Mark Kendrick, Master Builder at Fender Custom Shop, confirmed that this gold leaf Strat. was built to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Fender, 1946-1996. It was delivered to Eric Clapton at The Complex, Santa Monica, California in late May, 1996.
In a conversation with Christie's in 2004, Eric Clapton and Lee Dickson [Clapton's Guitar Technician] explained how, on their 50th Anniversary, Fender contacted [Dickson] to enquire whether Eric was interested in them making anything for him. Dickson recalled that Eric's response was "Yes a Gold Strat. would be good", to which Dickson response was "Cool - no problem", but when Eric elaborated "Yes - a gold leaf Strat.", Dickson thought "Ah, big problem". Dickson recalled when suggesting it to Fender that they like him thought, "No Problem", until they realised it was a gold leaf Strat.... Dickson further explained that Fender went to a lot of trouble to get it right and he recalled that when it came out, it was one of those things that people react to one of two ways - they either love it or are horrified by it. Dickson confirmed that he was of the first school of thought, thinking it was amazing, and cool looking.
In an interview with Guitar World Magazine in 1998, Lee Dickson spoke about Clapton's use of the gold leaf Strat. on the album Pilgrim, 1998 ...'for most of the album, his primary electric guitar was a Clapton Signature Model Stratocaster with a custom gold leaf finish and 23-carat gold-plated hardware'. In the same article Kendrick commented 'Eric was looking for something that had an old world look - something like it could hang in the Louvre'. It apparently took him and Custom Shop Artisan, George Amicay, three attempts before they found the right combination of finishes for the two-piece alder body, which had been contoured to feel like a mid-fifties Strat. 'The most difficult thing was trying to second guess what Eric would like...but it appears that he was very pleased.'