Flash Gordon -project


Maybe some day this will look like a decent pinball machine, but now it is in miserable condition. Some pictures:

Red has faded to orange or pink. The cabinet has had its share of both sun and rain, that had made cracks on the wood.

Operators would say this playfield has earned its price. The seller was quite right in saying that "the playfield is slightly worn at places the ball goes into". Right. I would hate to see a playfield that is worn from where the ball does not go to!

Broken drop target? No problem, just tape some paper on playfield! It is typical of Bally drop targets to break at the spring mounting point. This game has 11 drop targets, of which three were broken when I got it.

One reason to worn playfield: shooter tip rubber is missing, shooter makes dents to balls that then wear playfield.

Inside the machine there was some extra stuff: pile of garbage, burned coils, fuses and lamps, removed knocker parts and one hornet's nest (luckily empty).

Backglass is splendid, compared to machine's general condition. So if all else fails at least I get a nice glass to hang on the wall.


If the machine was in bad shape mechanically, so was it also electronically. A couple of transistors were bad on solenoid driver. Among them a bumper driver. Clever repairman had wired the bumper switch directly to coil, and also left the original switch wires in place. It is a wonder that the switch matrix electronics were still OK.

One display had a blank digit, typical problem in old Ballys. It is usually caused by either a bad 100k resistor or a bad 2N5401 transistor. This time it was the transistor. After replacing it, the displays were fine again.

I thought the sound ROM was corrupted. Speech sounded like it did not come from this planet. After some time I found out my game has French speech ROMs. Okay, French or alien talking, same for me! After burning new ROMs for both the sound and the CPU board, the machine greeted me with very clear English. "Emperor Ming Awaits!"

When setting the -35 Bally CPU for 2732 EPROMs, some jumpers must be changed if it previously had different ROMs. There are various settings around the Internet, but at least these seem to do it:

Game Over and Ball in Play lights refuse to go out. I already replaced thyristors on lamp driver board but that did not help. Time to replace the decoder chip. Otherwise the lamps are OK, some sockets are a bit flaky, they can be fixed by a drop of solder and some silicone spray.

It is possible to repair broken drop targets! A piece of hacksaw blade can be glued with epoxy on the backside of target which is first cleaned with alcohol.


Flash Gordon is now electrically OK. The two lamps not turning off was caused by thyristor faults. The replacement parts I put in were too sensitive. A 4.7 k resistor from thyristor gate to ground helped and now all lamps work. The upper flipper had a badly worn coilstop. Not so with the eject hole coilstops, so I swapped those. The hole works as well with a worn coilstop. I got a few spare drop targets from a friend and they are now all OK including the two I repaired.

Now that the game is working, the playfield is starting to look quite bad... same for the cabinet. Something must be done, someday. But still this is a nice game to play. It has been about 20 years since last time I played Flash Gordon and now it is time to refresh memories.


Again two broken drop targets! Maybe the plastic is so old it is getting fragile. Positive thing is that my two repaired targets seem to hold.


How hard is it to paint a wooden box? Basically that's what a pinball cabinet is. Paint is available in any hardware store. So on with the work!

It is clear that this machine will never look like new. The wood has bad cracks and other damages. So the goal is to make it look at least decent to keep in the livingroom.

I made stencils from overhead transparency film for the cabinet side images. The were badly faded but looking at both sides I got the original images reproduced. Then some sanding and painting. Now I learned that different brands of paint do not mix well. After painting the black parts and letting it dry for a few days, I started applying the red. The result: horrible bubbling of the red paint! I should have left the black paint dry for longer time.

Repainting pinball cabinets is not recommended. But my game looked so bad, it couldn't get any worse. Of course it is not original anymore, but anyway looks better than it did. If you are planning to do the same kind of paint job, avoid repeating my mistakes. Ask for experts advice first. Check out these web pages:


When I sealed the Alien Poker backglass, I decided to put some acrylic also to FG's backglass. Even if the paint is still OK, it is beginning to bubble at one corner. After a few layers of acrylic spray, the paint will not start to flake.


At last, new drop targets! I ordered these from John's Jukes. Canada being outside EU, the parcel had to be declared at customs. No problems in that, a friendly officer told me to open the packet and show what's inside. After deciding the 15 drop targets are not dangerous or illegal, he even found some import code number for pinball spares. Customs tax was only 1.7%, not bad.

I replaced all targets. Let's hope the will last some time now.


All works fine. Except... the upper playfield 3 drop targets don't always reset. No problem, I thought. Probably a bad connector on solenoid driver. It looked good. Maybe a bad solder joint on connector pin or driver transistor. Reheat and add solder. Works fine - for a while. What's up? The problem was with the driver transistor. It failed intermittently. After replacing, it worked perfectly. It is not usual for a transistor to fail in this way. They either break open or short. Well, you always learn something!


A drop target broke again. It looks like the targets don't always drop when hit. Maybe there is something wrong with the target bank adjustment. Must check that.


I heard that improper position of target banks may cause the targets to hit playfield when resetting and thus break them. Doesn't look like that though. They always seem to break when hit, not when resetting.


Maybe it is the dust from worn playfield that makes the targets stick and break. Or then the targets bend too far back when hit, which prevent them dropping correctly. Anyway, I think it is now time to do something for the playfield. So, remove everything and clean thoroughly.

Flash Gordon's playfield is in two parts. The upper playfield is a few centimeters higher and ball enters there via two ramps or a bi-directional eject hole. As you see, the wood is seriously starting to reject its paint!

"The playfield is slightly worn where the ball goes". Yeah, sure.

Now the playfield can be touched up, or maybe repaint is a correct word here - a Sharpie is not quite enough! After that either clearcoat or a sheet of clear acrylic. Doesn't have to look like new, as long as it's playable.


Let there be paint. And painted it is now. I still did not manage to find my inner artist. The playfield looks exactly like that. The comic-like theme of this game gives an excuse to wobbly handwritten texts. Looks better than plain wood though. And that was the goal.

Upper playfield retouched. There are artists, and there are pinball fixers. Me being more of the latter type, and an artist nowhere to be seen, shows clearly.

Colors do not exactly match, but at least the eject hole scoring is now visible.

Lower playfield required minor touch up.

With my painting skills this is not going to get any better, so now it is time to start making a sheet of 0.75 mm polycarbonate plastic over the playfield, and then start putting all parts back. I did not want to clearcoat this in case I find an artist some day. It will be interesting to see how the plastic sheet affects game play.


Making all holes into sheet of plastic was quite a job. But now it is complete and this is what it looks like:

Painted and plastic coated playfield. You can see the image of backglass reflecting on the playfield polycarbonate sheet.

Flash Gordon project has taken almost one year now. It took some effort, but if you ask whether it was worth it, I just say that now it is difficult to start playing without smiling. Ball travels on the plastic sheet really quickly and silently.


Some minor fixes. The 0.75 mm plastic over playfield is just thick enough to make ball hang at some places. I had to work on the plastic at the star rollovers, to make the threshold a little less steep. Also near ramp entrances the plastic was a bit lifted from playfield. That was easy to fix by removing some posts and widening the screw holes in plastic. Now it stays smooth.

I added a second rubber ring to drop target banks. Now the targets don't bend as far back. And none of them has broken!


Time came for also this machine to go to the next owner. Pekka came and took with him the favourite game of his youth. It is nice however that the machine still stays with someone I know. Here is the last picture of the game still in my home.