The vintage Champs keep coming! Today we have a user submitted amp for your enjoyment. It is a 5F1 model tweed Fender Champ serial number C-03084. Dating this amp by serial number tells us it was made at the tail end of 1956. It is a little difficult to determine the tube chart date code stamp from the photo, but the current owner tells me it is FK. F means 1956 and K indicates November. The handle looks to be original but the power cord looks replaced, not at all uncommon on these old amps. One of the caps burst and is being replaced. You can’t tell from the photos but the speaker was replaced in the 1970s with one from Radio Shack.
Get ready for this. The current owner tells me that they bought this amp from an older gentleman who had it sitting in a corner for years. They paid $200 earlier this week. I’d call that the bargain of the week!
Today we have a Champion 600 5B1 model tweed Fender Champ. This amp is serial number 4082 (as indicated on the tube chart). This tells us this amp was probably made in late 1952. The tube chart doesn’t have the date code stamp so the serial number is as close as we’ll get. This amp still uses the “600” designation on the control plate. Being a wide panel tweed cabinet, we know that this is one of the earliest wide panel Champs. Later ones featured the “Champ-Amp” logo in its place.
Note the old style block Fender logo (not the script style logo of later models) and linen grill cloth (not the oxblood grill cloth of later models). The handle and power cord look like they have been replaced at some point (not all that uncommon). This amp recently sold for $590.
Another great vintage tweed Fender Champ. This is a 5F1 model Champ and the serial number is C 16648. This serial number tells us this amp was probably made some time near the end of 1961. The tube chart code is a little hard to make out, the first letter looks like a K (which it would have to be for a 1961 amp) but the second one is anybody’s guess. We don’t have a photo of the speaker code which can also be helpful in approximately dating a vintage Fender amp.
It looks like the tweed has developed an orange-ish patina. You can clearly see the difference in the photo of all the caps (which look original). The area behind both of the removable rear panels is clearly lighter from being unexposed all these years.
So, I got bored the other day and sat down again for a little while with “Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years” by John Teagle & John Sprung. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is loaded with tons of great historical info about every vintage Fender amp you can imagine.
While reading some of the history of Fender in the 50s I noticed that throughout their narrative, they refer to the amount of square footage of manufacturing space the Fender Electric Instrument Co. had in operation at a given period of time. They begin with telling us that in 1946 Leo Fender “had a pair of unheated, un-air-conditioned sheet-metal buildings…” with about 3,600 square feet of floor space. Right after CBS acquired the company, they consolidated 17 (and maybe as many as 27) separate buildings with about 100,000 square feet of space into one monster facility with 175,000 square feet of manufacturing space with an additional 55,000 square feet of office space. This is equal to 5 acres all under one giant roof!
So, I decided to graph it for fun, because EVERYONE loves a graph. Check out my awesome Excel skills after the jump.
My vintage tweed Fender Champ is powered by three vacuum tubes – a 6v6GT, a 12AX7 and a 5y3GT. Since vacuum tubes aren’t an everyday occurrence these days, have you ever wonder how a vacuum tube actually works? They are the heart and soul of a vintage guitar amp. There is just something so compelling about technology that you can actually see and feel working (glowing, getting hot).
I found these old video clips from the 1940s. They are from “Electronics at Work,” a film made in 1943 by Westinghouse. I love watching old educational video clips (because they make me feel slightly superior) and they do a better job explaining what is going on inside a vacuum tube than I could ever hope to do on my own. This is the first part in a three part series. Hope you like it as much as I do.