The Performer was first introduced in 1985, and was assembled in Japan. It was introduced in the transition from the CBS-owned Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company to the new privately owned Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and it was discontinued after only one year. The unusual body and headstock shapes have been rumored to have originated in the shape of the scrap wood leftover from making Japanese Stratocasters. The design of the body horns appears to be based on the flat portion of the back of the Stratocaster body.
The body is small with a deep double cutaway similar to the Fender Swinger. The tuning machines are found on the upper edge of the triangular headstock and a locking nut clamps the strings behind a plastic nut, as typically found on Fender guitars. The rosewood fretboard has 24 jumbo frets and features a locking nut. The bridge is a floating System I tremolo. The controls have inset rubber grips, the tuning heads have fully enclosed gears, and the jack socket is an enclosed, not 'skeleton', type, in contrast to many other Fender products with 'economy' hardware. A variety of metallic poly finishes were available including a sunburst pattern (non-metallic).
The two pickups are custom humbuckers which both sit at an angle as in the case of a Stratocaster or Telecaster bridge pickup. It appears that the coils are offset to keep the magnets in line with the strings, although they are potted in epoxy so the magnets cannot be seen. The guitar features a volume knob, a tone knob, a 3-way pickup selector switch, and a coil splitting switch. The tone knob used stacked 250k and 1M pots with center detent which may have been an attempt to mimic the TBX tone control used in other then current premium Fender models.
Many years after the introduction of the instrument, it came to be recognized as a versatile rock instrument of fine quality. Recent eBay auctions (as of 2010) have seen Fender Performers command prices as much as US$1,000 and higher.