Break For Spring Break

Today we are going to pick up a 1987 Gottlieb Spring Break Pinball Machine. This is not the most liked Gottlieb title out there. The game play, IMO, isn’t really that bad. But the artwork on the game has a lot to be desired. Especially the translite. Probably the worst ever. Just a bunch of photos photo shopped together. And where did they got those hideous pics?

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This game is in Pinckney Michigan which is only about 10 miles North of the Chelsea shop. First thing we do is head North on Parker Road through more farm country.

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On the way we pass Portage Lake which is popular water skiing lake in the summer. But not now as their is ice on it.

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We arrive and turn into the owners driveway. Nice long driveway surrounded by pine trees. This time of year all the leaves are off the other trees but the pines still are nice and green.

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And here is the house. Nice house and it is on a hill so I am hoping it has a walkout basement!

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The owner lets me in and takes me down into the basement to see the game. The owner initially told me that the game does not work and we pre-agreed to a price. In these situations I don’t ask to turn it on and if they offer to plug it in I tell them it is not necessary. Who knows, it might work and then the price would likely go up!

But I do check to make sure all the parts are there. I check for all the major mechanisms and especially check to make sure all the boards are present. Sometimes a repair person will take a board or 2 home to fix it and then the boards never make it back.

In this case everything was there. But I did also notice that there was pretty significant battery corrosion on the System 80b MPU board. Bummer. Interestingly, someone had removed the battery – but too late.

So it checked out and I load it up. So did the owner have a walk out basement? Yes, and not only that the owner offered that I could drive around on his lawn right up to the door! The cold frozen ground does sometimes have advantages.

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Here is the game back at the shop – I’ve got a lot of work to do.

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Head Up for A Pin Up

Today we are heading North to pick up a 1975 Gottlieb Pin-Up Pinball Machine. This machine has the same playfield as the popular King Pin game which was made in 1973. Pin-Up is an Add-a-ball version of King Pin. In certain states games that awarded free plays were illegal. Incredibly, this was considered gambling! So to get around these laws add-a-ball games would award extra balls instead of replays. Amazing that now the same state governments that outlawed 25 cent free games now run some of the biggest gambling operations in the nation (State Lotteries).

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So off we go. It is cool (mid 30s F) December day in Michigan but no snow. This game is located 40 miles North of our shop in Chelsea. We head straight up Michigan Highway 52 (M-52) towards Owosso.

This takes us accross some of the flat mid Michigan Farmland.

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And more flat land.

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As we near our destination the road becomes a bit more rural looking.

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Here we are pulling up to the house. It is an older house that has several out buildings. Hmm, hope they didn’t leave the game out in the cold!

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Owner comes out and sure enough gives me some good news and bad news. Good news – the game is not in the basement so no basement stairs to battle. Bad news – It IS out in the pole barn.

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So we head out to take a look. As we are walking I ask how long he has had the game. He tells me that they got it a year ago for free when a friend of his moved out of state. I am thinking “yikes” that means it was in the unheated barn all last winter and last winter was a C.O.L.D. one with many nights -10 F and colder. The backglass is probably ruined.

But when checking it out I amazed to see it looks just fine. Never can figure out why some glasses ink flakes off if you look at it wrong while others can stand being left out all winter.

So we load the game up and head back South with a Gottlieb Pin-Up along for the ride.

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The Magicians Spirit

Been awhile but am trying to start blogging again.

Today we are driving to get a Gottlieb Spirit of 76 Pinball Machine.

So off we go in the 1/4 million mile Dodge. This may be one of the last pinball runs for the Dodge as it is getting pretty rusty and does drink gas. It still runs great though. Sniff.

Anyhow, this game is just a few miles from me located in West Bloomfield Michigan. It is an upscale area with nice homes.

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We drive up to the house and see that it has been recently sold as there is a real estate “sold” sign on the lawn. This usually is good, as the seller has a good reason to sell.

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After introductions, the owner says they are going to be moving to Florida and are also having an estate sales in a few days to sell everything. For some reason they decided not sell the pinball in the estate sale and instead sell it locally.

