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Fender Champion 800 Serial Number 591

2010 August 4
Champion 800 591 Front

I’ve got something REALLY cool for you all today – super rare photos of a green tweed Fender Champion 800!  These were the first amps produced under the Champion brand and were manufactured starting Summer 1948 until approximately the Spring 1949.  Just like all of the other Champs, they were targeted toward the student market and were small and affordable. It was a Class A amp with a 6SJ7 preamp tube, a 6V6 power tube and a 5Y3 rectifier tube. This tube configuration would remain standard until the 5E1 circuit revision at the tail end of summer 1955.  The Champion 800s featured the TV-front cabinet style, about 4 watts of power, an 8-inch speaker, two inputs, and a single knob for power and volume.

The cabinet styling is similar to the two-tone TV-front Champion 600s that started production in Spring 1949.  In addition to the change to a two tone vinyl covering there was another very noticeable difference that is easy to overlook.  The 800 cabinet was completely flat fronted.  If you look at the 600 cabinet style, the front is slightly angled back. I’d venture a guess that this change in cabinet style was made to help the low powered Champ project sound better.

The change from the Champion 800 to the Champion 600 was a relatively quick revision of the Champ line.  The 600 featured a smaller 6-inch speaker and about 3 watts of power.  This new configuration was to help distinguish the Champion in Fender’s amp lineup from the slightly larger cabinet and tone control of the Princeton.

This revision was so quick that Fender hadn’t used up all of the old Champion 800 tube chart labels so they modified what was left over by hand rather than letting them go to waste.

What really stands out on these early Champion 800s is the green tweed covering and deep purple mohair grill cloth.  The color scheme is utterly a product of its time, yet by some stroke of coincidence looks in-style by today’s standards.  Note how the weave is horizontal, not diagonal like the later tweed models.

These wonderful photos come to all of us courtesy of Terry Foster.  If you aren’t familiar with him check out his new book available on Amazon – Fender:  The Golden Age 1946-1970.  If you don’t have it yet, pick yourself up a copy.  It is a great value for your buck.  Don’t forget to vote up my review.  I’ve got 13 positives and counting!

Terry’s sent me some gems before, like this 58 Champ in NIB condition, or this Champ lineup, but this has got to take the cake.  We know that Fender made only about 1000 of these green tweed Champion 800 models.  Terry tells me that he’s only ever see 3 of these green tweed models in more than 15 years of collecting and this one is in the best condition of those.  This particular model is a bit of a celebrity.  It was featured in Teagle & Sprung’s Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years (Page 66).

Terry also clued me in to the thinking behind using up all of the old Champion 800 labels in the newer Champion 600s.  Back in the late 1940’s printing was a rather expensive endeavour.  It wasn’t like today where a digital file can be quickly altered, a new print run can be complete in a matter of hours and your only real additional expense is buying a new stack of blank paper.  Back then if you made a change, entirely new metal printing plates had to be cut and that got to be expensive and time consuming.

This is one of the reasons why the early Fender catalogs were used for two consecutive years only changing the color between years.  They were printed using the same plates.  Just by switching ink, you could have a “new” catalog.  Terry features a great photo of Fender product catalogs where this is evident, scroll all the way down the page.  You can see a much clearer version of this on page 78 of Fender:  The Golden Age 1946-1970.

Anyone else have a Champion 800 and want to share photos?  Just let me know.  I’m happy to feature them.

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