Miscellaneous hardware
Neck Plates
Prepro neck plates were most often made from solid brass plate, rather thin and polished on only the exposed side, then cleared. The back side is raw and generally quite oxidized. While not thick, these are quite strong and very reliable. There were two other plates used during the Prepro era; one seemingly used only in 1980 was a smooth steel plate that had a black hard finish of some sort; it did not appear as paint although it may have been painted and baked on. These plates often have the black either partially or completely worn away, often leaving the appearance of a smooth, slightly-polished steel neck plate.
In approximately April of 1981, a new neck plate casting was introduced. This neck plate is identical to those used for "serialized" four-digit production, but used an odd five-digit stamped "serial number." There has been much speculation as to the order or pattern behind this "serialization" scheme, and although the sequence of the 5 digit numbering system is not known, one theory that is based on observations of actual examples is that the first digit "1" refers to the year 1981 and the second digit refers to the month of production, for example 8 = August or in this case 9 = September. The remaining 3 digits are presumed to be a represent the number in which it was built but this is hard to prove or disprove. These are very rare and seem to have been used only intermittently for a month or two, and then the brass smooth plate was once again used. These "five-digit" Prepro's are among the most collectible and highly prized of all pre-serialized Charvels.
There were three types of bridges available on Prepro Charvels; tremolo, fixed bridge, and hardtail. The tremolos used included the more-common Gotoh brass bridge with short rectangular string saddles spaced 2" on center (some early Traditional Strats had the wider Fender-spaced 2 1/4" on center saddle spacing), with a polished/cleared brass plate, solid brass block, straight stainless steel tremolo arm and "bullet" brass tremolo arm tip. Some of the early Prepro arms were shorter, and painted black; while some were angled, like a Kahler-type arm. Some early models featured the same Gotoh bridge, but with longer saddles. I suspect intonation was an issue with these as they are rarely seen.
Also used were Stars brass bridges which featured a heavier back lip for more mass, unpolished brass plate, and often featuring "keyhole" saddles with a large circular opening for the string. Additionally, DiMarzio and Schecter tremolo bridges were used with less frequency. Some of these bridges appeared on chrome or black, while the great majority were brass. I have seen one very early Prepro which had both a Fender tremolo and Fender tuners; this was obviously not the "standard" fare and may have been requested that way.
Hardtail bridges were usually by DiMarzio and featured a high-mass back lip, and could be strung either through the body or through the back of the bridge. These appeared most often on Telecasters and Strats. There was another DiMarzio hardtail that was used for string-through-only applications and it had the thin, bent-up back lip; again, appearing usually on a Telecaster.
The fixed bridge was used almost exclusively on a specific Charvel that featured a Telecaster body, Les Paul-style knob and switch layout, and the post-mounted fixed bridge. The goldtop Telecaster I referenced earlier had this setup, as does an identical version in red.
The fixed bridge and hardtails are by far the rarest of the bridges offered, but in this case the bridge has little to no bearing on collectability or desirability. The "standard" Gotoh or Stars brass tremolo is well-loved among Charvel enthusiasts.
The earliest Prepro's used Schecter brass knobs which had a slightly coarser knurl than the later Prepro and following production knobs. These had a recessed Allen set-screw located about half-way up the knob body. They were usually raw brass. I have also seen Fender chrome knobs used on very early examples. At some point early in pre-serialized production, the "standard" brass knob was adopted. This knob featured a finer knurl with the Allen set-screw very near the bottom (about one-fourth of the way up; you can count 3-4 "knurls" from the bottom before the set screw opening). These were sometimes painted black, sometimes chromed, but most often simply polished on the top and cleared, giving the appearance of gold plating. The clear would chip off and the brass underneath would quickly oxidize, creating a contrast between the bright, shiny "plated" top and the dull brass beneath.
This knob was used throughout production; the clear coat gave way to dull brass at some point early on, and then to painted/coated black knobs in approximately 1983. The knurling and set-screw positioning remained constant.
Also worth mentioning is that the occasional "Traditional Strat" left the factory with plastic Fender-style knobs.
Tuning Keys
As with all other parts, in the very beginning it was the luck of the draw, but most commonly either Kluson or Fender tuners were used. In an effort to separate himself from the pack, Grover Jackson began to use Gotoh machine heads as standard fare. The early 1980 examples, referred to as "octagon crown head", used no mounting screw, but rather a positioning pin which required a 1/8" hole just above the hole for the tuner shaft on the back of the headstock. The gear housing was octagonal in form, as was the tuner shaft itself. The insert was brushed aluminum, and generally non-logo'd, although examples exist with both "G" and "Gotoh" on them. These were almost without exception chrome finished. The tuning head itself was wider at the base than at the top, and looks like an inverted crown, hence the name "crown head." As these were custom built American guitars, an effort was obviously made to conceal the fact that Japanese tuners were being used, and most later Gotoh's will be without any logo or designating marks.
These tuners continued until later in 1980 at which point the most common Prepro tuner, the "crown head" was implemented. These were also Gotoh's and most often finished in thin gold plate which wore off quickly to expose the brassy/steel-looking metal. This style did indeed have a screw tang, which is located on the side opposing the tuning key shaft, and slightly up from the bottom (when viewing the headstock from the rear, guitar held upright, the tuning shaft will extend to the right, while the tang will extend to the left near the bottom of the gear housing). The insert is smooth and usually non-logo'd. They will appear to be a very light brass color once the plating has worn/faded. They were also available in chrome, and black; both far less common than the typical gold. This style was used throughout the remainder of pre-serialized manufacture, and through about the middle of 1982 into production.
In addition to the aforementioned tuners, I have also seen Schecter and Grover tuners, although these were far less common.
String trees / retainers
Most early Prepros used the Fender "butterfly"-style string retainer, often on both the D/G and B/E strings. Following the "butterfly" retainer, a solid brass rectangular retainer was used. These were polished and had rounded edges; one style was smooth on the top while another had two slight grooves above where the strings were. Both had recesses for the mounting screw. In mid 1980 production seemed to center around the round brass retainer that was carried over into production; in addition the string retainer generally only appeared in use on the two high strings. I have also seen this retainer in both black and chrome, infrequently.
Nearing serialized production (October/November 1981) another different string retainer was used, this one similar in style to the rectangular brass, but flat black in color, and made of aluminum. Smooth on top with no grooves; a bit "boxier" than the brass earlier counterparts. It should be noted that these black retainers appeared again early in serialized production, and also that early on any of the above-mentioned retainers were possible, but mostly fell within the specified ranges of use.
Strap buttons
The very early examples used anything on the map; usually Fender buttons in chrome. Very early on (late '79 or so) production seemed to standardize and land on the broad brass strap button used throughout the balance of pre-serialized, and serialized production. Some were chrome plated, others painted black. The brass finish were most common, and are dull in color with rounded edges, and a broad, flat lip surrounding a shallow recess for the mounting screw.
Input jack plates
The very early Prepro's used some hand-trimmed anodized black aluminum input jack plates; also uncommon but used were Fender "football"-shaped, Gibson Les Paul plastic square plates, and Schecter/DiMarzio football-shaped plates. Jack plates seemed to standardize to a certain degree by 1980 and were most often square black anodized brushed aluminum or the polished/cleared smooth brass square input jack. These looked plated, but were actually just polished brass with clear coat. This is probably the most common Prepro input jack.
Also seen very infrequently were recessed "Telecaster" cup-style jacks (I have only personally seen two examples; both black), and Strat-style top-mounted "cup" jacks; in smooth brass, chrome, or black.
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