The game is in the basement and here is what I see. A very nice Spirit of 76!

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We discuss the game and work out a fair price. The owner says the magic words “I have a walk out basement” which is always good to hear. The owner was older and did not look like he was going to be helping lug the game up his stairs. Also, using the walkout eliminates any possibility of me scuffing up walls or worse.

So I begin to load. Turns out it is still a little challenging as it is a pretty steep hill. But, using my handcart as a lever on the cement stairs, it is moved up easily enough.

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Well you many times get to meet interesting people who have pinball machines and this was no exception. Turns out the owner is a magician. He even had a fully functional stage in his basement. Spotlights, professional video, correct curtains, the works. There was a video control room also for monitoring and producing. Seen many things in basement but this was the first stage!

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Climbing to a Gottlieb Crescendo

This game was made at the peak of the USAs hippy period and the art certainly reflects it.

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The art is all about Peace and Love. Even your bonus is called “Flower Power” and you can get 10x Flower Power at times. In 1970 I was six years old and was already playing some pinball. I don’t remember this game but I do remember some early 70s events that my parents wish I would forget about ;).

This pickup is the first for a new pin hauler, my Subaru Impreza hatch back. The quarter million mile Dodge pickup is still in service but this is my new daily driver. Once reason I got this is because it should be able to hold a pinball, yet get good mileage.

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This game is about 50 miles away so glad to have a more economical way to retrieve pinball machines. We head north toward Flint, Michigan.

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I check the mileage as we go and seem to getting 28 Miles per Gallon at 80 Miles per Hour. At least double what the Dodge gets. Once I make some modifications to the car (I am going to convert it to rear wheel drive only) the mileage should go up some more!

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Now we are nearing our destination of Lennon Michigan. This is a small town in the flat lands.

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As I pull into the driveway I see that the house is a trailer home. This means no basement to deal with!

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The owner comes out but instead of leading me into the front door we go around back. Then I see the this:

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The dreaded Shed. Pinball Machines stored in sheds are generally scrap. The temperature extremes and high humidity generally kill them. And even if they survive that, usually there will be animal living inside the game.

But instead we go around the corning to this:

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Seems the trailer has a basement after all! So I take apart the game and the owner helps me carry it all out. I remove the PF glass and Playfield from the game to make the cabinet lighter. The owner helps bring it up the stairs but I make it as easy as possible to carry.

Here is everything piled up that need to go into the car.

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Now, I measured and am pretty sure this will fit but this is the first time actually putting a pinball into this space:

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The head has to go in first because the opening is lower at the back.

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Yep, fits no problem!

Will be taking this home and setting it up to get it working. According to IPDB.org Crescendo is the first Gottlieb game with drop targets.

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Going fishing for a Williams Fish Tales and a Bally Addams Family Pinball

Lately, Bally Williams WPC pinballs have been really hard to find. So when a chance came up to pick up a Fish Tales and an Addams Family I got right to it.

These games were not too far away. We are taking the trusty quarter million mile Dodge Ram Pickup. No top on the truck so it was a good thing the weather was cooperating. We have had a pretty cold and snowy winter but today was sunny with a temperatures in the 30s F.

The owner of these games was “moving” as many are when they are selling a game. This time was a bit different as he was selling these AFTER he moved into his new place. Seems he was going to keep them, but alas the new place was just too small.

We head over to Royal Oak, Michigan via I-696. This takes us past the Detroit zoo. Funny that the Detroit zoo is well North of Detroit in Royal Oak! In reality this is probably a really good thing! The zoo is really nice and well run.

Exiting the freeway, we head north on Main Street. We drive by the “Ye Olde Saloon.” This bar is a good place to stop as they always have a pin or 2 to play. But I don’t stop as I have a mission to complete.

Now we are close and I am driving around to find the exact house. I look over and there is a garage door open and I can see the pinballs inside. I hope that hasn’t been open very long as someone else might see them!

