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Rotisserie for Black Hole Pinball

January 18th, 2014

My black hole pinball machine worked and was in decent shape, but I had driven a long way to get it (HERE), my kids loved it, and it wasn’t leaving the collection anytime soon. Black Hole is a great game and worthy of a little extra TLC, so the damaged cabinet would get restored and possibly a re-stencil. Since the playfields would be out, I thought it would be fun to get them professionally restored as well. HSA pinball had done an amazing job on a previous Black Hole pin restoration and I had no doubt that my project would turn out just as good. Of course I’d have to strip the playfields first, and that was a nightmare, but I’ll save the story of that agony for another time.

black hole playfield

It didn’t take long before I had a beautiful set of restored Black Hole pinball playfields. You can check out the before and after photos at HSA pinball’s site HERE. Having those beautiful playfields done meant it was time to put the machine back together. Insert token to continue…

Omega Race cabaret #1441 added to the arcade!

December 31st, 2013

Omega Race is an amazing game, with beautiful front artwork covered in zooming space ships, a smooth metal spinner, and a black light scene that gives the illusion of flying your vector ship through space. Sadly, its a game I never got to play back in the arcades of the 1980′s, I don’t recall ever seeing it. Having gone to many of the classic Chicago arcades, I’m sure I would have remembered such a game. Space ships were the big thing thanks to Star Trek and Star Wars, and the opportunity to blast my way through enemy ships would have attracted a few of my tokens, no doubt about it.

Omega Race Flyer

While Omega Race may be a simple black and white vector game, it has style like some of the great Midway electro-mechanical games with just a hint of the video craze that was about to explode on the scene. Midway designers did a great job incorporating beautiful graphics with engaging game play creating a true classic. While I had played Omega Race a few times during my early collecting years, it wasn’t until I spent a lot of time playing one at Greg’s Freecade back in 2010 that I fell in love. I have a passion for the black and white games because manufacturers typically spent time on the whole game package; game play, sounds, background, bezel, and cabinet artwork. They had to make the game attractive and enticing to get you to try it and then exciting enough to keep those tokens flowing. Omega Race is just such a game and I want to own one. Insert token to continue…

Willis Pac-Man bezel

October 8th, 2013

This little beauty popped up on eBay with the title “Willis Pac-Man bezel”. Now I’ve seen plenty of Pac cpo’s and of course that really bad Wico Pac-Man side art; but I have never seen a Willis Pac-Man bezel, or even knew it existed. The seller only posted a few small pictures, and while the Willis name appeared to be printed in the lower right, it just wasn’t very clear. What really caught my attention was a small mark or artist signature also in the lower right corner. Whoa, an artist signature? Insert token to continue…

Willis Vanguard Bezel

September 14th, 2013

I do love Willis artwork and have done a pretty good job documenting the stuff that’s out there. Saving this little piece of arcade history is fun and helps shed light on how the replacement artwork business worked back in the glory days of arcades. For a look at the stuff I’ve found so far, visit the Willis Gallery. Even though I believe I’ve documented most of the Willis stuff that was produced, I still keep an eye out for interesting artwork, and occasionally I find something I haven’t seen before. A few weeks ago this strange arcade bezel popped up on eBay. It was labeled in the lower right corner as “Willis Industries Inc” and I needed to know more about it.

Willis Vanguard UR bezel

So what the heck is this for? It looked almost generic with the simple color scheme, but the mountains in the background reminded me of an overlay I’d seen somewhere. Hmm, I would have to do some digging to see if I could figure it out. Insert token to continue…

TV Tennis anyone?

July 31st, 2013

TV Tennis arcade game

Have you ever looked at something after you bought it and thought, “What the heck was I thinking?” Well, when I won this TV Tennis by US Billiards off eBay, I had one of those moments. I really didn’t think I would win with a maximum bid of only $22.00, but I did win and it only cost me $16.50! Wow, that’s probably the least I’ve ever paid for a cabinet, but now what? The game was about a 7 hour road trip one way and this was just a pong clone, not a garage full of minty vectors. This would be tough to claim.

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So why did I bid anyway? I have to admit that I have a fondness for all the unusual artwork and games that were produced during the hey-day of the arcade game era. The stranger the better and this cabinet certainly fits that criteria. When I saw it on eBay with no bids I felt compelled to save it. I’ve never seen one before and it turns out that the picture on KLOV is this very game. So maybe its the only one left? It was also made by US Billiards, a company that has some connection to Willis Industries, that alone made me want to see it up close.

TV TennisTV TennisTV Tennis

After weeks of trying to arrange schedules to coincide with visiting friends in the area, working around work schedules, asking locals to pick up and hold, nothing was working out and I was left with few options. I could bail on the game and be out $16.50, I could drive there and back in one day (not an awesome option at all), or I could suck it up and ship the darn thing. I wanted to save it after all, right? So I popped on uShip to see what kind of rate I could get. The rate was great, so here it sits in my garage. It is currently not working and needs some TLC, but it is safe and sound. I’ll spend some time messing with it in between spray coats on the Robotrons. Stay tuned and happy gaming.

