Well, it seems like I am a sucker for punishment. A couple of weeks ago, Fiona and I attended Nerd Con and brought three pinball machines for the public to play. We loved sharing our hobby with the public, so we decided to do it again! This time, we headed to Collector Con, an annual collector's convention with memorabilia, pop culture collectables, comics and games, and all sorts of other toys. This convention was in Leumeah, so not too far away from us, and another great opportunity to introduce pinball to the masses. Bringing three pinball machines to Nerd Con was difficult with just one ute and having to make several trips to and fro. So, this time we only brought two machines: Fish Tales (Williams,1992) and Demolition Man (Williams, 1994).
Preparation for this event started the day before when I checked the machines over to make sure they were ready. Initially I had wanted to bring Judge Dredd (Williams, 1993) instead of Demolition Man, however Judge Dredd had some issues which needed to be fixed before I could take it anywhere (damn Deadworld crane!). Demolition Man was working quite well, until I started multiball a couple of times. Instead of putting multiple balls into the shooter lane and plunging them onto the playfield, the game didn't spit any balls out at all, and I could play multiball with just a single ball. Great for high scores, but not so great because something was stopping the balls from being served onto the playfield.
I checked most of the basic stuff first like the shooter lane switch, trough switches, and trough eject coil. These all worked fine in test mode, which was strange. So, I kept playing until the issue occurred again. Eventually it did, and I started Fortress multiball with a single ball only. I grabbed the ball from the playfield and opened the coin door to see what was happening in the trough. Sure enough, I saw the balls sitting in the trough, but they were not moving forwards towards the trough eject coil. They were sitting there in mid air, being stopped by some invisible force. That invisible force turned out to be some tiny divots in the metal of the trough. These divots had started to rust and pit a little, creating small holes for the balls to sit in. This meant that they did not roll down the trough, and this was why I was sometimes only getting one ball for mutiball.
There's a couple of ways to solve this problem according to Pinwiki. The best way to do it is to file and sand the trough smooth again so the divots disappear. However, I didn't have time for that. There's actually a very good product available which can also solve this problem; a plastic shim which sits in the trough and provides a smooth surface for the balls to run over (RTBB). However, I didn't have one of those, and I needed the game working by tomorrow, so ordering one was out of the question. I could have swapped out the entire trough assembly from Judge Dredd, but I didn't have the time to fiddle around with swapping entire assemblies from one machine to another.
So, I decided to make my own trough shim. I didn't have any plastic to cut to size, so I did what an operator would do: I hacked up a solution that would work with parts I had lying around! I dug out a cardboard chocolate box from the recycling bin and cut it to the size of the trough. I lined the back side with double-sided tape, and then inserted the shim and stuck it down. It worked like a charm! Obviously, this isn't a permanent solution. But, it was enough to get the game to operate trouble free during the convention, which is what I was aiming for.
The morning of the event was pretty rushed but we rolled Demolition Man in first followed by Fish Tales just before everything opened up for the day. Both of the games were set on coin play and were in the entrance foyer outside the main event, so everybody walking in and out saw them. Like with Nerd Con, a good mix of adults and kids had a go at the games. Some kids played pinball for the very first time, which was awesome to see. In particular it was great to chat to some people about their memories playing pinball, and stories of their own machines. One guy remembered playing Demolition Man just after it had been delivered to the arcade after release. Another said that he had a Haunted House (Gottlieb, 1982) which had not worked in years, but he was happy to find out that I could repair it for him! I'm expecting to get a service call about it soon!
Other than that, I made some interesting observations about how people played the games. Both games featured autoplungers, therefore there was no manual plunger to confuse people like at Nerd Con. Still, autoplungers presented their own problems.
One interesting thing I noticed about a lot of stall holders at the convention was that they were selling Hot Wheels cars. Demolition Man actually features two Hot Wheels cars on the playfield in the car crash feature. They were originally released as a nine-piece Demolition Man Hot Wheels set. The red car is an Oldsmobile 442, while the police car is a GM Ultralite. According to a few of the Hot Wheels collectors I spoke to, these cars are now hard to come by, but some still pop up on auction sites. So, if your Demolition Man is missing the correct cars, you may be lucky to snag one on eBay. Surprisingly, some in the set are currently for sale on Amazon at the time of this writing, including the GM Ultralite.
As well as Hot Wheels cars, there were a number of stalls selling figurines. Out of interest, Fiona and I started digging around in a couple of buckets of toys to see what we could find. Lo and behold, we found some pinball parts!
These Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figurines are from a 1988 set which Data East used on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Data East, 1991). There are four figures on the playfield but unfortunately we could only find three - Raphael was missing. On the playfield, Leonardo is on the right wireform, Michelangelo is on top of a pop bumper, Raphael is above the captive ball, and Donatello is above the shooter lane. Given that this is a set from 1988, they are impossible to get if they are missing from the machine, so hopefully I can find a home for these guys soon! You really never know what kind of weird things you'll find at these shows!
Thankfully, both of our machines behaved themselves well over the course of the day. There was only one stuck ball on Fish Tales which was freed after a bit of a shake. Takings for the day were $53, which paid for the insurance cover for the day ($40), but not much else. (Fiona and I didn't get a chance to eat all day, so at least we saved on food!) But, Fiona and I both had a great time taking to people and introducing them to pinball. Again, I would encourage everyone with pinball machines to consider bringing them to local events like this so more people can experience the awesome hobby that is pinball!
Here you will find logs of our pinball machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball topics, and recounts of our random pinball adventures.
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