We had not seen a good example of a Baywatch pinball for some time but perhaps with the summer in mind, we decided to start looking around to see what was for sale and where we might source a good machine to restore. Much of the best stock comes in from the US as there is so much more to choose from. Back in 1995 only a few Baywatch tables were imported into the UK and the ones that were have now been worked very hard for many years in commercial settings.
We have been restoring and servicing pinballs since 1962 and have built up many contacts around the globe and particularly in the US. Alexander's “black book” of friends, dealers and pickers led us to a potential candidate located up in Wisconsin so when he travelled to the States in September he decided to extend his trip so he could go and see and potentially buy the Baywatch pinball.
The machine was actually in better shape than expected. We always look at the condition of the playfield first and then a forensic examination of the internal wiring. It was in a private residence, way off the beaten track and located in the basement, down two flights of stairs! The owner was fascinated that a “Brit” had travelled so far to come and see him, in fact it was the first time someone from England had been in his house to the best of his recollection! The machine had been well looked after but was starting to show its years, after all it had clocked up almost 3 decades of service!
After the customary negotiation, a fair deal was struck and the task then moved to getting the machine out of the house. The legs were unbolted and removed. The top box unbolted and folded down on its hinges so it lay flat on the playfield. This certainly makes the pinball more manoeuverable but it is very heavy. The challenge was to lift it up the stair case from the basement, this can be quite testing as you are never sure of exactly how strong your new moving partner is until you are well into the job! It was a struggle but eventually the pinball made it across his threshold was loaded onto the back of the hire truck, its long journey had started and was headed for the U.K.
We have a storage unit just outside Chicago and we group machines together, so that we can gather enough to fill either a 20 or 40ft container, taking advantage of economies of scale. We have worked with our warehouse operative for nearly 10 years and he always takes great care in packing everything well. The pinball was strapped to a pallet with protective installation sheets and wrapped with shrink wrap to keep everything in place. Once we have gathered enough machines together we send for a container. Typically we would ship between 5 and 10 pinballs at a time and as many jukeboxes and other mid century objects of art and games.
The container arrived in Weybridge and a team led by John O’Boyle, our Operations Manager, unloaded everything with the forklift in what is known as a “Live Unload”, meaning the container is unloaded of its contents while the driver waits on site.
Once set up in our workshops we started by totally dismantling the whole machine. The cabinet was stripped back to the bare wood by Rafael and new artwork applied.
Put simply, our restoration work is second to none. These machines are incredibly complex with a dizzying array of switches, toys and moving parts, not to mention the mind boggling tangle of wires and relays under the bonnet.
Every last component has to be checked and replaced if necessary, and that’s before we start work on the cosmetic side of things, repairing damaged areas on the playfield and respraying time worn cabinets, some of which require the preparation of custom stencils.
A typical restoration can take the team many months to finish and it’s only when we reach the end of the process that we can confidently put our name to the finished piece, issuing the one year parts and labour warranty that gives our customers the reassurance they deserve!