The Lexus LC Fender Stratocaster Is Brand Synergy At Its Worst

The Lexus LC Fender Stratocaster Is Brand Synergy At Its Worst

The Lexus LC is a fantastic car. The Fender Stratocaster is a fantastic guitar. One epitomises the luxury touring coupe, the other is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you close your eyes and think “guitar.” Surely, these two great things must go great together, right?

Unfortunately, like so many brand collaborations, this one feels absolutely phoned in on both sides. The guitar has some surface-level aesthetic touches that call back to the car, but it doesn’t evokes the spirit or experience of the LC500 in a way that feels satisfactory.

The first thing many people will notice, differentiating this guitar from any other Strat, is the carbon fibre pickguard. This is admittedly extremely cool as an element of weird guitar design, but has little to do with the LC. Sure, there’s carbon fibre involved in the car’s construction, bu it’s not a standout feature the way it was on the LFA. The most exposed carbon you can get on the LC500 is an optional roof included on the sport package for for the coupe — a nearly $US4,000 ($5,429) option.

Fender enthusiasts among you may notice something odd embedded into that carbon fibre pickguard. Namely, this Strat has only two knobs rather than the standard three. Traditionally, a Stratocaster has one volume knob and two tone knobs: one for the neck pickup, and one for the middle. This Strat only has one master volume, and one master tone.

Why? Fender wanted to “match the Mark Levinson stereo knobs” found on the LC. Are there two distinct knobs on the Mark Levinson stereo? Nope! There’s either one, or three, depending on what kind of knobs you count. If you’re confused, great, so am I.

The Lexus LC Stratocaster is, besides the carbon fibre, extremely blue. Fender will happily tell you that this is the same Structural Blue paint used on the actual car, and will reiterate Lexus’s story that “The paint does not contain any blue material — it looks blue only because of the interference of light.” If there’s a way in which colours work that does not involve the interference of light, I would personally love to see it. Things appear to be the colours they are because of which wavelengths of light they absorb, and which ones they reflect into our eyes — Structural Blue paint reflects blue light, just like every other blue paint.

I believe Fender, that this is the same paint Lexus uses on their cars, but there’s a key difference here — Lexus LC bodies aren’t made of alder. Without metal underneath, the paint looks flatter than it does on the car. In other words, this sure is a blue guitar — just like that starter-pack Squier from Guitar Centre.

“But Steve!” You scream, red-faced, into your monitor. “It’s just a guitar! How do you expect it to evoke a performance car?” I’ll answer your question with another: What is distinctive about both high-performance cars and high-dollar instruments?

It’s the sound! The LC 500’s V8 gives off an incredible, aggressive snarl. It’s raspy in all the right ways, it snaps on revs like it’s just waiting to break free. Surely, then, Fender’s Custom Shop wizards kitted this Stratocaster out with some high-output pickups. Maybe the EMGs from their Jim Root Stratocaster, or even their own Texas Special pickups from the SRV Strat? They must have included the Clapton-style mid boost circuitry for more bite, right?

You give them too much credit, reader. This Stratocaster has Fender’s Ultra Noiseless Vintage pickups. You won’t find me denigrating those, they’re a great pickup for getting that vintage quack without any of the buzzing of real vintage pickups, but they don’t match the LC 500’s character in any meaningful way.

Brand collaborations like this, to cross-promote two entirely unrelated concepts, rarely go well. An effective collaboration needs to lean on the common ground between two companies, and “blue paint” just isn’t enough to make that work. Without attention paid to the details, it just feels like it’s come out of left field.