Actually both games were on end when I arrived. I look over the games and they look just fine. The Fish Tales is unfaded which is a bonus. Fish Tales actually looks good when it has some color to it! The owner looks for the keys but can’t find them. I start to talk price but he wants to show me that they work. We tip down fish tales and plug it in and fire it up. It does boot but comes up with “factory setting restored” message. I explain that the batteries are probably dead and may be leaking and this will hurt the value of the game since it will wreck the CPU. He doesn’t like this answer, so he goes looking for the keys!

As he is inside his house looking I am looking over the games and find the keys taped to the Addams Family topper. There was a brief moment where I thought of not mentioning this to him, but it passes quickly. I fetch him from the house and we open up both games and there is no damage to the CPU boards. So we negotiate the price on his 2 “working” games. We come to an agreeable number and we load them up.

I sold the last Addams Family I had over 3 years and have been looking for another one since. Glad to finally find another one – this one we be going in to the game room as a keeper.

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Search and Destroy for a Bally NITRO Ground Shaker pinball

I have plenty of fond memories playing Bally NITRO Ground Shaker back in the day, so when one came available locally I was on a mission to acquire it. I have been looking for this game for about 3 years. I came across one locally last year but the price was too far up there. A friend found a nice one about a year ago – so they are not too rare to come by.

Bally Nitro Ground Shaker Back Glass

"Search and Destroy" is printed on the dragster.

Once again we have the luxury of of a warm day in January to go fetch the game. Here in Michigan we are having another mild winter but it has been colder and snowier than last year. About a week ago there was 6 inches of snow on the ground but now the snow is gone and the temps are warm. For a couple days anyway.

On the way, we drive by Orchard Lake in (surprise) Orchard Lake, Michigan. The snow is melted but there is still ice left on the lake.

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Orchard Lake, Orchard Lake Michigan January 2013

Since we are heading East, we cross the Telegraph Road. This road separates the Western Suburbs of Detroit from the Eastern ones. As you might guess, this road got its name because it started as a service access trail for the telegraph lines back in the 1800s. “Telegraph Road”, the Dire Straits song was inspired by a bus trip singer Mark Knopfler took down Telegraph Road.

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Intersection of Telegraph and Long Lake roads January 2013

Now we are in the owners neighborhood in Bloomfield Michigan

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We pull up to the house. As it turns out the game is in the garage door on the right – so no stairs to navigate on this trip!

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The owner is a car salesman and many years ago the game was bought to put in the car dealership. After awhile, he took it home where the family kept it. Now the kids are older and the wife said the game has to go. So we work out a price we load it into the truck. Mission accomplished.

Bally NITRO Ground Shaker Playfield

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Travel at Low Speed For a Williams High Speed Pinball

Today we are heading out to pick up a Williams High Speed Pinball.  Since we are taking the 1/4 million mile Dodge Ram we won’t actually be travelling at “High Speed.”


This is Michigan’s M-15 North of I-75.  One cool thing about looking for Pinballs is travelling to places I haven’t been before.  This was one of those rides as I have never been to this particular area before.  Travelled through Ortonville, Michigan and Goodrich, Michigan to end up eventually in North Branch, Michigan.

As we near our destination the surroundings start to have an “up north” feel to them.   You see a lot of these party store / restaurant / Beer store / Pizza places in Northern Michigan.

Here we are arriving at our destination.

Pretty nice spread right next to the “North Branch” of the Flint river.  Acreage – check.  3 car garage – check.  Motor Home – check.   Pole Barn – check.  Horses – check.  Pinball Machine – CHECK!

So we head inside and meet the owners.  Really nice couple with a 7 year old son.   The story is they are going to be moving back to Canada soon.  Can’t imagine why, but didn’t ask as that would not be polite.  Also, turns out the ladies EX bought this game 8 years ago.  I think this explains a big part of why it was leaving.

We work out a price (glad we made a deal as it would have been a long drive to leave empty handed) and load up the game.  Here it is following me home.

I kept looking in the mirror and seeing that “cherry” and getting ready to “pull over buddy” but “he got away”, “he what?”

Later on I heard a thump and looked back to see the wind had blown off the cherry and was really worried that it flew out of the truck!  Luckily, it stayed in the bed.

