Long time, no post.
Thought I'd be helpful and post a review of this as I bought one a few weeks ago.
So, I only had to look at this guitar to fall in love with it: it's everything I've always wanted from a guitar (more or less). Allow me to elaborate...
My favourite guitar is the Fender Duo-Sonic II, an axe that combines the beauty of the Mustang with the simplicity of a Telecaster. The only things I'd change about it (and I have in a project guitar I built) would be to give it modern Gotoh machine-heads, a maple neck, truss rod adjustment from the sensible end, a humbucker in the bridge position and a six-saddle bridge. Oh, and swap the switches for an out-of-the-way toggle selector. Plus a coil-splitter switch. Ok, that seems like a lot of changes but that's how I like 'em.
If it seems like I'm going off track here, my point is simply this: I immediately loved the 'Mustang Special' because it is not really a modified Mustang, it is really a modified Duo-Sonic II with its hardtail bridge instead of the Mustang vibrato. Now, I know a lot of you guys get hacked off when anyone slates the Mustang trem, so I should get this out there now: I hate ALL vibrato units/bridges. I've locked-down my mustang one, can't stand the Strat one on the Cyclone, hate the loose feel of the Jag/Jazzy one (don't get me started on the Jaguar bridge) and generally don't require a trem on any guitar I've ever played.
I take it though, that if you are reading up on the new Pawn Shop Mustang, you're also not bothered about having a vibrato (or perhaps you just really love the Mustang and you're upset that they've ruined it).
As I said, this is a guitar for Duo-Sonic II fans, not Mustang fans.
So, how does it all feel? Right.
The neck has a fair amount of gloss on the maple on the back - about the same amount as the Japanese '69 Mustang RI, if that's any help as a reference for any of you. It's not 'sticky' or sweat-inducing like the finish on a Chinese gloss finish though (I have to sand those off!). It has quite a flat profile (which doesn't bother me either way) and what appear to be medium jumbo or jumbo frets. The rosewood is the same high-quality, soft, dark stuff you get on Jap Fenders rather than the cheaper-feeling lighter stuff you find on Mexican Fenders and Asian Squiers. I much prefer vintage fretwire thickness, but despite this the guitar is still very playable and the fretwire doesn't crowd the fretboard too much. I've played one instore and got mine mail order: the former had a wonderfully low, fast action that really blew me away. When I received mine it had an incredible high set up - which brings me onto...
The bridge is a six saddle (yay), hardtail (yay), bent-steel saddle (yay) Strat-type (meh), string-through-body (mmm) one. I personally prefer top-loaders, but the action certainly isn't too 'tight' with the factory 9-gauge strings on. It is very easy to fiddle with to adjust action and intonation and does the job very well. It does looka bit cheaper than the bent steel saddle bridge you'd get on a US Fender though: chrome finish kinda looks sprayed-on and there is no FENDER stamped into the saddles. It doesn't look as cheap as a Squier Cyclone bridge though (if that reference helps anyone).
The tuners are Kluson style repros. Mine are a little 'gritty feeling' on the high E. They're OK, but again the finish looks a tiny bit cheap. They're not as nice as the ones on either the Fender Japan '69 RI Mustang nor even the Squier China Classic Vibe Duo-Sonic. They look and feel cheaper than both. I'm considering swapping mine out. Don't think I have the heart to drill a new guitar to accept Gotoh Schaller-style tuners sadly.
Switches - Well, the good news is that the pick-up selector switch is now a Les Paul-style toggle on the treble horn. Haven't found it gets in the way there yet, but they didn't have the forethought to make it toggle neck-bridge rather than the totally stupid bass-treble, so if you do knock it while paying the neck pick up, it WILL accidentally select both of the bridge pup. Stupid.
The traditional Duo/Mustang switches have been modified and repurposed: they've lowered the switch in the body (as many of us do with washers on mustangs only on these the switch buttons are just smaller) so tehy are lower in profile and nowhere near as easily knocked. Brilliant. They are also not pick up selctors anymore - they are coil-splitting switches! Whoop! They do what you imagine they do: select either coil (not just one like many regular coil-split switches) and in the middle position they are humbuckers. I guess that if you turn both pups on and coil split them both they are also noise cancelling, but I haven't checked an know little about electircs in detail. Fender say the switching allows 18 different sounds (I haven't counted), but most importantly it means you can have an HH guitar that allows you to also have SH and HS. Most notable is the fact though that you can set it to the same pick-up configuration as a JagStang or a Cyclone, which is a plus for me.
Pick-ups - When I played instore I found the pickups to be brighter and more single-coiley than most HBs, but they still packed a sizeable punch. The difference between which split coil you select in each pick-up is pretty minimal, TBH, but there is a difference naturally. You can't quite achieve the warmth of a single coil neck pup nor the singing highs and gain of a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge. The pick-ups are a great compromise, but not the best of both worlds. I'm considering swapping out the bridge pup for a SD JB myself. I compared this guitar instore to a Mexican Black-top Fender Jaguar and the covered humbuckers on the Jaguar were a fair bit meatier and high-gain than those on the Mustang Special... but then you can't get the single-coils sounds from the Jag ones. I found that when I lowered the action of my Mustang Special at home that I'm getitng way too much treble through the humbuckers now. I think I'll rectify this with heavy-gauge strings because...
The strings it comes with are Fender standard factory 9s, despite them not suiting a shortscale guitar and
The nut is a shallow, cheap plastic job. It will require a little filing to get a decent heavy-guage string in there. Mine has now got a Tusq graphite nut in it.
The body is as light as a feather, has belly and forearm contours and is a modified Duo-Sonic II (has no trem routing remember) shape. Fender have made the guitar body a fair bit smaller on the tail end, presumably because the bridge is smaller and this makes the design look less tail-heavy. Purist are going to be upset by it; I think it is a good idea. It looks fine, TBH. This is a personal taste thing though. It will also make overweight guitar players look even bigger.
I love the fact that it has strung-through ferrules on the back because I have a weird fetish for them (probably because my first Tele was a top-loader and I was jealous), so that's a plus for me.
As for plastics, fit and finish, the usual Japanese quality build applies and these are lovingly put together. Very sleek & smooth, great fret job, tight neck pocket, great inlays on neck and good feel. The neck has a beautiful vintage tint to it as Jap ones usually do (as opposed to other Fender Asia lacquer jobs). The paint looks a tiiiiiny bit gloopy on the edge of the neck pocket but I mean on a miniscule level. I'm referring here to the Lake Placid Blue finishes I've seen, as I've not had a look at the Candy Apple Red close-up. I also think it's a little bit of a shame that they didn't modify the Mustang-shaped pickguard to fit the hardtail bridge. As it stands there is a gap there is if someone had slapped a Mustang bridge on a project guitar. This may be the 'pawn shop' vibe they are going for, but I would have liked to see the extra attention to detail, myself. The mint-green colour though is retro-awesomeness, even though Mustangs had perloid or tort scratchplates in reality.
Right, I'm bored now. Let me know if you'd like any more info on this guitar and I'll get back to you all. Ta.