So what did a brand new Fender pink paisley look like in 1968? Without a time machine, we may never know for sure. But after having spent years researching and looking at various original paisley guitars, I’ve made some observations.
Looking under bridges, neck plates and areas not exposed to UV rays, the print looks redder than aged ones appear today. Keep in mind that Fender’s promotional campaign listed them as Red Paisley. Also, the background paper is silver and not the amber-like gold you see on the rest of the guitar.
I believe the side’s edges were finished in three steps: a silver base coat, a maroonish red mid-coat and a top clear coat. The colors we see on aged originals are a unique combination of the red fading over the silver metallic base for a pearlescent effect. Add in the yellowing of the clear coat, and the color combinations vary greatly.
Silver Base Coat
The metallic silver base coat is a big part of the look. Silver would have fully covered the wood grain quickly and made the side and edges the same background as the paper so that the burst colors appeared similar on the sides or over the paper. Plus, the metallic particles gave the red color a 3-D effect. As the metallic particles have aged and oxidized, they’ve take on various hues from green-brown to gold-brown.
It looks to me that the mid-coat was a red paint toward the maroonish side and was mixed very thinly. It wouldn’t take much opacity to cover the silver, and it would make it easier to do the burst. When you pull an original clear pick guard off a paisley guitar, you can see it is not completely transparent like a candy color, but it actually has a bit of opacity to it that would come from paint.
I started working in an auto body shop in 1973, just five years after the introduction of the paisley guitar. At that time, red was one of the worst car colors for fading due to UV rays. To quote a friend of mine, “Back in the day red started to fade as soon as you took the lid off the can.” While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it isn’t too far from the truth. Due to fading, red was also hard to match. It didn’t take much tinting to take it too far to the orange side of red or to the maroon side of red.
When I’ve examined original paisleys today, I’ve seen many different shades of red. The extreme is when it is faded to the point where there is no “red” showing, leaving the silver underneath. The least effect is when the red has faded slightly, just taking the sharpness off the color.
Top Clear Coat
The clear coat plays a large part in the coloring. Depending on the extent of the yellowing of the clear, the red can look orange, the silver can look gold, etc.
It seems to me that the degree of oxidization on the silver, the fade of the red and the yellowing of the clear coat can turn out a wide variety of colors.
Working off my theory, I have sprayed pink paisleys anywhere from like new condition to various levels of aging to an entirely beat-to-death state. I recently finished an aged paisley, and I used four different reds, three golds and two different tinted clears in addition to the silver base coat.
What do you think?
Let’s hear your opinions on the coloring of the old pink paisley. Even if you have never painted a guitar, what does your knowledge of painting and color tell you? Have you heard any other theories that you want to share? I’d love to hear what you think.