The Stratocaster was first introduced in spring 1954, it may well be the most popular and copied guitar design ever.
Asymmetrical double cutaway body, contoured body on back and on lower bass bout (where forearm rests), 3 single coil pickups with exposed poles, jack angled into top, tremolo standard (but available without special order), 3 knobs (volume, tone, tone), gold plated parts optional till 1967.
1954 Stratocaster :
Contoured ash body, two-color (yellow to brown) sunburst finish. Thin "spaghetti" peghead decal logo, no patent numbers. "Small" peghead, round string tree, truss rod adjusts at butt. Neck attaches with 4 bolts and a metal neckplate. Serial number on neck plate (except April to May 1954 models on back tremolo plate). Neck is 1 piece of maple with black dot position markers. Walnut "skunk stripe" down back of neck where truss rod was installed. Single layer, white vinyl pickguard with 8 attachment screws. A small aluminum sheilding plate is installed underneath the pickguard that covers the control cavity. White "bakelite" plastic knobs and pickup covers. Steel 2 piece tremolo, with 6 adjustable saddles. Each nickel plated saddle is stamped "Fender Pat Pend" (note reissue models are stamped "Fender Fender"). Also available without tremolo (known as a "hardtail" model).
Fall 1956 Stratocaster :
Alder body replaces ash. Rectangle string tree replaces round string tree.
Spring 1957 Stratocaster :
Vinyl plastic knobs and pickup covers replace "bakelite".
1958 Stratocaster :
Sunburst finish changed to three colors (red added).
Mid 1959 Statocaster :
Slab Rosewood fingerboard with white "clay" position dots. Bottom of fingerboard (part glued to maple) is flat. Celluloid "mint green" three layer pickguard, with 11 attachment screws (some1959 transitional models have only 9 or 10 screws). Also a thin aluminum shield the size of the pickguard is installed underneath the pickguard.
1961 Stratocaster :
Peghead decal logo now has 2 patent numbers (2,573,254 & 2,741,146)
1962 Stratocaster :
Peghead decal logo now has 3 patent numbers (2,960,900 added)
Mid 1962 Stratocaster :
Veneer Rosewood fingerboard. Bottom of fingerboard (part glued to maple) is arched.
Fall 1964 Stratocaster :
Gold Fender peghead decal thicker than previous "spaghetti" logo. Now has 4 patent numbers (3,143,028 added). Pearl fingerboard dots replace "clay" dots. This transitions in with the smaller side dots becoming pearl after the larger 1/4" top dots become pearl. Plastic white three layer pickguard replaces celluloid.
Late 1965 Stratocaster :
Peghead design enlarged significantly. Maple fingerboard optional (2 piece neck, no "skunk stripe"). Peghead decal logo now has 5 patent numbers (2,817,261 added).
1966 Stratocaster :
Peghead decal has 3 patent numbers (2,741,146 & 3,143,028 & DES 169,062).
1968 Stratocaster :
Black Fender peghead decal with 2 patent numbers (2,741,146 & 3,143,028). "F" style tuning gears replaces "Kluson-Deluxe" gears. Polyester thick finish replaces nitrocellulose lacquer.
1970 Stratocaster :
Peghead decal has 1 patent number (2,741,146).
Late 1971 Stratocaster :
3 bolt neck with micro-tilt replaces 4 bolt system. Die-cast 1 piece chrome Mazac tremolo replaces 2 piece steel unit. Bridge saddles are now cast with no stampings. 2nd string tree added on peghead to hold G and D strings. "Bullet" truss rod adjusts at peghead instead of butt-end of neck.
Mid 1974 Stratocaster :
Flush pole pickups replace staggered pole pickups.
1975 Stratocaster :
Black 3 layer pickguard, black knobs and black pickup covers. This color change transitions in. That is, black pickguards with white knobs and covers are seen first, followed by black pickguards and black knobs and covers.
1976 Stratocaster :
Serial number moves to peghead decal.
1979 Stratocaster :
Last year for the "large" peghead. Starting in 1980, Fender switches back to the (more attactive) small pre-CBS peghead style on most models.