A “Road Worn” Series stringed instrument by Fender is not a “Relic” and is a bit tough to describe, so I’ll use Fender’s own description, which states:
The popular Road Worn series presents 1950s- and 1960s-style Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass models bearing notably distressed touches—including worn finishes, aged parts and rusted hardware—that authentically impart the look, feel and vibe of years of well-played, battle-hardened wear and tear. A subsequent addition to the family, Road Worn Player guitars, offers modern features and lighter wear.
For those of you who would ask, “Isn’t Road Worn the same thing as Relic?” Yes and no. Yes, in the respect the instrument has been distressed to create an old look to it, and no in the respect that a lot more attention to detail has been put into Fender Custom Shop Relic guitars compared to Road Worn which – and I know this will sound weird – has “uniform distress” to it in many instances.
In other words, more often than not when you put two Road Worn guitars next to each other side-by-side, the distressing of the instrument is pretty much the same; the same scratching, puck marks, finish wearing/checking and so on will be in the same spots.
The Fender Road Worn 50s Precision Bass model isn’t new and has been around since 2009, so at this point it’s been around for 4 years. And Fender does continue to release new Road Worn models, such as the Mike Dirnt signature model in the video above.
The question, however, is this:
Is Road Worn still cool? Was it ever cool? Or is it time to give it the boot?
I tackled this issue before with Fender guitars that had “Relic” treatment given to them, and you guys and gals spoke loud and clear, saying Relic treatment was a lot to pay for just for something that looked beat up.
Road Worn isn’t nearly as expensive as Custom Shop Relic is. Not by a long shot. However, it is significantly priced higher than a Standard. And by Standard I mean Made-in-Mexico, which both the Standard and Road Worn models are.
It is important to note however that a Road Worn P-Bass will run you (at the time of this writing) almost $400 more compared to a Standard P. And again, remember, these are not American models we’re talking about here.
See for yourself:
Fender Standard Precision Bass
Fender Road Worn ’50s Precision Bass
Are there any practical advantages to a Road Worn guitar?
There are three.
First, a Road Worn guitar, while you do have to take proper care of it like any other instrument, is one where you simply don’t care how many dings or dents it gets since it already has them.
Second, you’ll notice the pick guard on the Road Worn Precision Bass does in fact have a few more holes in it compared to the Standard. Note the holes near the heel of the neck where you could install a thumb rest if you wanted one. It should also be noted the pick guard is in fact gold-anodized aluminum.
Third, because it’s a “50s”, the Road Worn does have a 7.25-inch radius fingerboard along with vintage-style skinny frets as well.
I state these things because it means the Road Worn P is not “a P that looks old and beat up”, but rather does have fairly significant differences compared to the Standard P.
On a final note, it should be said that the Fender Classic Series ’50s Precision Bass Lacquer:
…is for all intents and purposes the same thing as a Road Worn ’50s without the distressing. Has a nitro finish, the 7.25-inch radius fingerboard, the skinny frets, the same pick guard with the extra holes, and so on.
It’s also the same price as a Road Worn and Made-in-Mexico, but with one extra added feature – it actually comes provided with a tweed hardshell case whereas the Road Worn only comes with a gig bag.
Which would you go with?
The beat-up look of a Road Worn? Or would you kick that to the curb and go with a Standard or Classic instead?