Although there have been many Fender Champs over the years – and a few Fender chumps – this early 1980s model was virtually identical to the all-valve blackface and silverface Champs of the '60s and '70s. I use the word 'was' advisedly because, although it might look fine from the outside, the inside has become a bit of a dog's dinner over the years.
Many of us have learned our DIY lutherie skills by butchering perfectly good guitars, and many an amp has suffered at the hands of aspiring 'modders'. This single-ended six-watter was certainly the victim of my early experiments, but I decided the time was finally right to sort it out – and in the process, I'm going to turn it into a Vibro Champ. The best part is that this is a very simple and relatively cheap project because all the really expensive stuff is already in place – including the chassis, the transformers, the filter capacitors and the cabinet itself.
The Strip Down
Champs and Vibro Champs were very similar, so most of the wiring can be retained. Besides the electrical components, all you need is a Vibro Champ faceplate, a new fibreboard and a couple of extra control knobs. For the faceplate and circuit board, I found Marsh Amps in the US very reasonable.
Obviously the old Champ board had to be removed to make way for the Vibro Champ board. You need to figure out what goes where, but fortunately Fender always provided layout diagrams, as well as circuit diagrams, which the layperson might find easier to understand. You can Google them, or try www.schematics.ca.
I printed off the layout diagram for the Champ and gave each connection a letter code. I then transferred each of these letter codes from the Champ layout onto a printed Vibro Champ layout. As each of the wires connecting the input jacks, valve sockets, transformer and potentiometers to the circuit board was removed I labelled them so I knew where to re-connect them to the new board. Wherever there's a grounding wire connected to the chassis, keep it long. Soldering onto the chassis itself requires a very powerful iron, so it's easier to solder onto the old wires.
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Read how to strip the electrics,maintain the body and install a new speaker in your Fender champ amp