On the way back I stopped at a big auction that I noticed on the way in.  I stopped in the hope, of course, that their would be some coin op equipment.  There wasn’t as it was all car parts.   Some pretty interesting stuff like these:

I would have stuck around to maybe bid on these but it looked like it would be hours before they got to them.

Here we are home with the Williams High Speed pinball.

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Stern Meteor Pinball rises.

Stern Meteor Pinball is what I consider the most classic of the “classic Stern” pinballs.  With a production run of 8300+ there are a lot of them still around.   The are relatively inexpensive to acquire also.


So we are heading over to get one today from a local homeowner.   This game is located in the same town as me, only 5 miles away.  Nice for a change!  So off we go.

This is Commerce Road right near my house.  They have been working on it all year.  There are 2 seasons in Michigan.  Construction Season and Winter

Here is where the game resides.  Typical “Nice” residence that can be found in the Suburbs of Detroit.

We arrive, greet the owner and head down to the basement.

The owner had three pinball machines, including the Meteor.  The Space Shuttle shown here as well as a Gottlieb Buck Rogers.  We fixed the Space Shuttle and the Buck Rogers but the Meteor was too far gone.   Sometimes the amount of work needed to fix a game will exceed the value of the game.  Sometimes owners don’t care and want it fixed anyway. Other times, like this time, the owner decides it is not worth it.  In that case I usually offer to purchase the game.

In this case the meteor was missing the sound board completely, the CPU board has some corrosion,  the driver board had burnt transistors, the rectifier board is the usual hacked up mess, the backglass had flaking, and the playfiled has serious wear.  Other than that it was nice!  So unfortunately, this will probably turn into a parts game.  Unless a low priced nice Stern Meteor Pinball playfield wanders my way.

Here is the Stern Meteor ready to go up…..

The dreaded basement stairs!  Actually, as far as stairs go, these are pretty nice!  Straight and wide without turns.  If you are going to have pinballs in the basement then easy to traverse stairs are a must.

So the meteor is sent up the stairs and into the truck.   Anyone have a Meteor PF for sale?

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Bally Monte Carlo Pinball Cover up

A local route operator we do work for puts some games at a kids summer camp each summer.   Since this is a kids camp, the camp operator does not want any family unfriendly game themes.

The pinball games at the camp are Williams Pat Hand, Gottlieb Monte Carlo, and Williams Space Shuttle.

As you can see the Pat Hand and Space Shuttle were fine but the Monte Carlo was not – at least as far as they were concerned.   They sure came up with an interesting solution.  I give them credit for at least putting some thought and effort into their “new” backglass.

Here is the stock Monte Carlo Backglass for reference:

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Taking the local roads to the Bally Expressway

Sometimes you win some – sometimes you lose some.  Even though we went to pick up this game, we didn’t get to keep it.

Got an email from a West Bloomfield, Michigan resident and he was wanting to sell his Bally Expressway pinball.  This was only about 15 miles away so I replied with an offer and hoped for the best.

The next morning I get an email from him saying someone has already made the deal and he would let me know if they backed out.  Uh oh.  I had a real good idea who this “someone” might be and sure enough the local pinball Ninja used his Ninja mind powers and scooped this one out from under me!  Now the Ninja and I get along quite well, so all was not lost.   The Ninja was out of town so we made a deal where I would pick up the game for him in his absence.

So we hop in the 1/4 million mile Dodge Ram and take the local roads…

And arrive at the Bally Expressway

Guy lives in a Condo and conviently has the game in the Garage.  It was on its legs but the head was already off.  A quick looks shows it to be in great shape so it gets loaded up.

Love this type of load as all I had to do was slide it over to the back off the truck and prop it on the tailgate to load it in..

Just doesn’t get any easier than that!  The head gets loaded into the passenger seat.  Notice that the seat belt is used to strap it in – don’t want any damage, as the back glasses are never to be made again.

We also cover it up with a blanket as we don’t want the sun shining directly on it.  The sun can fade it but the biggest danger is the sun will heat the paint and it will de-laminate from the glass.

So this game now resides with the Ninja.  Next time, maybe it will be my turn.

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