Atari Gravitar Restoration 3 FINAL

So we’re in the home straight here with the Gravitar. Not much left to do, but I wanted to document these last bits here on the blog.

So I know what you’re thinking. The featured image is of a Space Duel, not a Gravitar right? You are correct. But there are reasons for that – read on to find out!

So in Part 2 of the restoration the cab was in the house and we were making good progress on rebuilding the Gravitar. Here’s the final stages for you:

The coin door was replaced as this was the state the old one was in. No going back from there I think. The new door is behind, with parts from a donor door that I had lying around
The coin door wiring needed a few repairs, before I could hook up my bulbs
Think I mentioned previously that I had completely rebuilt the WG6100 monitor. Here’s the bare chassis before repopulating it
Bit of a side note while I’m here – I noticed a jitter on the screen when I plugged it in, and decided to replace all the frame transistors to see if that would fix it. On removing the old ones, I noticed one of the sockets was disintegrating, resulting in a short from one of the transistors to the frame. After replacement, the image is rock solid. A good result!

Next up was reinstalling the cleaned up wiring loom, coin box, power supply, coin door, PCBs and monitor:

Here’s the power block. All restored with new “Big Blue” capacitor and fuses
PCBs, loom, speaker, coin door and coin box all in
And finally, the monitor was dropped in at the top. Looking good!

A good hour was spent doing this – it is worth being methodical about this, it’s very easy to forget to connect something. Take one job at a time – I tend to work from the base of the cabinet upwards. After a final flight check and a double-check that everything was as it should be, it was time for the big switch on:

Gravitar from the left
And the right!

There was a small issue though – I had half the sounds on the game missing for some reason. So the PCB needed to go off for repair.

But here’s the twist – I had a Space Duel kit. Space Duel shares much of the power schematic and harness of Gravitar, so in theory it’s a simple case of swapping out the marquee, control panel and PCB. So I figured I’d do that – at least I’d have something to play while the PCB was at the repair shop.

You’ll also notice that there was no marquee light. The reason for this is the incompatibility of the ballast in my US cab, with UK electrics. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, dropping a native UK fluorescent bulb into a US setup will result in an instantly blown bulb! There’s couple of ways of solving this problem, one of which of course would be to swap out the ballast with a UK one. They aren’t particularly cheap, and I wanted to experiment a little with an LED solution, which would be handy for future reference:

It’s a pretty simple conversion. In short, you need to completely bypass the original ballast and starter motor and wire live to one end, and neutral to the other. We can keep the existing lamp holder
And here’s our new LED strip. It looks exactly like a flourescent bulb, but with low heat LEDs! I ordered this from a Chinese eBay seller for the princely sum of £7 shipped! It’s a nice quality product, and arrived in about a week as I recall.
Dropped in the Space Duel marquee – perfect. Just the right amount of glow, and no evidence of LED “Dotting” that you might expect. Very pleased with that, and very handy to know for future restorations

So here we are – the finished article. One Atari Gravitar, with a Space Duel kit installed inside:

It looks great! The artwork really pops
Here’s the right hand side. As a two player game, Space Duel works really well. The cab is nice and wide to accommodate both players without any issues
You can see just how tall these late Atari vector cabinets are
I’m particularly pleased with how the front black vinyl cleaned up without having to be replaced. You should be able to make out that I made up a matt black kick plate to cover up the cracking at the bottom. It tidies it up really well. The coin door was completely replaced
And here’s a quick before/after shot. I reckon that’s a job well done

So there you have it. I’m trying to work out how best to mount a credit switch, as Space Duel‘s “freeplay” mode doesn’t show some of the attract sequences, and just sits on a static screen waiting for the player to start, which I find super annoying. I might also revisit the t-molding. The standard size doesn’t quite fit, as the cab has swollen with age – nothing bad. It is still solid as you can see, but I suspect the particle board has drawn in moisture over the years – probably down to being stored somewhere cold. Slightly wider t-molding is available which would sort that, so I may order some and replace what I have on there.

Here’s the cab in situ in the loft arcade to give you a sense of scale:

And finally, since I wrote this piece, the Gravitar board is back all fixed. I’ve reinstalled the kit, and here she is:

The completed Gravitar!

Right, I’m off to play some vector games! If you want to look back at the complete restoration of this cabinet, go here.

Thanks as always for reading this week.


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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Kenneth T. says:

    Hard work with pure dedication can bring good things back to life.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew Hunn says:

    Good stuff! Have you ever mentioned anything about the stuff on your walls, or did I miss it? What’s in that frame with the Missile Command marquee? I’ve been framing some original arcade flyers for my walls, and Space Duel is one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew Hunn says:

    Oh wait, is that your Missile Command high score?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Omaha Arcade Lover says:

    I second that, let’s get an article about all of your arcade related memorabilia!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Faust says:

    Great work on that one! Especially the coin door. Do you have a link or product name for that marquee light?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. fecaleagle says:

    There’s a Space Duel free play rom that provides attract:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. neil1637 says:

    Brilliant stuff Tony. It’s a huge beast of a cabinet too, especially when lined up next to those beautiful cabarets. Enjoy playing it now, it’s a great game.

    Liked by 1 person

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