I've always liked my Squier Vintage Modified 70s Strat ... to start with I picked it up ridiculously cheaply for a nearly new (never played, still plastic on scratchplate) guitar, but it also always felt lovely in my hands, as good as any Mexican Strat I've tried.
However, as all my guitars have a job to do for pickup demo and testing , so I stuck a set of my custom SC Rails pickups in ... and let it be a high output rock beast (very Dave Murray). Everyone loved it who tried it with those pickups in ... except me! Don't get me wrong, I love high output pickups, but not in that guitar ... that guitar wanted the vintage treatment really. So while others played it, I tended to leave it on the rack.
With a couple of days of no Oil City work over Christmas I took out the Squier and decided to do a pickup swap on it, and being lazy, I took a look around the workshop for Strat sets that I'd already wound.
A while ago I did a custom Masterwound set of Route 66s with flush, relic poles and no RWRP for a customer who decided he didn't want them after all ... and these had been kicking around on my bench for ages. So in the spirit of waste not want not, I fitted them with some ivory covers and popped them in the Squier (taking the opportunity to do a bit of a setup at the same time).
Result! The guitar is everything I'd hoped it'd be ... the vintage wind pickups are open and with tons of Strat chime, but with a nice earthy growl with gain (or my favorite with a Strat: a Tubescreamer). This is not a hymn of praise to my pickups ... any good, vintage wound alnico Strat pickup would have done ... but it shows the importance of matching the pickup to the guitar ... at least for my own instruments.
A nice side effect is the non RWRP setup emphasises the quack in 2 and 4 switch positions ... and while I don't usually bother with this tone ... it's kinda nice for some things.
Next job with this guitar will be a Earvana nut ... all my personal 'players' are being steadily converted to those ... they really are about the best bang for the buck I've found in modifying instruments.
Oh ... the Duncan Designed alnicos that were originally in the instrument when I bought it were not awful ... but were a bit scratchy in the top end and lacked 'girth' in the tone. Not a bad pickup ... just not one I especially like.