show in Cincinnati at the local National Guard Armory. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I met a reprentive from Vintage Guitar Magazine and I even got to ask George Gruhn a question about an old guitar. I was wandering around looking at all the great old guitars when some guy thrust a Fender D’Aquisto guitar in my hands and said, “Hey man, you gotta’ try this one out.”

This Fender hollow body jazz guitar was sweet. It looked great and it played great. The asking price was $500, which was a bargain. But then this fellow started to mention rather loudly to people walking by, “Hey this guy is buying the guitar, he's buying it!!” At the time I didn’t have enough to buy that guitar. I think I only had about $100. But I wish I could have bought that guitar.

It was the closest I would ever get to owning a James D'Aquisto guitar.

In 1984 Fender had created some guitars they called Espirts. Notably the Robben Ford models, which were solid body instruments. The others this series were the first two D’Aquisto models.

About ten years later Fender once again to Jimmy D'Aquisto's design and created a couple updated models including the D'Aquisto Elite and the  D’Aquisto Ultra which was top of the line.

Of course all were designed by Jimmy D’Aquisto from Farmingdale, New York. D’Aquisto was THE luthier in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Although he was not able to secure the trademark, Successor to D’Angelico, he was the actual successor to D’Angelico since he worked for John D’Angelico for years and learned his skill from the master.

Hagstrom D'Aquistos

Besides making some of the most beautiful and interesting guitars and stringed instrument Jimmy D’Aquisto had created a guitar in 1975 for Hagstrom that was a beauty. Following the Hagstrom collaboration, Fender hired him to design some of the nicest archtops that the company ever produced.

In 1984 that Jimmy D’Aquisto began working with Fender on the D’Aquisto Elite. This guitar was similar to the Hagström Jimmy except for the headstock.

The Fender instrument bore a traditional 3 on a side headstock, while the 3 on a side headstock on the Hagström instrument was somewhat radical.

The Elite had one humbucking pickup located near the bottom of the neck with top mounted volume and tone controls. The control knobs were made out of ebony as was the pickguard.  The bound neck had white block inlays.

The pickguard was narrow. This was a signature of many of D’Aquisto’s creations.

The Standard model was not nearly as fancy. The neck had circular dot position markers. The guitar came with top mounted humbucking pickups with volume and tone controls for each. Once again the knobs were made of wood. The control switch was on the top lower bout. The maple body on both models was laminated maple and the tops were spruce. The pickguard was bound and narrow. Both the Elite and Standard were manufactured in Japan

In 1994 the Fender Custom Shop took over construction of the D’Aquisto models. There were two models which featured hand-carved spruce tops.

The D’Aquisto Ultra featured a single floating humbucker that was attached to the pickguard. The volume and tone controls were mounted on the pickguard. Body size at lower bout: 16". The scale length: 24 3/4". The width at the nut was 1 11/16". The top of the Ultra featured bookmatched spruce. The sides and back were flamed maple. The adjustable three piece neck was maple with an ebony fingerboard adorned with mother of pearl block markers. The body was surrounded with triple binding as was the headstock, fingerboard and f-holes.

The headstock had a fancy inlaid design of mother of pearl marquetry. The gold plated hardware included a Schaller humbucking pickup on the Ultra. The tuning keys were gold plated. The tailpiece was contoured and made of ebony. The compensated bridge and a single volume control were all ebony as well. D’Aquisto’s signature was inlaid in mother of pearl. The pickguard is also made of ebony. This model could be ordered without a pickup.

The most popular model is the single pickup Elite. This guitar seems to be the hardest to find due to the limited quantities in which it was produced. The body is 2 ¾” deep.

The Elite’s dimensions are very similar to Gibson’s ES-175. The construction on the Elite includes a laminated body which helps to reduce feedback in a hollowbody guitar and reduce wear. The D’Aquisto Deluxe had a single neck pickup with top mounted volume and tone controls, once again with ebony knobs and pickguard.

The D’Aquisto Fender guitars are very collectible, especially the Elite and the Ultra and fetch high prices. In researching this guitar I noted that Christies sold an Elite for $23,500. However this instrument was a part of Eric Clapton’s collection. They are still far less expensive than a handmade D’Aquisto.


Anonymous said...

Interesting posts on the Fender D'Aquistos. I have a black Elite and love it; it blows away most ES-175s I've played tone-wise, weighs much less than most contemporary 175s, and I prefer the Venetian cutaway to the Florentine.

Questions: Where can I find serial number and date info? Also, mine has a gold standard-size humbucker and the non-pointy pickguard. I'm assuming that makes it a later model in the series. Am I right?

Online guitar lessons said...

These are some fantastic guitars you reviewed. I currently use Yamaha ex Martin Taylor model AEX1500. It is playing and doing really good job considering the price is around 1500$+.

Anne Allman -Savannah, GA said...

These are fascinating guitars, to say the least. I've owned a number of Fender D'Aquistos and prefer their tone and overall feel to 175's, X-170's and so forth. I currently have two Japanese-built Elites - one in natural and the other black. I also purchased a Custom Shop Elite built by Steve Stern (serial number 095) in wine red. It has the mounted humbucker, while the Japanese guitars have the more desirable Schaller pickups. The Schallers have a warmth and clarity unmatched by any other pickup I've ever heard. My local luthier was doing a set up on the Custom Shop Elite and said it was THE best fret work he's ever seen. Ever. Any serious jazz or blues player should try to add one to his/her arsenal.

Anonymous said...

Hi man!!

The image of the d'acquisto standard has been deleted ?

Thank you for the blog!

Anonymous said...


I love my Elite. I bought in 1992 in Baltimore. Supposedly, it was a prototype. It has no serial number. It also has a different pickup than the one usually seen.

Wayne B said...

Hi There

I have the 1985 D'Aquisto standard version exactly like the one in your post. I want to find out what it's worth, and a good place to sell it - any ideas?


Scott Englund said...

In 1989 I was offered a 1985 Fender D'Aquisto Standardata local music store. It had come in on trade. The price was $750. In 1990 it was still there, but that store had a tendency to keep used gear stuffed in a back room instead of out on display where it might actually sell. By this time the price had dropped to $550. I would have liked to have owned it but it wasn't in the budget. Fast forward to 2015, I now own it. A guy bought it from the store and kept it basically under the bed for 25 years. I did find out he wasn't offered as good a deal as me... he paid $850! I bought it from him in April for $1000. It is about as near mint as is possible except the pickguard is missing... it was missing in '89 too! I'd like to find one if anyone knows of a source.

Gary Butt said...

Howdy, I have had a Deluxe for over 20 years, was on the prowl for a 175 but this popped up, love it and would be near death to part with it, the best.

Gary Butt
New Zealand

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