The world of yowhatsshakin


This Superhawk prototype is a bit of a different beast compared to the “standard” Superhawk on the previous page. Even during his last days at G&L, and on Earth for that matter, Leo Fender remained the tinkerer while developing a new humbucker. He combined 2 hotter, white, S-500/Skyhawk Magnetic Field Design single-coil pickups in a Schaller humbucker mounting ring used on the standard Superhawk and similar dimensions as standard buckers found on guitars of other brands. This all in the hope to penetrate the pickup swapping market. Mounted on a contoured soft maple body finished in Black, they are controlled by a 3-position mini-toggle pickup selector, volume control, and a separate tone control for each pickup. It also has the rare 3rd generation Leo Fender Vibrato (LFV). The hard-rock maple pre-BBE #3 Skyhawk neck has a 12” radius rosewood fingerboard, 1¾” nut width, and Sperzel Locking tuning machines. In the sales log, this instrument was entered on “3/5/91” under “Inv. #4746” as a “Superhawk prototype” for “Dale” (Hyatt) himself. Under the “2 HB” the cryptic phrase “1300 winds” is written, likely the number of extra windings used on the pickups.


G&L Superhawk ‘Leo’s last project prototype

The story behind this guitar

Year:                 1991

Serial number:    G028886 (Leo Fender’s last prototype)

Neck date:         DEC 19 1990, marked ‘3/4 B’

Body date:         OCT 27 1990

Strings:              D’Addario EXL110 Nickel Wound Regular Light (10-46)

As the title alludes to, this is the very last project Leo ever worked on. There is a healthy debate whether this is actually the truth. George Fullerton claimed that honor should go to a 6-string baritone/bass guitar, the L-6000 (aka L6K) with S/N G029213. It appears in color in his book “Guitars from George & Leo: How Leo Fender and I Built G&L Guitars”. Likewise, the current owners of G&L have made similar claims on their Facebook page, as copied by Craig Dewey into a post on the Guitars by Leo (GbL) website, titled This is the last instrument created by Leo Fender”. They all make a fair point that the baritone was one of the last instruments passing through Leo’s lab. After all, legend has it the baritone was still on Leo’s chair after he passed away on March 21. Only trouble is that in a famous (unsigned) letter, Dale Hyatt vehemently states otherwise. Although the original unfortunately was lost in a basement flooding, both Gabe Dellevigne and Larry Garrett have assured me they were shown the letter while visiting Dale on separate occasions. A picture of a picture is included below. In this letter, Dale claims he assembled the baritone on the evening of March 19 and left it in the lab for Leo to test the next morning, which sadly never happened. And then there is the sales log, pictured below as well as in the post G028886 prototype Last instrument created by Leo Fender” by member Growler on GbL. One could argue there are still 2 weeks between March 5th and March 19th, plenty of time for Leo to work on other projects. But one should also keep in mind that Leo was already ailing and not as productive as he had been in his better days. Thirdly, Dale effectively ran G&L before Leo’s passing as well as after, up to his own retirement in November 1991, at which time BBE started to take over management. He had ample opportunity to keep the baritone for himself if it was deemed historically relevant, as he had done with other guitars. Fact is none of the main participant are around anymore, making 1st source verification impossible. What I do know from those that were able to conduct interviews with the main players while still alive, is for the probability to be more towards this Superhawk being the last project. But of course I might be accused of having a certain bias. Either way, both are some very interesting and relevant instruments. And we should be thankful they are still around. Happy this great sounding guitar is part of my collection.

Around 2015, the exact same pickup experiment was repeated on a Greenburst S-500, in HSH configuration now without mounting rings for the combined single-coils, and including a series/split/parallel mini-toggle switch. This configuration never went into production. Again ...