After my adventures with my first pinball machine, Mata Hari (which amounted to a crash course in pinball machine repair), I figured I was ready for a new challenge. As I’ve already described, I had been in extensive email contact with the guys in North Carolina who sold me Mata Hari on eBay. In the course of all this I found out that they had an Eight Ball machine in storage that they were thinking of selling or restoring. They were quick to point out that this one really wasn’t in very good shape (unlike the Mata Hari…hah!). It was a restoration project with playfield wear, a beat-up cabinet, a rotten backglass, and an acid-eaten MPU board.
Here was a machine that I had played by the hour at the arcade in Morris Plains, NJ during my final year of high school . I had history with Eight Ball (ok, it was ancient history, but it was still history). This was also a classic machine with several stories behind it. It’s an archetypal game of the period — one of the top sellers of all time — and set some precedents for “theme” games when lawsuits ensued regarding the obvious TV-show characters appearing (without credits or royalties) on the glass. I agreed to buy the machine for $200, and they threw in a “recoverable” MPU board for another $35. Before long it was back to the Minneapolis Forward Air terminal with Kate’s CR-V.
As the pictures here show, this particular machine is no beauty, but I managed to get it back into serious playing form (with some help from my wife). She did a great job of re-touching the ball-rack right in front of the flippers, where most of the playfield wear was concentrated. She was dubious at first, but then I think she realized that she couldn’t make it much worse! In fact, she used her color-matching and painting skills to do a fabulous restoration job on the playfield.
I learned the ins and outs of restoring an acid-damaged Bally MPU board and spent a lot of time re-terminating connectors all over the backbox. If Mata Hari had been my introduction to repairing first-generation Bally SS machines then Eight Ball was my first masters course. A few years back I relented and installed a replacement CPU board from Alltek, as much for its usefulness in debugging my other Bally machines as for Eight Ball itself.
I wish that my Eight Ball was perfect, but it has a certain charm in my collection as a fast-playing “beater” machine. I’m not sure I’ll ever be willing to devote the time to restoring the cabinet (did I mention that someone tore the cashbox out beneath the door at some point?) that would be required. I tried a few times to buy a NOS or reproduction backglass, but I was always second in line. As far as I’m concerned my Eight Ball machine has got it where it counts — it plays fast and well. It also serves as a reminder as to how fragile and transitory these amazing machines really were.