Fiesta Red, Coral Pink and Salmon Pink: The Mystery of Fender Colors

Fiesta Red, Coral Pink and Salmon Pink: The Mystery of Fender Colors
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The original Fender custom color finishes from the 1950s and 1960s have created over the decades great confusions and mysteries among guitarists especially the famous Fiesta Red, Coral Pink and Salmon Pink.

What is the Fiesta Red color?

Fiesta Red is a bright, vibrant and extremely striking solid red finish. It’s a fairly light shade, but it’s vivid and it’s definitely red, not pink.

A Fender Stratocaster Red Fiesta with type 57's pickguard
A Fender Stratocaster Red Fiesta with 8-hole pickguard or screws

This is one of the most popular colors for Stratocaster. The great Gary Moore had among his favorite guitars a 1961 Fiesta Red Strat. The Fender Custom Shop released a limited edition of this legendary Strat:

Fender Stratocaster Gary Moore Limited Edition Custom Shop.

What is Coral Pink color?

Coral Pink is the way to call a solid pink finish, it can be glossy or matte, it is mainly made up of red and white. It is a strong pink with a preponderance of red and is vivid, but it is definitely a “washed” red type pink. It’s actually an aged Fiesta Red or Aged Fiesta Red, although it must occasionally emerge from an Aged Shell Pink.

Fender Stratocaster "Coral Pink"
Fender Stratocaster “Coral Pink”

What is Salmon Pink?

Salmon Pink is the way to call a solid pink finish, it can be gloss or matte, although it is usually matte. Unlike Coral Pink, it has yellow in its composition that pulls the tone to an orange-pink. It is a strong, vivid pink and although it can look a little orange. It is usually an aged Fiesta Red or Aged Fiesta Red whose surface lacquer has turned yellowish.

Fender Stratocaster "Salmon Pink"
Fender Stratocaster “Salmon Pink”

Salmon Pink vs Coral Pink vs Fiesta Red

The difference between the different colors – or what you call them – arises from the way nitrocellulose ages and fades. In the case of Salmon Pink, it has a more yellowish hue that gives it an orange-pink color, that is, salmon. While in Coral Pink the yellows are not present, leaving a vibrant coral pink.

Color Palette: Shell Pink, Coral Pink -also called Tahitian Coral-, Salmon Pink and Fiesta Red
Color Palette: Shell Pink, Coral Pink -also called Tahitian Coral-, Salmon Pink and Fiesta Red

Given the way the factory operated in the 50’s and early 60’s it is expected and even logical that the original tones of the paint finish, in this case Fiesta Red, vary. If one pickup can have 500 more turns of wire than other one and the body contour can vary markedly from guitar to guitar when measured accurately, then you can expect that a custom paint finish may changes by a drop or so of the different colors, thus it is not always the same color, it fluctuates a little. 

Fender may have been calling various colors the same thing: Fiesta Red, but what customers saw of the product were different colored guitars.

Different terms in different places for the same color

Despite the obvious difference in shades or pinks, there is also a current that states that the difference between the two terms is merely location or geographical. Thus, it is stated that Coral Pink is the term used in the United States to refer to the discolored Fiesta Red, while for the same color in the United Kingdom it was called Salmon Pink. Thus, both would be the same and it is only about different ways of calling the Red Fiesta. 

Fender Stratocaster Salmon Pink Custom Shop

How did the Salmon Pink and Coral Pink come about?

Unlike the Fiesta Red, the Salmon Pink and Coral Pink color never appeared on any Fender paint chart prior to the CBS era, and there have been categorical claims from prominent Fender figures that there were never such colors, either officially or unofficially.

Therefore, Salmon Pink and Coral Pink are more often considered as a retrospective term, invented by musicians and / or distributors. It is widely recognized that it refers to the Fiesta Red color – although sometimes, not so often, also Shell Pink – which has faded over time, lost its depth and richness, and became lighter and pinker.

Why does the Fiesta Red turn into Coral Pink or Salmon Pink?

In the pre-Fender CBS era, finishes were made with nitrocellulosic lacquers. Nitrocellulose is very prone to discoloration and color change with aging.

For example, old final lacquers used to turn yellow or caramel with time or sun exposure. That is why vintage necks have a strong caramel color.

Shell Pink and another possibility

Shell Pink, a pink that was listed in Fender’s custom colors. It was a light pink, classic, that when its top lacquer layer darkened and took on a caramel color it took on a Coral hue, also called Tahitian Coral – which was not listed by Fender – a color similar to Coral Pink.

Tahitian Coral and Shell Pink, other colors present.
On the left an aged Shell Pink, which is called Tahitian Coral and on the right a Shell Pink in its original state

Salmon and Coral Pink fashions

The results of these discolorations have been very well accepted by guitarists. So much so, that Salmon Pink finishes have also been deliberately and specifically applied to guitars by restorers trying to simulate an aged Fiesta Red, and by makers of vintage Stratos replicas. 

There is the case of Fernandes, the Japanese manufacturer, made a Salmon Pink Strat that was pink. This was marketed as Salmon Pink and never as Fiesta Red.

The variety of colors within the Salmon Pink and Coral Pink

Because these colors have never appeared on any Fender paint chart, and the generally accepted notion is that they are merely distortions of the official colors, usually Fiesta Red and sometimes Shell Pink. The Salmon Pink and Coral Pink have no official Fender frame of reference. 

The very nature of aging means that Salmon Pink and Coral Pink are impossible to define. Its exact shade depends not only on how much the Fiesta Red base coat has faded, but also how much the top coats of clear lacquer have yellowed. 

If the red has lightened a bit, but not significantly faded to pink, and the clear lacquer has yellowed strongly, then Salmon Pink can be practically orange. On the other hand, the top layers of some Fiesta Red guitars did not yellow much, or in the case of some they didn’t even have top layers. Those instruments will stay red or fade to a pronounced pink resulting in a Coral Pink.

Fender Stratocaster Gary Moore Red Fiesta Custom Shop Limited Edition.
Fender Stratocaster Gary Moore Red Fiesta Custom Shop Limited Edition

Observer subjectivity

Individual interpretation of color is also highly subjective and is in the eye of the beholder. One guitarist may call a color Fiesta Red that another sees as a Salmon Pink or Coral Pink. There may even be a third party who calls it Orange. Same guitar, various perceptions.

The Coral Pink and Salmon Pink Mystery Solved

As explained, the mystery has actually been a confusion arising from the aging discoloration of the Fiesta Red color. Seen by a person who has not seen the instrument in its original or new condition, they can easily believe that the color Pink was actually the original color, and confuse or believe that such color was a color available from Fender.

That said, those who chose their custom or custom colors designated them by names, listed in a sample table. However, Fender warned that these colors were “subject to change without notice”, which makes it possible to practically any situation. After that, the effects of time and aging played a major role.

For more information on the guitar, visit Fender web site.

Related Post: Fender Jazzmaster vs Jaguar, characteristics and differences.

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