Category Archives: restoration

MC restoration: the what not to do post.

Okay, art time. The creases were especially fun to deal with, and — exacerbating the issues below — the arcadeshop sideart was thinner than the exceptional quality stuff that Phoenix Arcade puts out.

A little paint and some light sanding on mounting brackets and exposed bolts makes a world of difference.

I mentioned this part in the last post, but here it is in more detail. As the original side art was applied bare and the surface (minus areas I patched) still appeared to be in good shape, I figured I could get away with applying the new side art the same way. Unfortunately, the process of laying and lifting the art pulled up tiny bits of particulate, marring the smooth surface. Here’s a closeup of the results in the sunlight:

Hot tip! Never skimp on surface preparation. Seriously. Annoying lesson to learn after spending so much time cleaning up the rest of the cabinet. A couple coats of primer and a good sanding would’ve gone a long way.

Speaking of screw ups, I managed to stretch out the front of the control panel overlay as I was lifting it to remove an air pocket, resulting in some noticeable creases. I should’ve just used a pin. Sigh.

Overall, the cabinet does look a bit better now that everything has settled, especially when it’s not being hit with direct light.

Monitor, harness, coin door, and boards installed… it powers up (and makes the low wah wah wah sound), so that’s a start! Time to troubleshoot the guts.

Missile Command restoration

Okay, time to get back into gear and finish up the Missile Command cabinet restoration. Last time I posted about it, I’d just rebuilt and polished the Trakball. Here’s what’s happened since then.


Unlike the TRON, the original Missile Command sideart peeled right off, albeit in many little pieces. I love how the artwork has baked into the cabinet — it looks neat, and helped with aligning the new art just right, too.

The cabinet was mostly solid, with the typical beat up edges and corners. A bit of bondo and a lot of sanding cleaned up most of the damage.

The original lower wood piece had been through hell, so I used it as a basic template and made a replacement.

Post paint and prep work. In hindsight, I really should’ve put more time into the sides of the cabinet. I figured that since the original side art was placed on bare wood, and since the wood was apparently in good shape, that I could get away with doing the same with the reproduction artwork. Unfortunately, every time I had to lift the side art during placement, it’d pull up miniscule bits of wood, marring the smooth surface. A proper coat of paint or two would’ve prevented that.

The Missile Command side art sat rolled up in a shipping box through spring, so, much to the annoyance of my wife, I flattened it out over a couple of weeks on the dining room table. Note the creases, they were especially fun to work out during application.

Arcade coin bucket / cash box reference.

One of the joys of arcade collecting and restoration is tracking down the proper cashboxes (also known as coin boxes, coin buckets, etc) for individual cabinets. While popular styles did come to the front as the industry progressed, there were no standards in the early days, and a multitude of coin door and cashbox designs were introduced as a result.

Here’s my attempt to make the Quest for the Proper Cashbox a little bit easier. As this is just a start, please reply with corrections, additional manufacturers and cabinets that use the listed boxes, and images and info about cashboxes that aren’t below, and I’ll continue to update the list.

Special thanks go to KLOV member modessitt for the initial images that are seeding this list.

1) Found in: Asteroids, Battlezone, Missile Command


2) Found in: Asteroids Deluxe, Centipede, Tempest


3) Found in: Atari Early 1980s Over/Under cabinets, Dig Dug, Kangaroo, Missile Command (mini), Space Duel


4) Found in: Atari Mid 1980s Over/Under cabinets, Atari System 1 cabs, Star Wars (UR, CP)


5) Found in: Early Midway cabinets, Tron, Ms. Pac-Man, Spy Hunter, Satan’s Hollow, Kick


6) Found in: Later Midway cabinets, Galaga, Pac-Man, Rally-X, Space Encounters, Wizard of Wor


7) Found in: Centuri cabs, Gyruss, Round Up, Vanguard


8) Found in: Taito Space Invaders (CT)


9) Found in: Sega/Gremlin cabinets, Astro Fighter, Frogger, Space Firebird


10) Found in: Midway Ms. Pac-Man & Galaga (CT)


11) Found in: Early Midway cocktails w/ single slot coin doors, Galaxian & Pac-Man (CT)


12) Found in: Super Pac-Man (CT)


13) Found in: Williams cabinets, Joust, Moon Patrol, Robotron, Sinistar, Stargate


14) Found in: Bally pinball? (need to verify)


15) Found in: IREM Madonna


16) Found in: Dragon’s Lair, Solar Quest


17) Found in: Stern Scramble


(Let’s fill in the gaps, so hit me up with what’s missing!)

Refreshing the Tron lower plastic.

One thing that most original Tron cabinets all have in common, aside from beat up side art, are faded plastics. After years of abuse from the blacklights, the ink desaturates and the distinct colors are lost. While there are high quality acrylic reproductions available, they are costly, and I wanted to see what I could do with materials (mostly) on hand. Thanks to Jeff Rothe, I found myself with a spare lower plastic, and it was time to experiment.

Here’s the before shot. Both lower pieces were in roughly the same condition; the original colors could be seen, but were extremely washed out when backlit. Of the highlighter colors I tested, only orange and yellow fluoresced vividly.
Tron, pre highlighter

The tools. Rustoleum satin black (model paint was too thin), a tiny paint brush, and a new package of Bic brite liners.

My first step was to repaint all the areas where the light wasn’t supposed to shine through. This was the part that took the most time and care, as screwing up a line would be very obvious when the whole thing was backlit.

Once that was done, I let the plastics dry for several hours while Tina and I hit the gym and ate dinner. Who knew that Thanksgiving leftovers could be turned into a delicious Vietnamese meal (it’s true!).

This would be a good place for an in-progress photo, but I forgot to take one. Sorry.

The next step was pretty much like coloring in a boring coloring book. Aside from the center area, where the design gets a bit complicated, the lines were simply a matter of laying down the right color. I used the orange highlighter for the ah, orange/red parts, yellow over the green, and the not-so-fluorescent blue over the very faded blue areas.

After installed the painted plastic and swapping out the white blacklight for a regular ol’ blacklight (increasing the highlighter fluorescence), here is the final result:
Highlighted Tron lower plastic

Comparison photo!
Also note the fancy new GroovyGameGear reproduction handle.
Before and After

Polishing balls.

My latest project cabinet is a Missile Command upright, and my plan is to get it looking and working as close to new as I can. Step one: strip it down and get that big black ball rolling smoothly again.

The upright version of Missile Command was one of the few games (along with the first Atari sports releases) to use a massive four and a half inch Atari Trak-Ball. As these things take up a fair chunk of control panel real estate, most cabinets were designed with a smaller 2.25 or 3 inch trackball. Personally, I like the big ones.

PRO TIP: A 4.5 inch trackball is exactly the same size as a candlepin bowling ball, with similar construction. Feel free to swap out your beat up Trak-Ball for a candlepin ball with a skull embedded in it and save yourself a couple hours of polishing time.

PRO TIP: I didn’t even know candlepin bowling existed until last week.

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