1977 Gottlieb Cleopatra Pinball

    Well, it's long been a dream of mine to own a pinball machine.  The problem is that they're so danged expensive.   As much as I would love to own a Simpsons Pinball Party, that would likely cost me 3 - 6 thousand dollars.   There's no way that's going to happen.   I figured the only way I'd ever own such a machine is if I started smaller and eventually, over time, traded my way up.   I regularly check Craigs List in my area and drool over the pins for sale.  One day I finally came across an "affordable" pin.   I bought this 1977 Gottlieb Cleopatra for $200.   Here is a link to the machine on the Internet Pinball Database.  It was not working when I bought it, so I knew it would be a project pin from the start.   The idea here was to get a "starter" pinball machine so that I could learn some how-to stuff and get my feet wet a little bit.  Then down the road I can decide if I want to try to sell/trade it or not.

    The Cleopatra is a Gottlieb "System 1" pinball.   This is the first attempt by Gottlieb to move from the old school Eletro-Mechanical (EM) pinball machines over to the newer Solid State pinball machines that have CPU boards and such.   There are several different system on pinball machines, most of which have similar CPU, power and driver boards in them.

    Before I get into any of the details of what all I did I do want to mention a few websites which I found to be incredibly useful.
    1.  Pin Wiki    -     This website just has a lot of general non-specific repair tips for pinball machines.
    2. Pin Wiki System 1 Page      -     This page just lists a lot of useful repair tips that are specific to Gottlieb System 1 pinball machines.
    3. Pin Repair System 1 Repair Guide     -       This is the be all end all guide for System 1 repairs.   This covers just about anything and everything you could ever want or need to know.
    4.  PinSide Forum    -      I used this forum to post any unaswered questions that I had.   The members were very responsive and incredibly helpful.   One member even offered up his phone number so that I could call him with questions if needed.  That is an awful lot of kindness to offer up to a stranger.  He assured me we were not strangers "We're one big happy dysfunctional family of pinheads".

    Ok, on to the pics!   Please note that none of the repairs that I did on this pinball machine were original or ground breaking.   Most I learned from all the above guides.   But as you probably know by now, I like to document all my projects.  I enjoy looking back on all the work I've done almost as much as I love looking at the finished product!

    Here is the pin at the start.  It was "complete" in that it wasn't missing any pieces, but it would not boot up.  You can see on the screen below the numbers are all wonky on the score displays.


    Here's the playfield.   Several burnt out lights, but otherwise in pretty good condition:


    Here's a side view:


    A closer view of the backglass.   It's in really good shape!


    Just in case you've never seen a pin opened up before, here it is:


    And a side view with it all opened up:


    The first thing I did to repair it was replace this ratty old electrical cord. You can see it's got electrical tape covering up bad parts of the wire:


    I cut off the bad wire and replaced the plug with this shiny brand new one:


    The next simple task I did was replace all of the existing fuses in the machine.   Here's a picture of all 7 fuses in the game:


    The game still would not boot up, so it was finally time to look at the boards inside the backbox.   The big one up top is the main CPU board.  The bottom left is the power supply.   The lower right is the driver board.


    My problem was not hard to spot.   A common problem with the System 1 boards is the batteries that they used to use.  Over time they can tend to go bad and can spit corrosive battery acid on the boards.   That's precisely what mine did.    Here you can see the bad battery below.


    If you look a little closer you can easily see that many of the lines, chips, diodes, resistors and etc were all corroded.


    Here's more:


    Additionally all the edge connectors were corroded as well.    Which is not uncommon, but it is unfortunate.   If the corrosion is on the edge connectors, then it's also on all the wiring inside of the plastic molex connectors as well:

    I've never really had much of a reason to solder before, but all this solder work necessary to fix the CPU board was beyond my skill level.  Not to mention the fact that the cost of mailing the board out to someone else to get repaired would be just as much as it would cost to buy a replacement!  So I decided to buy a new replacement CPU board.  More on that in a minute...


