Monday, September 21, 2015

1966 United Aztec Big Ball Bowler notes

This one took a lot of measuring and convincing myself. I have a house with enough room for a bunch of pins, however ~20 feet of straight space is something I simply don't have. My garage is about 19 feet long and this bowler is 16'3" from end to end. Taking into account ~3 feet of space you need behind it to open it and ~3 feet of space you need in front of it at a minimum to play it, it wasn't seeming likely. I did find that if I put the back of the bowler right up against my garage door, blocked off a small section of my garage with the lane, and used the small entraceway to my garage as playing space I'd have enough room to play and I could open the garage door to work on it. It's really dumb and it takes up too much room, but that is the price of owning the king of EM games.

Buying it

While visiting "friend of the [Gameroom Junkies]" Tim's collection, I saw his enormous shuffleboard alley and mentioned that I was looking for a bowler if he had any leads. He mentioned seeing one on GAPAS and sent me the info. The seller was getting out of the hobby, he had a few pinballs and slot machines and such left but I think was slowly selling it all. He had restored this bowler with his wife 4-5 years ago and the asking price was $2000. I don't negotiate prices, prices are just a yes or no to me. Good, working bowlers are hard enough to find period, let alone in the southeast where I'd imagine it's a desert, so I had to pick it up.

I would consider it maybe 90% there electrically, but perfectly acceptable cosmetically. All the little time and money consuming things were done to it already. New wooden feet were created for the cabinet, it was repainted, the rubber was replaced, all new pins, new lower backglass, all the steppers were cleaned, some bad wiring was replaced, a frustrating short was already fixed, a new back door was created. It was definitely a good starting point. There were a few problems I noticed. The game sometimes took a few seconds to reset. The pins would fly up in similar patterns (leaving the 3 and 10 pin up frequently) making me think that the playfield switches or relays aren't 100% working correctly. The seller also mentioned sometimes it lets you throw 3 balls for frame 10 even if you blow the frame.

Assembling and Disassembling the Bowler

The seller amazingly couldn't remember how to fully take this apart, although for sure it is a formative experience in my life after having done it. TOP #8 doesn't go over this at all. A quickly Google search only led to a quick post by LTG. Here is how to take apart by 1966 United game, assembling is obviously reverse order, hopefully this helps someone:

1. There are 4 very long bolts holding the playfield section further from the head to the other playfield section. Two are directly under the playfield, two are on the sides. Unscrew and remove these.

2. A metal plate is between these two playfield sections to level the playfield. Unscrew one side of this to separate the sections.

3. Pull the two sections apart SLIGHTLY. There is a wiring harness with a connector that pulls apart running down the side of the lane that must be disconnected. Be careful to pull the connector apart at the correct seam so you don't break it, mine was damaged no doubt do the lane falling on it.

4. Slide away the far end lane section

5. Unplug the Jones plugs in the backbox and feed them through the hole to the pin deck. Two visible bolts on one end of the pin deck hold it to the lane section. Remove these two bolts and you can remove the pin deck. Be careful with the Jones plugs, they do not all go to the pin deck. Store the pin deck upside down so you don't crush the pins. Be careful about the lower backglass since it's hinged and will move.

6. Five bolts were holding on the rubber that the ball hits when it reaches the end of the lane. The two ones on either end are longer bolts. Unscrew these two bolts to detach the backbox from the lane. The lane has a lip that drops into a channel on the backbox. You'll have to lift the lane up slightly and pull it away.

That's it, the game is broken into a front lane, rear lane, pin deck, and enormous back box. The back box is an absolute monster. I understand that on some bowlers you can't separate the back box from part of the lane, that would probably physically prevent me from picking it up at all.

Transporting the ball bowler

I drive a Hyundai Accent so we needed to rent something to grab this. My first thought was a box truck, however I remember the horror of trying to push the 1100lb Daytona USA twin cabinet up a U-Haul ramp and decided to forgo that nightmare again. I rented an 8-foot pickup truck and 6x12' U-Haul trailer which worked out perfectly. If you follow Pinball Ninja you might have seen a picture of Clay putting an entire Bally bowler into a cargo van. I'm 100% positive that my United game could not fit in a van like this due to the gargantuan backbox and besides wouldn't want to cram my new toy on top of itself like this. We're not all going to do to a full restoration like Clay though.

Rolling the backbox around could warrant a section itself, what a monster. Using a hand truck is useless. The 4 feet on the box hold it off the ground to the point where you can't get the truck under it because two feet would drag even if you tilt it back. You can't truck it from the side because one of the hand truck rails would rest on the backglass trim which isn't firmly attached to the cabinet. We got a small furniture dolly and tilted the whole thing backwards and rolled it around on its back. After standing it up outside, we were able to tilt it and get the dolly under it to roll it a few feet standing up over to the back of my pickup where we tilted it in. Thank god this guy had double doors to his basement and plenty of room to maneuver. Godspeed if you plan on taking one of these up or down any stairs. I unloaded the whole thing directly onto my garage carpet and have used big furniture sliders to move it since. I doubt I'd be able to even get it up the average front porch.

The two lane sections fit perfectly into a 6x12' U-Haul trailer without having to play Tetris, I'm happy I didn't opt for the 5x10' trailer where I'd have to put the lanes on their side (mostly because I was exhausted and any work I could prevent was good). I could've put the pin deck back onto the lane section, but I opted to just tie it down separately.

Problems and Fixes

This section is definitely a work in progress as I haven't had time to work on the bowler yet. Here are a list of problems I've seen and suggested by the seller.

Game sometimes takes a few seconds to reset

None of the score reels are spinning so it's not as simple as a 0-switch I don't think. I have the schematics, I'll have to check out the reset path.

Pins fly up in a similar pattern, leaving the 3 and 10 pin standing

I admittedly only played a few games on it but I think there is a problem with the playfield switches. If you miss the left side in bowling you generally get 2-4-7 left standing. I would guess 3-6-10 is the common pattern on the right side and 3-10 is much less common. Will need to investigate the schematics (which look really cool in how this works) and trigger things by hand.

Pins don't always fly up

I think this only happens when I bowl quickly. Need to investigate, could be the thing where I need to bend the arms in the pin deck? Previous owner say he didn't work on the pin deck. If I activate the playfield switches by hand it seems to work fine.

Sometimes pins would take a second to fly up

This isn't a huge deal but I noticed a couple of the pins would fly up noticeably later than others sometimes. Could just be a simple adjustment on the coil that pulls the pin up.

Game lets you play 10th frame out even if you don't strike/spare

Haven't seen this issue yet, but the seller told me about it. I don't actually know how this works. The 10th frame must have its own stepper and switches, I'll have to go through them.

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