Last Action Hero (Data East, 1993) came to me as a restoration project for a customer who had had the machine for some time but was moving it to a new location. He wanted it to be fully working so he could set it up in his factory. The machine was relatively functional, but had a few issues that required extensive repair. I have a soft spot for Data East machines, so I was keen to take this one on and see how a full restoration would make it pop like new again.
It's been a while since my last post! Over the last few months, Fiona and I have been busy with a mix of our own arcade projects as well as various repairs for customers, so let's go over one of the recent repairs for another Fish Tales (Williams, 1992)! This customer had not played their Fish Tales in several years and it had sat around not working. The difficult part was that the customer (and the machine) were in Orange, NSW. A bit beyond the typical house call distance! Luckily, he was able to bring the machine to our workshop for the various repairs that it needed.
This restoration was for a customer who had just come into possession of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Data East, 1991) pinball machine from a family member who originally wanted to sell it. Luckily, he convinced them not to sell it and instead get it restored. Of course, I was happy to help, and was keen to get some more experience with Data East machines. Early 90s Data East machines are generally not known for their fantastic gameplay, but the games are simple and fun, which is all that was really needed in an arcade in the 1990s.
Once again my favourite time of the year is here... Pinfest! I have a blast at Pinfest every year so I'm always excited for September when it rolls around. Pinfest is an annual pinball festival that takes place in Newcastle on the Central Coast and is hosted by the Newcastle Pinball Association. It is always a fantastic event with many machines on free play for the general public to play. This year, Pinfest was at a new, larger venue, so I was doubly excited to check it out and play pinball all weekend.
The dot matrix display used in most modern era pinball games is a high-voltage plasma gas discharge display. High voltages are required in order to energize the plasma in order to illuminate it, creating the dots and pixels we see on the display. This process is controlled by a specific section of the display driver board (part no. A-14039) in WPC games. Pinwiki has a detailed description of problems that can occur with these displays and how to fix them. In particular, the section on testing DMD controller voltages discusses the high voltage section of the board and the voltages you can normally expect to find on it. When the components on this section of the board go out of spec, they can affect the display, rendering text and images on the screen impossible to read (if present at all).
At this point, it was time to rebuild the display driver boards in a couple of my games. The display in my Getaway (Williams, 1992) seemingly worked fine, but the voltages being produced by the board were way too high. On the other hand, the voltages on my Judge Dredd (Williams, 1993) were perfectly fine, but the display would occasionally fail and stop working mid-game. Both of these problems were fixed by rebuilding the high voltage sections of the display driver boards.
Up until this point I had spent almost all of my time restoring Bally and Williams games. I was comfortable enough with doing plenty of repairs on those machines, but I was keen to get some more experience working on a game from a different manufacturer. Enter Tee'd Off (Gottlieb, 1993). Gottlieb was one of the major manufacturers during the 1990s so I figured that this machine would be a good point of reference for future Gottlieb DMD game restorations. It would also be interesting to study the differences between how Gottlieb had done things and what I had become so accustomed to over the last several years. However, the greatest challenge with this Tee'd Off was definitely going to be the playfield repair work. There was a lot of wear on this playfield which had worn the playfield artwork away to the point that the playfield wood was showing. So, this was a good opportunity for Fiona to put her painting skills to use as well.
Time to lay down the law! Judge Dredd was the last Bally/Williams machine I had left to restore of my original road trip haul. I had left it to last mainly because the look of all the ramps criss-crossing the playfield, the idea of having to fiddle with the Deadworld, and the sheer size and weight of the damn thing all told me that this would be a painful restoration. Just looking at it and comparing it to Demolition Man (Williams, 1994), my only other widebody game, the Judge Dredd playfield was packed with more features and more mechanisms, which meant more to clean and more to service. But, as always, I was up for the challenge!
Fiona and I have been going to Pinfest since 2015. Pinfest is an annual pinball festival that takes place in Newcastle on the Central Coast and is hosted by the Newcastle Pinball Association. It is always a fantastic event with many machines on free play for the general public to play.
This year, we decided to donate one of our own machines for the event. Getaway was playing well so we decided to bring it along. I was interested to see how it would hold up with two days of continuous play. Pinfest does strange things to pinball machines; a machine that plays fine in a home environment may be perform poorly at an event like Pinfest unless it has been finely tuned. I thought I had set Getaway up nicely after our restoration a couple of years ago and various tweaks since then. So, we loaded it into the car and headed to Caves Beach!
Each year, the Canberra Vice City Players (VCP) club hosts the ACT Pinball Championship, the largest IFPA-endorsed pinball event in the territory. Fiona and I had attended the 2015 and 2016 Championships, and had a great time, even making it to the finals. The quality of the machines was always excellent and it was great excuse to meet up again with pinheads from Canberra, who I met when I got into pinball for the very first time.
This year, the call went out for VCP members to donate machines for the event. Having enjoyed the quality of the machines in previous years, Fiona and I decided to put our hands up and bring our Getaway along for the competition. I had been playing it a lot over the last few months and I thought it was running great. What better way to test out my restoration and repair skills by putting the machine out there for others to play? The Getaway ended up being placed in the free play area on Saturday, before being moved to the competition area for use in the finals. I was stoked that some of the best players in the country would be playing on my machine. So, off to Canberra we went!
It has been just over a year since I restored my first Doctor Who (Bally, 1992), so I guess it is fitting that I'm now finishing up restoring my second. My first Doctor Who was purchased by a local collector and, since I sold it, has been treated to a new layer of clearcoat on the playfield, LEDs, a USB TARDIS, opto improvements, and a host of other upgrades. Just when you think there's nothing else to do to a machine, someone does some more! I'm glad it made its way into good hands.
There was a reason that I restored this machine second. This machine was in much poorer shape than the first and required a bit more work to get it into a presentable state. But with the experience of the first Doctor Who restoration, and now with some additional experience from the two Fish Tales restorations, I thought I may as well finish dealing with the doubles of all my machines and get this Doctor Who back into action.
Here you will find logs of our pinball machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball topics, and recounts of our random pinball adventures.
Check back regularly for updates!
Running this website is a hobby for me, just like pinball. I like being able to show my restoration work to everyone so that others can learn from it and learn to fix their own machines. If you enjoy reading the content, please consider donating to offset some of the website's operating costs.