    Here are all the molex connectors inside of the back box.  All of which need to be replaced.   My hands were aching by the end of all of this work:


    You're supposed to be able to remove the existing pins using this fancy little removal tool.  But I don't think I was doing it properly and I ended up busting my removal tool.   That coupled with the fact that the wiring was all corroded and did not want to be removed easily.


    So I decided on a different approach.  I decided to replace the molex connectors with all new ones.  They are actually pretty affordable.  So I wish I had thought of this to begin with and saved myself the headache of trying to remove all the corroded wires.    The first step of rewiring was to label everything.  As you can see below some of the connectors had empty pins.   So I had to keep everything in good order because I knew that I'd never be able to spot a mistake in the future if I messed up:


    Then I used some tape to label each wire and snipped each one off:


    Here you can see the new pins that I crimped on to a few of these wires.   I had to crimp on over 100 of these!


    Finally I slid the connectors into the new molex connector and printed off some new labels for each:


    Finally after I repinned all those molex connectors, I found this picture online which showed me the proper way to remove the wires.  I was doing it wrong at the beginning.   Had I found this picture at the beginning maybe I could have reused my old connectors.   But then again, maybe not due to all the corrosion.   Oh well, new connectors only cost me around $10.


    So along the way I also took out the power board to inspect it.  When I did and pulled lightly on the board it just broke apart and several of the components came off.  So that had to be replaced as well.    At the time I thought the driver board looked ok, so I decided to try to leave that in place.


    Here's a picture of all my new wiring as well as the new CPU board and power supply.   The CPU board was a Ni-Wumpf board, which cost a pretty penny.  The power supply from a Rotten Dog replacement power supply.


    With those two new boards, new wiring and new fuses I decided to start up the machine to see if it would work!   To my surprise it did!....sort of.   The game seemed to boot up but it was totally non-responsive.  I could not add quarters or start a game or do anything at all.  But the lights flashed and the score displays looked more normal.   I posted on the PinSide forum.  Several users said it sounded like a ground wire problem.  So I spent hours and hours poring over my wiring.  All my wiring looked perfect.  I rewired a few connectors and still, no luck.   Then after staring at all the various parts inside the pin, I finally noticed something that seemed odd to me.  I noticed this bar behind the coin door.   Its intended purpose was to energize when the game was on so that it woud accept quarters.  If the game was off, it would not be energized and quarters would just fall right through the coin mechs:


    Well, I noticed two wires coming off the bar above.   One going to each coin mech.   One side had the wiring wrapped around the switch for the coins.  The other side did not.   The one shown below was wrapped around the coin switch and it shouldn't have been.   So basically what it did was it when the game booted up, it would immediately add a credit to the game.  Then the switch was stuck closed thanks to this little bar below.  So the game wouldn't allow another input to be pressed (like the start game button for example).   So by moving the one wire shown below, it fixed all my issues!   My game was finally playable!


    Now unfortunately for me, I jumped the gun a bit.  Some people on the forum eventually said that it sounded like my problem was a bad driver board.  So I did order a replacement board for my machine.   I ordered it the night before I discovered the coin door problem above!   Well, since I ordered it, I guess I might as well use it.  I got a Rotten Dog replacement driver board.   I guess I will just have to sell my original drive board on eBay, or save it for parts!


    So finally, my pinball machine came to life and it was playable!


    The playfield was filthy, some of the lights were burned out, the rubber bands were all dry and cracked, but it was playable!


    It's kind of a weird thing to spend all this time fixing a machine, and the second you do fix it, you immediately disassemble it.    I wanted to clean and replace some of the playfield pieces, so it needed to be done.    But first things first, I replaced all the lights in the game with new bulbs.  Old bulbs can start to burn hotter and can damage backglass evenutally.   So I replaced all the bulbs first:


    Here starts the long road to completely disassemble everything.   Here I've removed all of the plastic artwork from on top of all the playfield parts:


    Here you can see how cracked and old the rubbers are.  You can also see how corroded the nails and screws were!


