I really don’t need any more restoration projects. So of course when an opportunity came up to buy a rather rare European Williams Robotron upright cabinet, I jumped at the chance. Such is the madness of this hobby. But that’s it now – NO MORE.
At least until the next cab comes up. (But seriously, I do need to take a look at my inventory and move something on).
In my defense, a Robotron is one of those cabs that you just make space for – an arcade title that is universally acclaimed by anyone remotely interested in classic arcade gaming. When one comes up, you simply have to find a way to make it happen, and go for it.
I actually owned a Robotron many moons ago – that one was a US upright in silver, which differs quite significantly in appearance to the European release. Why I sold it on I’ll never know, but as soon as it was picked up, I knew I’d made a mistake.
The story behind this one was quite interesting. A chap turned up on a UK collector forum and shared a couple of pictures of the cabinet. He claimed to have purchased it back in 1996 from an arcade that was closing down in Blackburn. (Interestingly, he said when he got there, he witnessed the owners literally smashing up Jamma cabinets and a Super Hang-On to make a bonfire! – such were the lean times back then, when no-one wanted these machines).
With the help of his father, he got the machine back home, placed it in a disused part of the house, with good intentions to restore the machine. As is often the case, real life got in the way, and the Robotron sat there in the same spot, literally unmoved ever since.
Now living in Sweden, the seller advised me that I would have to collect it in person from his father, who would lead me to the machine. I made contact, we agreed a price, and the deal was done, subject of course to the cabinet being in good enough shape to restore. There was a certain risk involved, as the seller hadn’t examined the cabinet for many years and only had a couple of pictures to share.
But what was clear was that not only was this a Williams Robotron, but it was the rarer European model, and I simply had to go for it.
After a horrific bank holiday drive up the M6 (it took forever), I arrived at the location, a small village in Lancashire, late on Saturday afternoon. Lovely part of the world up there. My SatNav directed me off the main road and up a driveway towards the farmhouse:
The seller’s father greeted me at the door, we exchanged pleasantries, and he invited me in, leading me out the back of the house towards some outbuildings:
He led me to this door:
We stepped inside, and there it was:
First impressions were good, if a little scruffy. I had the presence of mind to bring a torch, so was able to have a good look around the cab. It was dry, solid and pretty much everything was there. I was happy (not to mention relieved, having driven several hours to get there), to take it away as-was:
At that point, I was advised the exact date that the cabinet was acquired. Saturday 7th September 1996. What’s more, where it was sitting, was the exact spot the seller and his dad had placed it all that time ago – untouched for over 20 years!
So, time to load up. As you can see, the room was full of lots of peripheral junk, so it took some time to clear a space back to the door to get the thing out. There were a few obstacles to watch out for:
But one thing this hobby does give you, is super sharp skills when manoeuvering a sack truck loaded with a 350 lb arcade machine. So gloves on, watching all the corners for scrapes, I was able to slowly wheel this cabinet out into the daylight for the first time in over 20 years:
It was a squeeze to get it in the SUV, but she fit quite snugly (along with my sack truck) and after bidding farewell, I started the long haul back home with my newly acquired swag blocking my rear view mirror. I was tired, covered in dust, but pretty happy:
Once back home I was able to unload and take a good proper look at what I had:
Well the first immediate thing I noticed was the condition of the base of the cab. Time and again you see this (remember my Centipede upright restoration?). For some reason, the operators had removed the feet from the cabinet. This meant that every time the cab had been moved, large chunks of the particle board had torn off from the sides:
The good news is it that while this is the worst of it, it is all repairable. Looking at it, what I might do is actually cut off a centimeter or so of the base of each sides, so that they are flush with the base plate underneath. It won’t be noticeable and will make the repair more solid and easy to complete. An immediate job will be to get some feet screwed it to lift the cab off the ground, so that any further manoeuvers won’t result in more damage.
As for the rest of the cab, well, we are in OK shape:
The artwork is all there as you can see. Sadly, this Robotron has taken some knocks and scrapes – the right hand side especially. I suspect I can touch up the black areas, but mostly, it just needs a good clean with hot soapy water and a magic eraser.
The control panel has seen better days, but I quite like the worn out look – it shows the cab’s age, and is a demonstration of the game’s huge popularity:
I think that’s going to clean up just fine. Notice the original sticks – these are very uncommon, and it’s very unusual to find a complete Euro cabinet with these original sticks still intact. Those yellow buttons are irreplaceable now – again, I’m very lucky to have found such a complete and original example.
Another rare part is the marquee. Many Euro cabinets you find nowadays, will have a cut down USA marquee, which doesn’t look great. An original smaller Euro marquee is great to have:
No rust on the retaining bars – very unusual! As for the inside of the cabinet, we are in good shape. The boards are all present, original and complete:
The wiring loom looks to have been hacked around, and some of the fuses have been bypassed – I’ll need to take a look at that.
Inside, the base of the cab is super filthy. Everything will need stripping for a deep clean:
One mystery is the monitor. It is an original 19″ Hantarex, complete with Robotron burn-in, which suggests it is original, but the chassis is missing – perhaps removed for repair at some point by the operator. The Hantarex doesn’t have a great reputation, so I suspect I’ll source a new monitor and drop it in. Being a standard raster, a replacement won’t be hard to come by.
Not sure about the boards. it is likely that they don’t work, but there’s certainly some value there either way. A possibility could be to pull them, sell them on, and place a modern JROK board in there for reliability. Having said that, I’ve already had one offer of help from a fellow collector to take a look at the boards for me. Originality should be the number one priority of any arcade restoration, so I think this would be the correct route to take.
So all in all, I’m super-pleased with the Robotron. The restoration is going to have to wait for now – I still have the Battlezone and Gravitar to work on. I know, I know, I’ll get to them!
Watch out for the Robotron restoration threads in future posts.
Thanks for reading this far – hope you enjoyed the pictures and detail of my most recent Weekend Pick-up.
Until next week!