August 15, 2005
The average pinball collector has more than just a smattering of dot matrix games from Williams, Bally and Data East. But what about those earlier solid state games and in particular the many thousands of Gottlieb games coming out of the company's Northlake factory in the late '70s and early '80s?
A large number of them will have been played almost to death with worn out playfields, cracked or flaking backglasses and damaged cabinets. Despite the fact that they are still functioning, devoid of any monetary value, these games are often stored away or broken for parts.
But hope is in sight if one man gets his way.
John Greatwich from Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada has plans to produce replacement kits to rescue these Gottlieb solid state games with replacement playfields, backglasses, playfield plastics and cabinet art.
John told Pinball News about how his idea began. "I always wanted to make a new prototypes from scratch. I contacted people still making games, not interested. Talked with Pat Lawlor who said to keep trying, at least that was positive encouragement, Thanks Pat. I was afraid to contact certain people (does the word lawyer come to mind?). So I contacted Robert Fesjian (at Mondial, the holding company for D. Gottlieb), who would talk with Steve Young (exclusive licensee for Gottlieb products), about the possibilities of making Gottlieb Prototype Games."
John's plan is to use the game's existing playfield parts since these can be difficult to come by, and transfer them onto his new playfield which will use the same layout and rules but a different theme. When the earlier solid state games were originally manufactured it was quite usual for the game layout and design to be completed before a theme was attached, so changing the theme shouldn't detract from the playability of the game.
Now Robert and Steve have given John the go-ahead to produce a sample playfield and artwork package. If they approve it, the product will be given the Gottlieb name and sold as an official Gottlieb kit.
John described the conversion process: "The Gottlieb owner would need to have a working game and have the minimal skills required to change out the playfield. The new backglass, cabinet art & playfield plastics should be easy to install. I will be doing what I believe is more coloured background, simpler designs. Custom work would be possible by using a graphics program."
Right now he need potential purchasers to provide him with playfields he can scan and turn into the necessary files for a playfield router. "The light lenses are here, only best quality plywood will be used with good paint front & back using commercial graphic inkjet work and clearcoating of the finished playfield. I need people to tell me what unpopulated playfields they may have and can send. I'm looking for worn playfields, not NOS, to copy the layout but they should still have the scoring and rules visible."
"I know that it has to be affordable and would think that it has a chance for all the serious collectors out there
looking for rare or low number items. Everyone should come out ahead, especially the Gottlieb Pinball community."
John has now announced that the first game to be given new playfields, plastics, backglass and artwork treatment is Devil's Dare and it will be followed by Cleopatra and Count Down.
John also told Pinball News: "The first playfields will be hand routered, since they are prototypes. If the prototypes move towards making conversion kits, they still might be hand routered, unless the demand warrants it."
© Pinball News 2005