Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
Few things affect a guitar's tonal character more than the length of its scale. Traditionally Gibson guitars always used a scale length of 24.75 inches. While the traditional scale length of Gibson electric guitars is still the same today, there are exceptions to the rule. Fender electric guitars, quite naturally, always compete against Gibson guitars. But in truth most players either stick to one of those two brands, or will admit they love both styles.
Fender's traditional electric guitar scale length is 25.5 inches. Today this is still the case. Then, there is the Fender Toronado, a Fender guitar with a Gibson scale length. But Fender didn't stop mimicking Gibson with the scale of the Toronado. This guitar was very clearly meant as a hybrid of the two styles of instrument. The pickup selector switch's location, and the two volume and two tone control knobs are reminiscent of the Les Paul. So too are the use of either two humbucker, or P90 pickups.
Because the body of the Toronado is always one solid slab of wood, and doesn't have a carved maple top, the guitar is more comparable to a Gibson SG than to a Les Paul. Fender uses a maple neck on the Toronado. The neck is also a bolt on neck. Maple and bolt on necks are both absolute Fender build style, rather than Gibson. All Toronado guitars came with rosewood fingerboards, "spaghetti" logo and sports vintage style Gotoh/Kluson tuners.
1998 Fender Toronado
Fender started manufacturing guitars in Mexico in 1989. While the details of how the Mexican manufacturing of Fender guitars aren't all on the table, it is widely believed that all Fender wood is harvested in the USA, and shipped to Mexico as parts for assembly, then shipped back to the USA, and other places, for sale. Now to be clear, Fender still manufactures guitars in the United States. Fender also still manufactures guitars in Japan too.
Every Fender Toronado from 1998-2003 is a made in Mexico guitar That said, the Toronado was manufactured at a higher level of specification than the Fender Standard series of guitars, all of those being made in Mexico. One persistent rumor which may or may not be true, and quite frankly, doesn't seem to matter much, is that the Mexican operation doesn't make guitar necks. The rumor goes that all Fender guitar necks are made in the USA and shipped to wherever they are to be assembled.
Fender Toronado Bridge
The Fender Toronado bridge assembly remains popular on the parts market. It is indeed a nice piece of hardware. But the nickel/chrome bridge wasn't always used on the Toronado. After some years the people at Fender decided to go all out on the Gibson styling and used a tune-o-matic with a stopbar tail piece. If one didn't like the Gibson style hardware, they could retrofit a vintage Toronado bridge onto their guitar.
- Vintage-style chrome bridge assembly
- String-through-body design
- Six "Fender" -stamped saddles
- Mounting hardware and wrench not included
- For Deluxe series Toronado guitars (1998-2005)
Fender Atomic Humbucker
The Fender atomic humbuckers were the pickups used on the Fender Toronado guitars. These are thought to be very well balanced pickups. I should state, however, that for every major style of pickup put out on the market, there are going to be persons who simply did not think the product was good. But the most of the things I read on the web about the Fender atomics are positive.
From 1998 through 2003 Fender used the atomic humbuckers, but the guitars came from the factory with pickup covers. Fender Toronado guitars produced after 2003 had those same pickups, but they were then uncovered. The exception to these rules is the Fender Toronado GT HH guitars made in 2005 and 2006. Those guitars were made not in Mexico, but Korea, and they had Seymour Duncan pickups from the factory.
Because at the time of this writing all Fender Toronado guitars on the market are used guitars, and furthermore, not very expensive used guitars, these guitars are great for modding. Add your pickups of choice to one, or keep it stock. Either way it will be a fine guitar. If there is one thing today's electric guitarist likes to do almost as much as play a guitar, it tends to be modding their less expensive guitars.
Fender US Special Toronado
The Fender US Special Toronado of 2004, as you can see, has a much smaller pick-guard than the earlier versions. They also have the Fender atomic humbuckers, but these are uncovered. Sometimes these guitars are called American specials. We're talking about the same thing regardless.
There was also a version produced with P90 style pickups. These versions have a wraparound bridge instead of the adjust-o-matic and stop-bar tailpiece. The wraparound may seem to be a cheaper thing, a cost cutting measure. But the absolute truth is some people very much prefer it in the same way some persons very much prefer P90s to humbuckers.
What is the difference between the Fender American Special Toronado and the Highway One Toronado? Friends, I've been scouring the web, and I can not find that there is any difference at all. These models of Toronado ran from 2004-2006. There are not a lot of them, but what there are available are nearly all for sale on the used market starting at around five hundred dollars. They could well become collectible, and the US made ones will most certainly be more desirable to own than the Mexican or Korean ones.
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Alder body
- Maple neck with Rosewood fingerboard
- 22 Medium Jumbo Frets
- 2 Atomic IITM Humbucking pickups
Fender Toronado American Deluxe P90
Fender Toronado GT HH - Big Block Series
The Korean made Toronado GT HH guitars are of a mahogany body. These guitars all were made in 2005 and 2006. The original run of Toronado guitars were of poplar body. These are also available in Navy Blue, Caramel Metallic, Blizzard Pearl and Chrome Red. None of the Korean guitars came with a pick-guard.
You can see these guitars feature the Gibson style bridge and tail piece. Fender calls theirs an adjust-o-matic, rather than a tune-o-matic. They can't, of course, use the same name as Gibson, but the hardware is plainly copied. This isn't any sort of major issue, as everyone in the world copies both Gibson and Fender originals non stop.
The pickups are Seymour Duncan make, and specifically are a '59 at the neck position and Pearly Gates at the bridge. The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickup is an enduring classic, much desired still. The mahogany body is well known to produce a big mid range tonality. These guitars ought to have a character faintly reminiscent of a Gibson SG.
Fender Toronado: Fender's short lived answer to the Gibson SG
Who have you heard of who plays the Fender Toronado? Well, Jim Root does. We all know of Jim for his playing in metal band Slipknot, and also Stone Sour. The Toronado Jim Root plays was made specifically for him by Fender. Jim's Toronado features hot EMG pickups, and as you surely know EMGs are often the pickups of choice for guitarists involved in very heavy metal music.
Folks very often wrongly assume Jim's guitar is a modified or custom made Fender Jazzmaster. But the Jazzmaster has the longer scale length which most Fender guitars have. Obviously, the Jazzmaster and Toronado have the exact same body dimensions.
Other Toronado players include Fall Out Boy's Joe Trohman, Blink 182's Tom DeLonge, and Frank Iero from My Chemical Romance. There are, of course, others; and with as inexpensive as Toronado guitars on the used market are, why not pick one up yourself? Thanks for reading.
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw
Atilio on December 04, 2019:
Hey, in the article says "Obviously, the Jazzmaster and Toronado have the exact same body dimensions" but NO. That's not true. Their bodies are quite similar, but not exactly the same. The Toronado is like a mix between a jazzmaster and a Telecaster, quite smaller too.
Leonardo on November 25, 2019:
You're right, it's a pre production model, but still a jazzmaster. You can find other pictures on the internet of this same guitar and also a youtube video of Jim speaking about this one.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on October 05, 2017:
That's a new production instrument. The guitar I refer to in this article is much older, and not a production instrument.
El Premier on October 05, 2017:
The Jim Root Guitar says "Jazzmaster" on the headstock