Red – redder – the reddest: fiesta, dakota, candy apple, hot rod, and more Fender colours

Posted on Posted in Guitar in general, Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Misc

A red Stratocaster has always been one of THE rock’n’roll logos – something that started with Hank Marvin, guitarist of the Shadows, who had the first red Strat in England. He started a desire for exactly this guitar among thousand of English kids in the early 60ies, one of these was a kid named Mark Knopfler. In fact it was rather coincidence that Hank Marvin got a red Strat: he wanted a guitar like his idol James Burton (guitarist for Ricky Nelson) but unfortunately nobody knew for sure what guitar Burton played except that it was a Fender – no internet, hardly magazines, only little information in the 60ies.  So Marvin ordered the most expensive Fender (Cliff Richard bought it for him) from the catalogue – and this was a maple-neck Stratocaster with gold parts and custom colour – fiesta red. (James Burton played an ‘ordinary’ Telecaster by the way.)

Hank Marvin with a fiesta red Strat (here a later reissue)
Hank Marvin with a fiesta red Strat (here a later reissue)

Hank Marvin soon became a synonym for the red Strat. The next picture shows him with a fiesta red Strat with rosewood fingerboard. There is even a rumour that Selmer (Fender’s UK distributor back then) could not satisfy all demands for red Strats and thus simply refinished sunburst Strats in their own factory. (There is contradicting information about if this is really true and to what extent.)

The Shadows - Hank Marvin (left) and Bruce Welch (right) both with a fiesta red Stratocaster
The Shadows - Hank Marvin (left) and Bruce Welch (right) both with a fiesta red Stratocaster

In fact, Fender did not only offer Fiesta red but also some more, different kinds of red. One is Dakota red which is darker than fiesta and closer to the firebrigade red .

And a third one was a metallic red called candy apple red which looks similar to Dakota on many pictures that often do not justice to that metallic look. Candy apple red means the guitar is finished in silver or gold first before a translucent red finsih is added. For this reason there are two different variations around (over silver and over gold), the one over gold looks warmer. Mark Knopfler’s red Schecter is an example of this finish.

The following pictures (courtesy of curtisnovak.com) show the different colours in direct comparision.

All Fender custom colours from the 60ies, the three red samples are from left to right: candy apple, Dakota, fiesta
All Fender custom colours from the 60ies, the three red samples are from left to right: candy apple, Dakota, fiesta
Candy apple red (metallic)
Candy apple red (metallic)
Dakota red
Dakota red
Fiesta red
Fiesta red
A '65 Strat in candy-apple-red (left), a '58 in Dakota red (center), and fiesta red (right)
A '65 Strat in candy-apple-red (left), a '58 in Dakota red (center), and fiesta red (right), picture courtesy John Peden
Cimarron red -  a rare Fender custom colour, here on a '55 Strat and a Tele
Cimarron red - a rare Fender custom colour, here on a '55 Strat and a Tele, picture courtesy John Peden
Original fiesta red (left), the refinished Strat in the middle is similar to hot rod red, the fiesta red Squier (right) is more towards an orange-red
Original fiesta red (left), the refinished Strat in the middle is similar to hot rod red, the fiesta red Squier (right) is more towards an orange-red
The Schecter Strat in candy apple red
The Schecter Strat in candy apple red

The two red Fender Stratocasters that Mark Knopfler played in the late 70ies when he started with Dire Straits were both refinished. As at that time noone refinished to any exact vintage Fender specifications, they were simply ‘some’ red, both did not not meet any of the original Fender colours. The one with the rosewood board (S.-No. 68354, he still has this one) was lighter and more of an orange, and closer to fiesta red than the one with the maple fingerboard (S-No. 80470), which was darker and more towards Dakota red. However, the 68354 was ‘redder’ than fiesta red which sometimes has a tendency towards tomato soup, while the 80470 was lighter and brighter than Dakota red.

There are hardly any pictures that show both of Knopfler's Strats together. Left the 80470 and right the 68354.
There are hardly any pictures that show both of Knopfler's Strats together. Left the 80470 and right the 68354.

When Fender built something like a reissue of Knopfler’s red Fender with the MK signature model, it seems they copied this red and called it hot rod red. Note however that as it seems meanwhile Knopfler’s 68354 Strat was refinished again as the old finish cracked (see picture below) so it can’t be said with certainty if this hot rod red is the same as that Dire Straits red.

The 68354 Strat - In the early 90ies the finish was damaged
The 68354 Strat - In the early 90ies the finish was damaged
MK Signature Strat in hot rod red
MK Signature Strat in hot rod red

All kinds of red are generally photo reactive which means they easily fade when exhibited to light, something that was especially true for vintage laquer. Especially some fiesta red guitars today look rather pinkish so that names like Salmon Pink are also common. As said, this is the same as fiesta red, there has never been an official name like this in Fender’s ‘official’ custom colour chart.

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9 thoughts on “Red – redder – the reddest: fiesta, dakota, candy apple, hot rod, and more Fender colours

  1. on the pic with both Mark’s strats, he seems to play with a pick (or maybe doing a virtual pick with his nails, as he seems to do often live, e.g. on Tunnel of love, or Money for nothing).
    It’s very rare on this guitar. The only song that I guess played with a pick during this period is Twsiting by the pool. I can’t see others songs of 77-80 played with pick.

  2. Mark is left, David right. I can’t see a pick, looks like Mark’s anchor.
    This picture is from the ‘Pool video’ of the first Twisting by the Pool demo BTW (parts are included in the Arena BBC docu), and in fact Mark played a pick on this song but I don’t remember if he plays a pick or finger style on this ‘mimic’ video, need to check.

  3. ah ok, I thought both guys were Mark (with pics edit)
    So I thought Mark was on right too, so with a pick.
    Indeed, I didn’t remeber that David played the rosewood strat on this part of Arena doc.

  4. Great blog again thx Ingo!
    Yeah I read that due to the Shadows massive popularity (which can’t be underestimated they were really huge at the time) the strats coming in from the US were refinished for the UK market (in red of course or shades of) – it’s actually mentioned in the official fender strat book. Also I think a lot of the strats back then were under coated white so any colour could be sprayed on afterwards. Or simplying just refinished to meet an order request quickly. Sometimes the white finish can bleed into the red and you get a lighter or pinker finish.

  5. hi Ingo

    Great as always ;o) I read some where regarding the Candy red thing, that candy apple was as you say with a silver undercoat, but have a look at the 2008 strat which is called candy Cola red, because it is with a gold undercoat? at least that was the story I was told when I bought my 2008 strat.

    All the best

    Ps.

    I just purchased a calassic Suhr strat in Dakota red, what a beaty ;o)

  6. I can help on that actually, my strat is in candy apple red, and has a gold undercoat, but the undercoats have been done in both silver and gold at varying times by fender (not sure about the schecter ones), I’ve heard it said that a silver undercoat makes for a slightly darker finish, and fender only use gold at the moment. I also know David Gilmour’s candy apple strat has a gold undercoat, so pictures of that might make a good reference to campare with Mark’s. The image above of the vintage candy apple, dakota, and fiesta is from Tom Wheelers book ‘The Stratocaster Chronicles’, and he says the candy apple in that image has a silver undercoat.

  7. Just a note: the official fender “hot rod red” color came about a few years before they issued the MK signature guitar. Case in point is my own american hot rod red stratocaster, which I can provide pics of if you’re interested!

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