A Restoration Begins


For the past few months, I’ve had a poll up asking which game restoration I should document next.  It’s a three way tie at the moment between Donkey Kong, Centipede and Track & Field.  The winner is….  Galaga!

Over the weekend I picked up the cabinet which will probably be my last game acquisition for a while.  I need to start focusing on restoring the games I already have.  Fortunately, it’s been at the top of my “want list” since I picked up Donkey Kong.  I made the 2 hour drive (4 hours round trip) and promptly unloaded it into the garage.  Since it was in the garage, I decided that it would go to the head of the restoration list.  As is customary, here’s are the original marketing flyers for Galaga and a link to it’s entry in the Killer List of Video Games:

So, let’s start with the good news…it’s friggin’ GALAGA! It powers on and the monitor works. The not so good news…the PCB needs some work as it is throwing various bad RAM errors. Galaga boards are known for their problematic sockets and chips. I figure while I restore the exterior of the cabinet, I’ll let someone more capable fix the PCB. The monitor will also need a new cap kit so I’ll probably throw a new fly back in as well.

The cabinet is in decent shape but has severe chipping and wear along the outer edges which seems to be fairly common with most early Midway cabinets. The side art and kick plate art will need to be replaced as I am going to have to do significant work to the edges to get them sharp and crisp again. The control panel overlay is shot. Fortunately, the bezel and marquee are still in great condition.

If you look closely at the 5th picture, you’ll notice a red button in the cabinet front slightly to the left of the coin door. The cabinet had been wired for free play at some point and this is how you credited games. This button was no longer hooked up. Unfortunately, the coin mechs weren’t hooked up either so there doesn’t appear to be any way at the moment to credit a game. I’ll have to do some work on the wiring harness to rectify this. Also, just below the coin door there is black vinyl that has been applied to the cabinet. I couldn’t figure out why as I didn’t understand why anyone would cover the kick plate art with plain old black vinyl. As I started to peel the vinyl off it became readily apparent. Someone had attempted to break into the coin box and either kicked or pried just below the coin door at the top of the black vinyl. This sent a nice sized crack about 8 inches long down the front of the cabinet. The vinyl was apparently the quickest way to hide the damaged cabinet.

That is going to be a tricky area to repair. It needs to be perfectly smooth as any imperfection will show clearly through the new kick plate art that will be applied. A Little Bondo and some patience will go a long way. I’m going to need plenty of Bondo to fix the rotting cabinet edges as well:

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As you can see, the back door is going to need to be replaced or repaired. I think it might be easier to just cut a new one out of some plywood. Here are shots of the interior of the cabinet. In the 4th picture you get a pretty good idea what 30 years of dust looks like.

So at this point you’re thinking, “where thehell is the restoration?”.  Well, unlike all my other cabinets I actually accomplished some work on this one over the weekend.  The first step to any restoration is to strip the cabinet down to an empty shell.  Sometimes you can find some interesting stuff.  I found one quarter.  Yep, one measly quarter.

Since the cabinet edges are going to need considerable work, I decided to start stripping the artwork from the sides and sanding down the paint. I started with the left side, applied a coat of CitriStrip to the artwork and let it sit for about 2 hours. I actually put CitriStrip on the entire side to see if it would remove any of the paint. I did not. The artwork came right up with a putty knife. I then sanded the left side with the following grits in progression; 60, 100 then 150. The left side is now ready for Bondo work and then some primer.

While I was waiting for the CitriStrip to work its magic on the side art, I decided to tackle the control panel as well. I removed the wiring harness, buttons and joystick then applied a coat of CitriStrip to it. While the CitriStrip worked wonders on my Centipede control panel, this one was a bit tougher. In total, I applied 5 coats of CitriStrip scraping off what I could after each coat had set up for about an hour. Thank God for beer (see picture).  Fortunately, I was finally able to get down to bare metal. There may still be some adhesive left, I’ll have to check on the tonight.

The side art, kick plate art and control panel overlay are all readily available on line. A replacement marquee is also available but mine is in pretty good shape. When he has it available, I always buy my artwork from Phoenix Arcade. It should be on my doorstep when I arrive home tonight. It’s going to be quite a while before any of it gets applied.

Tonight, I hope to strip the artwork on the right side of the cabinet and get it sanded down a bit. Then the work begins on the edge repair. I will follow a similar process as the rebuild of the corner on Dig Dug.  Unfortunately, the rebuild will involve almost the entire outer edge of the cabinet  along with the damaged area on the front panel and not just a corner.  That’s all for now.  Stay tuned….

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