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The Princetoad

The Princetoad started its life in 1963, as a Fender Princeton-Amp. I had been debating the ethics of amp restoration/modification with a good friend, Doug Harrison (aka The Amazing Celibate Dude). In fact, it was His Celibacy that started me on my mania for old Fender amps. I already had a reverence for anything old (especially electronics), so this was just a natural progression.

First I had to decide what I wanted to do - did I want to build an amp from scratch, or restore an original amp, or what? My first preference was to build a tube amp from scratch - that way I could say I did it all, from the ground up (and if I screwed it up and destroyed a perfectly good vintage amp, Doug would never let me hear the end of it). I ran into two problems:

a) while there are numerous resources for old tube amp parts, both new and used, obtaining a replacement chassis for a vintage Fender amp is near impossible, unless you want a tweed-style chassis (square chrome boxes are easy to make - brown & black face chassis are not).
b) It was extremely cost prohibitive - assuming I wanted to build a tweed-style amp (I didn't), the chassis & cabinet alone would have cost more than a vintage amp.

Well, I wasn't about to buy a vintage amplifier and destroy it. However, if I could find an amp that someone else had butchered first, I had no qualms about finishing the job. So I set out to find a vintage amp that had been modified to the point that it no longer held any value to collectors, and strip it down to the two main components, the chassis and cabinet.

After a couple weeks of searching, I found it: a 1963 brownface Fender Princeton amp (chassis), transplanted into a custom made cabinet. The cabinet itself was identical to the original in every way but one - it was 1" taller (this was obviously done to accomodate a 12" speaker). It had been covered in blonde tolex, with oxblood grill cloth, and someone had taken a flat metal Fender logo off a larger brown-era amp and screwed it onto the baffle. The chassis was in ok shape - two of the pots were broken, and the paint on the faceplate was a little ugly, but that was it. The electronics didn't appear to have any major modifications, just a few replaced capacitors & resistors. One pleasant surprise was the speaker - a 60's Jensen P12R - a classic vintage speaker, worth almost as much as I paid for the amp ($300). I checked out the transformers, and since they both appeared to be in pretty good shape I decided to reuse them as well (again, a significant savings, considering what transformers cost). Overall, I think I did pretty well; I got the chassis, cabinet, speaker & transformers for $300, vs. the cost of buying the same parts new - chassis=$130, cabinet=$300, speaker=$110, transformers=$140 - the total for buying all new parts comes out to $680, not including all the electronic components, etc.

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