    Here's some of the old rubber bands coming off:


    Then I started to remove the posts from the baord.   When you look at the clean paint under the posts you wish the whole playfield looked that new!   It will never look quite that new again, but you can still see there is plenty of dust and grime that could be removed and cleaned off:


    Upper playfield starting to be disassembled:


    Look at that dirt!


    All that flaky stuff coming off the parts was just gross.  I suspect it's because these nails were not stock that came with the game.  They were just normal nails and weren't stainless steel, so they corroded somewhat.


    I removed all the metal rails from the top of the playfield and look at all that dirt!


    Here is everything all taken apart:


    The area around the bonus lights in the middle still shows its wear.  That's ok by me.  It's fine for a pinball to show its age a little.   Such damage would probably take a entirely new playfield to correct anyway.


    And here's the upper half:


    Then what I did was soak all the metal parts that I removed from the game in some CLR to remove all the grime.


    You can see all the fizz showing in the left one of all the bad stuff melting right off.  I left them soak overnight.


    While the green stuff was brewing, I decided to work on fixing the drop targets.   You can tell the the two on the left were replacements because they do not match the others.   I found pictures online that confirmed there shouldn't be stars on these drop targets.  So I wanted to replace them.


    Little did I know that it would be such a giant pain in the butt to do!   After 90 minutes I finally dissembled this entire thing, replaced the targerts and put it all back together.  Each piece had two springs attached to it, and they are essentially inside of this metal box.  So you had to somehow get the springs on inside of a box.   It was quite challenging for me to do.


    Here's just another shot of the drop target box.


    Hard to argue with the results though.  The new targets all looked great:


    The following day I took the metal parts out of the CLR.   I scrubbed them with steel wool, rinsed them under hot water, then dipped them in Acetone to help them dry.  When finished I let them sit on paper plates for a bit to fully dry off.


    Here you can see the difference between one I did clean up and one I didn't:


    Next I cleaned up the ball launcher.   Below you can see the metal is all rusted and the rubber all hardened:


    I got all new springs and new rubber and cleaned it all up real nice:


    Next I cleaned up the legs.   Each of them had some pretty bad rust on them.  In the picture below you can see that I started to remove the rust from the left side.  The right side is how it looked when I started.   I also added feet and rubber coasters to the legs as well.


    Next I entirely buffed out and cleaned the coin door.   I don't have a before picture, but you can see below that it buffed out pretty well.   I also got a replacement sticker to put on the coin door:


    Here it is all finished up!  Looks great:


    And here's a shot of the cleaned up legs in place as well:


    Once I finally had the playfield as taken apart as I was going to do, I buffed and polished the whole thing with some playfield cleaner/polish.  The pictures don't do it justice, but it's soooo much cleaner than it was before.  Now it was finally time to start to reassemble everything!   Here I replaced the red star rollover targets in the upper left and right:


    Here's the whole playfield all cleaned up, ready to be reassembled:


    I got all new posts for the playfield.  You can clearly see the difference.  All of them were yellowed and a few of them were cracked:


    Some of the holes were the posts came out of were a bit stripped.  They would not hold a screw when I tried to get everything back in place.  For those I used wood glue to fill the holes and let it dry over night.   By morning the screws held in place nicely in the holes:


    Here you can see all the new posts in place and the new rubbers as well:


    Here the artwork is back in place as well:


    Here are the replacement flippers I bought. The old ones were all cracked and the rubber was hardened and cracked as well.


    And here is most everything back in place!

    I printed off some new instruction cards.  They look great!


    And here it is all reassembled!   The only thing not shown in this picture is the lockbar for some reason, but I do have that as well.


    Everything all cleaned up and looking bright and new again:


    As a finishing touch to all of this, I'm playing around with adding LEDs in place of all the old school lights.   I might do this a little down the road.  In the mean time I just bought a bunch of different types of LEDs so that I can start to play around and find which ones I like best.    But so far I'm having a lot of fun playing the machine!   I'm having a few problems with the game tilting here and there, but I think it just needs a switch or two adjusted and the playfield leveled out.    I can't wait to spend some good quality time playing it!



     Written by markronz @ gmail . com