Weekend Pickup! Williams Defender

If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you will know that space is now at a premium here at Arcade Blogger Towers. Simply put, I cannot see a way of squeezing another cabinet into the loft arcade space that I have, so future acquisitions in theory are not possible, unless I start selling things.

Well, that was until I spotted this deal on eBay a couple months back, and I figured ‘what the heck, why not?’

I secured the purchase then drove an hour north to collect what looked to be a project Williams Defender upright from a village in the Cotswolds.

Released by Williams in 1981, Defender saw huge success, resulting in 55,000 cabinets sold to operators in the United States. For a quick recap on that, plus pictures of the production line, check out my previous article here.

Williams Defender Promotional Poster from 1981. Note the prototype early version artwork which had to be removed to avoid litigation from a certain sci-fi movie!

I do have a soft spot for Defender – it was actually the first classic arcade cabinet I acquired way back in 2005. It was in absolutely mint condition by the time I finished restoring it, but I (rather stupidly) sold it a few years later in 2010. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it was the right thing to do at the time as it was being replaced with something else. But I do wish I’d kept it!

Anyway, back to this cabinet. On arrival at the seller’s house, he told me that he purchased the cabinet from an operator many years back with the intention of restoring it fully, but then had an opportunity to buy a working example and decided to buy that instead to save himself the trouble of all the work involved. The cabinet had sat in his garage since then, untouched.

So, loading up, I managed to jar the cabinet on its side into the family SUV and drove home. it was a very tight fit, but we got there!

No space for passengers here!
Back home and time to unload
As you can see, it’s not in too bad shape
Side art on both sides is original. There’s a few knocks and scrapes, but I’m really happy with it!
And here she is in all her glory

The eagle-eyed collectors out there will have noticed a few things not quite right with the cabinet. The main one being the control panel. Clearly this Defender has been subject to a conversion at some point in its life. My guess before opening it up to have a closer look at the internals, is that this will be a Jamma conversion. A common practice in the late 80s and early 90s, was to convert these old, dedicated machines at the end of their life, into a more useful up-to-date machine – such was the business model of arcades.

Two player joysticks, 3 buttons. A typical Jamma conversion

But what else have we got here? On the positive side of things, the marquee is original, it has the original bezel monitor surround and plexiglass and it looks like there’s a monitor in there!

The front view. It’s mostly complete from a cosmetic perspective

Those two orange square buttons at the front will have to go. These are probably wired to P1 and P2 start.

Urgh. These two square buttons. Still, an easy fix that a bit of wood filler and some black paint touch up won’t sort out

Another positive, the coin door is a silver original and comes with “20p” inserts. Nice!

This coin door has been in the wars, but it is straight with no dents. These things always restore nicely with some elbow grease and polishing compound. Looking forward to getting stuck into this
Underneath is a bit of a mess, but everything is solid. This just needs a good sand and clean. Maybe add some wood hardener for good measure.

Let’s take a look at the internals to see what we have. Removing the back door for the first time revealed a nice surpise:

The original schematics are still mounted to the inside of the back door
Well, there’s the remains of a loom there, together with a Red Label Defender ROM board
And we have a Defender power supply, which will come in handy. Condition unknown….

Original CRT monitors are becoming harder to find these days, so I’m pleased to discover that not only is a monitor included in the cabinet, but it looks to be a complete WG4600. No idea if it works, but these are relatively easy to work on. It’s a good starting point if nothing else:

Wells Gardner 4600 monitor. Looks complete!

I’ve not removed it yet to inspect the screen, but looking through the dusty plexiglass, the monitor looks to be burn free.

Some other nice things discovered on opening the cabinet:

Found these two boards in the base of the inside – looks like a sound board (I think) and a main Defender PCB!
Rolled up underneath those PCBs was this – an unused original Willis control panel overlay. I’m not a huge fan of the art itself, but this is a cool piece of history. Willis produced replacement artwork that they sold to operators to replace worn out originals

So there you have it – an original Williams Defender! The cabinet is solid and most of the hardware is there. It is ripe for a restoration.

My initial thoughts here are to strip it down and get that monitor tested. Then clean up and restore the cabinet. No plans to do anything major – the scratches and marks and general faded patina will stay. There’s a lot of mould at the base of the cabinet and some inside, which I want to remove before winter sets in. I’ll also sand out the interior to get that back to nice shape.

I do have a couple of Jamma-based JROK Williams boards looking for a home, so rather than going through the pain of finding an original loom and the expense of repairing what’s left of the PCBs, that sounds like it might be the best plan to get this up and running again.

The control panel will need replacing, but I’ll take that metal panel off and see what’s underneath – I wouldn’t be surprised to find the original panel hacked over but looking at the bolts that have been used to mount the plate and the joysticks, I don’t hold out much hope that it can be saved.

Frankly, I don’t think I’ll be keeping this one long term but will enjoy working on this Williams project – of course I’ll share the restoration in the coming weeks here on the blog. So, keep an eye out for future updates!

I’ll get to this soon!

So there you go – these things are still out there to be found! Stay frosty and keep your eyes peeled!

Thanks for reading this week.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary Hill says:

    Looking forward to seeing the restoration work in progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Niall McMahon says:

    Great pick up. I never see fk all on eBay. Need to up my search strategy I think

    Liked by 1 person

  3. neil1637 says:

    Yay, it’s only another restoration thread! Looking forward to this one, Tony. If all else fails, you could always turn it into a Dinoking….


  4. tthurman says:

    Nice score, it will be a great addition to your collection! I always had a bit of a love/hate with this one. I was always drawn to put money in it, but I was absolutely horrible at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tony says:

    Join the club! I am a terrible Defender player. Lots of noise and shots, usually miss everything!


  6. Exit_Through_the_Subocean says:

    Always love to see the start a new pickup/restoration thread!

    I recently finished building my first MAME cabinet out of a particle board microwave stand from the 1970s and it was nice to get to put some of what I’ve learned from your blog to use without the risk of destroying something with historical signficance

    Liked by 1 person

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