TV Tennis arcade game

Willis Phoenix UR cpo

March 26th, 2013

Hope you’re not getting tired of all the Willis artwork because I have another one to talk about, and this one is special. It’s the Willis Phoenix cpo (control panel overlay), produced back in 1981 by Willis Industries. This slick looking cpo could have been used by an operator to spruce up a game before tossing it back into the line up to make money. It has an attractive blue fore ground, space scene background and the mechanized looking bird we’ve come to recognize as the Centuri Phoenix. But why is this cpo special, and why does it look so familiar? Is this really a Willis Phoenix replacement cpo or is it some type of NOS (new old stock) variation produced by Centuri?

Willis Phoenix UR cpo

It does have a number of similarities to the original game side art, so what’s going on? Was this Willis Phoenix replacement cpo drawn by the same artist? Did they infringe on Centuri’s intellectual property? Or is it possible that Willis worked with Centuri to create this artwork? That’s a lot of questions. Insert token to continue…

Willis Moon Patrol cpo

March 18th, 2013

So here we have the Willis Moon Patrol control panel overlay. It has all the quality features I’ve come to expect from a Willis product, with die-cut control openings, reverse screen printing and 3M paper backing; they even made a good effort on the artwork. Granted its not the Williams Moon Patrol cpo, but it has some interesting features. The Willis Moon Patrol cpo attempts to create the perspective that you’re in the seat of some lunar vehicle, driving your way across the moons craggy surface. With the sun setting in the distance, you’ve just embarked on some great adventure across this alien terrain. Not buying it?

Willis Moon Patrol UR cpo

Then lets just say that it’s much better than some of the bootleg pieces I’ve seen, especially this one – bad bootleg moon patrol cpo – and leave it at that. Insert token to continue…

Moppet Tugboat arcade game steams into the garage!

March 16th, 2013

I sold a few games to a California collector and in an effort to reduce shipping costs, agreed to accept another game for pickup by NAVL. The game would be dropped off by the seller, so all I had to do was park it in the garage for a couple days. Not knowing what to expect, you can imagine my surprise when the seller dropped off a Moppet Tugboat arcade game, in almost perfect original condition. I knew these games were pretty scarce, but an example this clean must be super rare. Having never seen one of these odd little games in person I figured this was the perfect opportunity to play a few games and see what all the fuss was about.

moppet tugboat arcade game

Moppet Video produced five titles in 1982 which included: Desert Race, Leprechaun, Noah’s Ark, Pirate Treasure, and Tug Boat. Moppet Video arcade games were tiny in comparison to their grown up relatives, and easy for kids to understand and play. All they had to do is walk right up, drop in a quarter and away they went. The games were designed with simple controls and game play, without the need for a step stool or help from an adult, attractive features for our pint sized gamers. You could call it their initiation to the world of arcade games. Hey, back in 1982 kids didn’t all carry Nintendo in their pockets! Insert token to continue…

Willis Bubbles UR cpo is a thing of beauty!

March 9th, 2013

It has been too long, so I thought I’d start on a new round of Willis artwork posts. I have a bunch to show, but decided to start by throwing out a fun one, Bubbles. The Willis Bubbles UR cpo is an eye catcher, with bright vibrant colors and what else? Lots of bubbles of course! This little beauty was produced by Willis on quality materials using the screen printing process we purists know and love. Of course as a purist you would never actually use this cpo, but it is still a cool piece of 80′s arcade nostalgia nonetheless.

Willis Bubbles UR cpo

At first glance the bubbles look very neat and uniform, which is odd, considering they’re bubbles and should be a bit more random; but I think it’s a fun overlay and certainly a good effort by the Willis artist. Taking the idea of the sink and drain very literally, with lots of bubbles and a very stylized sink makes for an interesting if not awe inspiring design. Considering there was probably very little time for the creative process, a direct approach may have been the best idea. It gets the message across and there can be no confusion that the game is Bubbles. A closer look at the actual artwork reminds me of my days rendering products with markers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the original drawing of this screen printed cpo was done entirely with markers. Insert token to continue…

Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art mystery solved!

September 22nd, 2012

We’ve all seen it at some point during our collecting days. That piece of hideous arcade cabinet artwork that just makes you cringe and wonder what the hell they were thinking when they produced it. Why would anyone cover the original artwork with this? The infamous Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art is a prime example of this…or is it?

ms. pac-man side art

Looking at this side art makes me wonder if the artist was given a day, or maybe only a few hours to crank out some artwork that could be mass produced in the fastest time possible. Maybe to fill a big customer order or special request. This side art would be used to cover some of the most iconic cabinet art ever produced, and while I realize that time was money in the coin-op business, this was pushing the boundaries of bad taste to the limits. More time should have been spent to craft artwork suited to the rejuvenation of a worn ms. pac-man cabinet. Having never seen this artwork in person, I was forced to accept what my peers were saying about it. “…some of the worst Willis artwork ever produced, just awful.” I have to agree that it’s awful, but thanks to a few pictures from a fellow collector, I was able to confirm my long standing suspicions.

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WICO!

ms. pac-man side art

The artwork was not produced by Willis, it was a Wico product as can be clearly seen on the side art, part number and all. Everyone knows the Wico Corporation, famous for their red top joysticks, unmatched in the industry and standard on scores of classic arcade games. Wico was in the parts business in a big way, which also included replacement artwork. In this case bad replacement artwork. So with that the mystery of the bad “Willis” Ms. Pac-Man side art is laid to rest, firmly on the shoulders of Wico. Hug your Willis artwork, it’s finally over.