FENDER HM STRAT (1ST VERSION)
I've created this page to keep my descriptions briefer. It's going to be a work in progress. I'll tweak it and add more info, including the later "digital logo" Strat headstocks with Original Floyd Rose trems as well as the final hockey stick headstock models. For now this page applies only to the version 1 models with Strat headstock and "paint brushed" Strat logo. I have yet to find an in-depth definitive source, print or web, regarding these great guitars. I have used various sources, including web, books, catalogs, my retail experience in the mid-late 80's, and experienced gained from having owned 100 of these over the years. Feel free to contact me if you have any additional information, citing references if possible.
Now that they're nearing 25 years, HM's are officially vintage but based on current values, they're worth the price in utility value, with little to no allowance for their vintage value. A comparable early American Standard Stratocaster (late '86-'88) in investment condition can net 50-100% over an early 90's model. This indicates that much of their value is derived from vintage (i.e. investment potential) over and above the utility value (i.e. an American made Strat).
Over the relatively brief run of the HM's, some were made in USA, and others either in Japan - or in Japan of USA parts. Note that. regardless of origin, all HM's have the curved neckplate engraved with "Fender USA". They're all excellent quality guitars virtually indistinguishable other than the pickups (and pickguard on the HS model). I would estimate over 90% had the HSS (Humbucker-Single Coil-Single Coil) pickups, much more rare are, in order of rarity, the HS with a humbucker and slanted lace sensor in the neck, the single humbucker (bridge position), and HH with dual DiMarzio 3 humbuckers. The model I think is the USA model features DiMarzio Super 3 humbucker (hex poles) with American Standard single coils in the middle and neck, which are easily distinguishable by the red/white wires (middle) and blue/white wires (neck), visible while looking straight at the pickup. Another common pickup setup, which I believe are the Japan models feature the more generic black/white wires on the single coils as well as a DiMarzio PAF (slotted pole/flat pole combination).
I noted the '88 price list describes the line as merely "H.M. Series Stratocaster", while the '89 price list mentions, "U.S. H.M. Series Stratocaster" from which one might garner the earliest models were the Japan/US collaboration, followed by a straight USA-made.
There were many finishes for these over their brief run. I'll possibly add to this list but in the '88 price list these included: Black, Bright White, Flash Pink, Razz Berry, and Ice Blue. In the '89 price list, some were dropped, many were added. These colors were Black, Bright White, Midnight Blue, Chrome Red, Blackstone, Redstone, and Bluestone. These "stone" finishes were unique in that they had lines of flake in them that give the appearance of stone.
In the Oct '88 price list the HM Strat was priced at $669 ($589 for single humbucker) plus $100 for a case - which was actually $120 higher than the American Standard Strat w/case at $649. By the Nov '89 price list the price went up slightly to $799 (WITH case) for either the HSS, HS, or HH models. The American Standard Stratocaster had the same $799 retail by then.
I'm going to go out on a limb and inform the public that all the HM's that are generically called Seafoam or Surf Green are actually Ice Blue. In none of my '88-'89 price lists do they list these colors and Ice Blue is the only blue or green color listed among the 5 color choices (others are Black, Bright White, Flash Pink, and Razz Berry) as shown here. I can see where the confusion comes from. In this pic of two '88 HM's (2 shades of Ice Blue) you'll see how the finish turns from a blue (pictured back) to more of a green (pictured in front). The "blue-er" one sat in its case out of the elements while the greener one was played regularly and lived outside of the case. Other colors that are sometimes confused are Flash Pink and Razz Berry. Razz Berry is frequently called Pink but as you can see in this comparison pic the Razz Berry on left is much redder.
Since nobody has ever given these guitars the respect they deserve, nobody has ever done truly extensive research. There are a few good sites that focus on or discuss HM's and I appreciate them, but they also contain a great deal of misinformation, much of it submitted by casual users. Features of the HSS model has a DiMarzio bridge humbucker (hex poles) and a pair of single coils in the middle and neck, controlled by Strat 5-way with an additional mini-switch to split the bridge humbucker which gives you all the vintage Strat choices, plus two humbucker choices. Other features include Kahler Spyder double-locking tremolo (licensed by Floyd Rose), quality Gotoh tuners, side-mounted barrel output jack, Kahler locking nut only (rather than the locking nut behind the standard nut found on the Kahler Pro, flat fretboard (17" radius) with 24 jumbo frets, an un-Fender like 25" scale, Strat shaped body with the cutaways and heel beveled to provide maximum ease in playing in the upper register. Fender chose to include a both a tone control and the "new" TBX control with this model, which is a welcomed addition over guitars like the Baretta that featured a volume control only. Knobs were plastic with rubberized sides with "F" stamped caps which are prone to falling off and many of these caps have been lost over the years. Most HM's have a very dark rosewood fretboard which is generally tight grained and looks almost like ebony. The necks on these are very thin and wide, with only a sealer coat which provides a very natural feel and doesn't stick to your hand. The pots usually have a very even taper and gradually roll off the volume, or tone, evenly from "10" to "1". Original cases for these were the rectangular molded cases with three flip latches (a thicker molded case followed ca. '90 with 3 "twist" latches).