Fender 1984 Stratocaster Marble Blue Black & Yellow Bowling Ball Swirl


Fender 1984 Stratocaster Marble Blue Black & Yellow Bowling Ball Swirl

Fender 1984. Stratocaster Marble in Blue Black & Yellow Bowling Ball Swirl Finish.

Maple neck with Rosewood Fretboard.


This information is based on Larry Meiners' article published in 2001.

The story began in the early 1980s when Darren Johansen created his swirl finish process. He originally applied this unique finish to a drum set and later to a foam board cutout of a guitar. Delighted with the results, he did what only an entrepreneur would, he sent a picture of the imitation guitar to Fender. To his surprise, Fender called and wanted to see the guitar in a few months at the next NAMM Show. Darren had to scramble to meet this deadline using a process that was never tested on a real guitar.

Darren believed that his finish could be applied to almost anything with proper surface preparation and knew he could make it stick to a guitar body. A few days before the NAMM Show, the prototype guitars were completed. They looked terrific with vibrant colors. So, he packed his guitars and ventured off to see if Fender would like his creations.

He remembers going to the Fender booth and into a meeting room at the NAMM Show. Darren showed Fender's management the first guitar and could tell they were excited about the possibilities for this custom finish. When he showed them the second guitar, Fender's people closed the meeting room door and asked him not to show or discuss these guitars with anyone else at the show. To prove their interest, Fender committed to finish 300 guitars with Darren's swirling colors. Darren was now in the custom guitar finish business with one of the largest and well-known guitar manufacturers in the world. He had to get busy, fast.

These 300 original swirl guitars (aka Bowling Ball Strats) were finished by Darren and assembled by Fender on their Standard Stratocaster model during 1984 and shipped to dealers early in 1985. Unfortunately, Fender management was in the middle of buyout negotiations with CBS during late 1984 and these custom guitars were not the highest priority for the new owners of Fender. Shortly after, Fender discontinued the Standard Stratocaster model in favor of newly introduced 1950s and 1960s Reissue Strat and Tele guitars. The 300 Bowling Ball guitars were originally called the Marble Strat and Marble Tele and all were sold to dealers. However, Fender was unsure if they should add the swirl to their line-up of custom finish options.

Darren confirmed that the numbers shown in various guitar books indicating 225 Standard Stratocaster and 75 Standard Telecaster guitars produced is incorrect. Darren has supplied the production numbers by color scheme as follows: his original invoice from Fender states that 250 Strat and only 50 Tele guitars were finished with his multi-color swirl. The Gold-Silver-White swirl finished guitars are the most rare based on these production numbers.

Fender did not order any more of Darren's finish for their guitars. At that point, he decided to focus on building a business applying his swirl finish to other products, including clothing.

A few years later, Darren's friend suggested he apply the swirl finish to a few guitars for Steve Vai. Steve Vai first endorsed the Ibanez Jem line in 1987......

Darren Johansen copie

#1 Proto 5/1984 by Stephen Carr (he was builder for Kiss guitars)

Proto#1 05:84

Stephen Carr Marble Prot #1 copie

#1 Proto 5/1984 by Stephen Carr.

Proto Marble 5:84 Strat copie

on the pic there is Darren Johansen at left and Stephen Carr on the right with Proto #1 05/1984.

Please have a look at this very interesting video from The Trogly's Guitar Show about these Swirl guitars

"The Birth of the Swirl Finish"