Some things just go together. Gin and tonic. Whisky and snobbery. Similarly, some brands seem to be just begging for a corporate tie-in. Lego and Ikea, for instance. Or GoPro and Red Bull.
Then there are those that never even entered our minds. Some for good reason – looking at you, U2 album that just showed up on our iPhones – and some because they just weren’t anything we’d ever associate with either of the brands in question. Dolce and Gabbana teaming up with Smeg, or Spotify with Starbucks. Or, indeed, Fender Guitars with Lexus.
And yet the Stratocaster, arguably the most famous guitar in the world (sorry, Les) and totem of Americana, has thrown its lot in with Lexus, a Japanese car brand.
But philosophically, Lexus is every bit as American as it is Japanese – the brand was literally made for the United States, with some suggesting that Lexus is actually an acronym for ‘Luxury EXport to the US’. It isn’t, but it’s indicative of how important America is and has been to Lexus.
Fender, on the other hand, is in a decidedly purple patch at the moment, with any number of budding Gilmours grabbing a guitar for the first time during the... er, ‘staycation’ that we’ve all been totally enjoying over the past 18 months.
They’re also no stranger to limited runs, special editions and collaborations, with some that immediately make sense – a Jimmy Page Telecaster or Jimi Hendrix Strat, for instance – and some that really don’t, like a Final Fantasy XIVStratocaster. So really, the Lexus LC Stratocaster makes more sense than you might imagine at first blush.
And then there’s that paint. Lexus calls it ‘Structural Blue’, and it’s possibly the most complicated hue in existence, taking a full 15 years for scientists to replicate the colouring of the Morpho butterfly in automotive-worthy paint.
See, the Morpho butterfly’s wings look blue, but they aren’t. OK, technically, the wings are blue, because colour only exists due to which parts of the visible light spectrum are reflected and absorbed.
But even more technically, they aren’t blue, they’re clear, but the complex structure of the wings only allows blue light to reflect. And then Lexus replicated that with paint. Little wonder it took so long.
Applied to the lithe curves and scallops of the Stratocaster body (designed as such to be as comfortable as possible), the effect is something else to behold. Even Ron Thorn, Fender’s top Master Builder – and therefore a man used to seriously cool guitars – is noticeably swayed by the colour.
“The thing just dances,” he says. “It’s amazing... I don’t know who’s getting this one, but I’m kind of hoping.”
We’d tend to agree. Then again, we’re just suckers for Fenders with matching headstocks, even if they’re a limited run of 100, selling for £4,400 apiece.
That said, you do get more Lexus (and blue) references than paint alone, with volume and tone knobs modelled after the ones on the Mark Levinson stereos you get in Lexuses, and a blue fretboard that’s made from paper. Yep, paper.
Technically, it’s called Richlite, and it’s a mix of epoxy and recycled paper generally used in commercial spaces, due to its hardiness. It’s tougher than wood and impervious to moisture (handy, given how much guitarists tend to sweat), and has the distinct benefit of being pretty much any colour you like. Except Structural Blue, of course – you’ll have to settle for regular pigment.
And then there’s the carbonfibre pickguard, which apparently matches the carbon spoilers on the sportier Lexus models.
Carbonfibre on a guitar? Yeah, not our glass of gin and tonic. That paint, though, on the Stratocaster body... well, some things just go together.
STORY Craig Jamieson