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Fender System I, II, III Elite and Free Flyte

 

About the Fender Systems...

The Fender "fulcrum" tremolos: System I (left, top), Fender System II/ Free Flyte (left, 2nd), Fender System III (left, 3rd), Fender Elite (left, 4th), Fender Free Flyte (left, 5th) and the Kahler "Traditional" fulcrum tremolos (left bottom picture) are found on the 1983-1987 Fender and Fender "Squire" Stratocaster and Telecaster models. All tremolos were made by Schaller (except the Kahler 2500) during that glitzy excessive, whammy bar and big hair era called the 80's. Featuring snap in arms , they found their way onto Fender guitars that were manufactured in USA from 1983-84 and Japan from 1985-87 during that time. When CBS sold Fender to its current owners in 1984 it was sold without the California Fullerton facility. Therefore there was a transitional period from 1985 to 1987 when a new factory was built in Corona.

Starting in 1985, all parts and bodies were manufactured in Japan. In 1987, after the new manufacturing facility was finished, all the leftover MIJ guitar bodies, necks and Schaller parts started coming back to the US from Japan. So in late 1987, when the Schaller bridge supply ran out, the USA Kahlers were used. Overseas parts were married with USA parts as seen on some later 1987 MIJ models. Essentially, the 1987 Stratocasters with the Kahler 2520 "Traditional" tremolo on the body and a Schaller made System 1 stringlock (right) on the neck are hybrids...half MIJ and half USA. Need Kahler 2520 "Traditional" parts?

Manufactured from 1983 to 1987 by Fuji Gen Gakki these Stratocasters were designed to be Super Strat's with a Floyd Rose like bridge designed by Schaller not Kahler as some think, with some models featuring humbucker pickups. The System I bridge has no individual string height saddle adjustments but can be adjusted for intonation. The System I bridge string height is set by the adjustable pivot post screws. The System II, Elite, Free Flyte and System III bridges do have individual string height saddle adjustments and also can be adjusted for intonation. The System I tremolo system uses a behind the nut string locking mechanism. The System II and III tremolo systems usually had a height adjustable locking nut with a lever to tighhten the clamp plates. The humbucker pickups used have a DC resistance which is approximately 7.6 K ohms. The single coil pickups used have a DC resistance which is approximately 5.6 K ohms. The contemporary models that use a TBX tone control use 500K ohm volume pots and use 0.022uf tone capacitors. General features include:

  • “D” profile neck with a 12" radius.
  • "BiFlex" truss rod adjustment at the top of the neck.
  • Micro tilt neck angle fine adjustment.
  • Some models have string trees.
  • Some models have a coil split switch.
  • 22 medium jumbo frets.
  • Fender Roto-matic tuners, and 4 bolt neck plate.
  • 11 screw pickguard. Some models don't have a pick guard.
  • String locking.
  • Fender Schaller System I, System II, Elite, Free Flyte and System III tremolo systems. Some late 1987 models are fitted with USA made Kahler 2520 "Traditional" fulcrum tremolo.
  • Various combinations of single coil and or humbucking pickups on various models.
  • 25.5" scale length except model 27-5500 which has a 24.75" scale length.
  • Some models feature black colored necks and/or black colored headstocks.

There was 11 specific guitar models that had the Fender tremolos installed on them. All shared basically the same specs across the board. They had a 25.5 scale length except the model 27-5500 which had a 25.74 scale length neck, and all had a 22 fret with a rosewood or maple fret board with a 12" radius. The models that sported FS1, FS2 and FS3 Tremolos were as follows:

27-5700: 2 single coil and 1 humbucker pickups, 5 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system III tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-5800: 2 humbucker pickups, 3 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system III tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-4100: 2 single coil and 1 humbucker pickups, 5 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system II tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-4200: 2 humbucker pickups, 3 position selector switch, 1 volume 1 tone, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-4300: 3 single coil pickups, 5 position selector switch, 1 volume 2 tone, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, top mounted output jack.

27-4302: 3 single coil pickups, 5 position selector switch, 1 volume 2 tone, system I tremolo, maple fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, top mounted output jack.

27-4400: 1 humbucker pickup, 1 volume, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-5000: 2 humbucker pickups, 3 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-5500: 2 humbucker pickups, 3 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.74" scale length, side mounted output jack.

27-5400: 2 humbucker pickups, 3 position selector switch, coil splitter, 1 volume 1 tbx, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

Unknown model : There is also an unknown model number featuring 2 single coil and 1 humbucker pickups, 5 position selector switch, 1 volume 1 tbx, system I tremolo, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5" scale length, side mounted output jack.

The System I bridge string height is set by adjustable pivot post screws and has no individual string height adjustments but has individual string intonation adjustments and is very much like the Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge in terms of intonation and string height adjustments. The System I tremolo system uses a behind the nut string locking mechanism. The System II, Elite, Free Flyte and System III bridges all have individual string height and individual string intonation adjustments. The System II, Elite, Free Flyte and III tremolo systems also use a height adjustable locking nut with a clamping lever.

The System II, Elite, Free Flyte tremolo system was designed by John Page, Chip Todd and Charlie Gressett. The System III tremolo system was designed by John Page, Dan Smith, Charlie Gressett and John Carruthers. The System I, System II, Elite, Free Flyte and System III tremolo systems were manufactured in Germany by Schaller. Sometimes parts of the tremolo system are lost and one common modification is to make the bridge function as a hard tail by locking the bridge into a non movable position and installing a string tree for the first and second strings so that the strings don't slip out of the nut slots.

The System 1 bridge can be replaced successfully with a Floyd Rose licensed bridge. The slightly wider pivot screw spacing of the System 1 bridge needs a Floyd Rose licensed bridge design with one pivot screw cutaway that extends to the edge of the bridge allowing the Floyd Rose licensed bridge to mount onto the System 1 pivot screws. This configuration is most common in a "Floyd Rose Gotoh" bridge. Most Floyd Rose bridge designs have two pivot screw cutaways that are limited to the width of the pivot screws, and these will not fit the System 1 pivot screw spacing.

The pickups used in the Contemporary models were manufactured by Fujigen. All of the pickups used on the Contemporary models have alnico magnets instead of ceramic. The humbucking pickups used in the Contemporary models have a DC resistance which is approximately 7.6 kΩ. The single coil pickups used in the Contemporary models have a DC resistance which is approximately 5.6 kΩ. The Contemporary models that use a TBX tone control use 500 kΩ volume pots and use 0.022 µF tone capacitors.

Fender Contemporary Tremolo Systems operating and maintenance guide (PDF)