A Brilliant Red Barchetta From a Better, Vanished Time ...
Updated: May 21, 2018
As might be obvious to any casual viewer of this blog, I happen to love classic arcade games. But I guess everyone has a favorite child, ice cream, or Backstreet Boy; I am no different is this regard. Out Run is my all-time favorite arcade game. It was originally offered in three different cabinet styles: a traditional stand up, a sit-down cockpit, and a deluxe cockpit that moves with the player. The game was so successful they released a smaller cabaret or "mini" cabinet, which is the subject of this restoration. The video below has the full restoration step by step, and underneath I have posted some individual photos with some of the more interesting restoration work, to help others who might be taking on a project like this in the future.
The game came out of a storage barn of a Dallas, Texas bar. Set up with an extra free-credit button, it lived a long service life with around 130,000 recorded plays on its coin counter meter. The game was complete, but had some major issues. The front ledge underneath the gas and brake pedals was heavily damaged from years of use. The control panel was cracked and splintering.
The game did work... kind of. The monitor had a severe wave that we eventually fixed by replacing every capacitor in the monitor chassis. The monitor has some slight burn in from a game I cannot seem to pin down, but could be from Exidy's Venture. As seen on the right, the game was filthy inside. It was full of napkins and straws when I first opened it up, and coated in layers of dirt and dust. It also smelled like a bar... spilled beer and bad decisions. The first thing I did was clean and repair the power supply. I replaced the power brick with a new one for reliability, and cleaned the heck out of everything else.
Stripping and sanding the cabinet took more time than any other part of this project. The cabinet had been painted with layers of cheap black spray paint, probably more than once in its life. The original side art decals (well, what little was left of them) were still under all that black paint. I used a heat gun with some of it, with limited success. In some of the smaller areas I used a detail sander to really get into those corners. I even did a light sand over most of the interior, once all the components were removed. This helped not only clean the interior but get rid of the smell of beer and cigarettes permeating the wood. I dedicated myself with this project to keeping a good working pace, but not rushing any element. Slow and steady wins the race.
The bottom of the game needed a lot of love. Players rest their feet here, so the whole area just gets worn down over the years. Both of the side "wings" that flank the platform under the pedals were heavily damaged. The gas pedal was both bent to hell and rusted like an old gate. The rust was so bad we had to drill out the bottom screws to get the gas pedal out. Once we scrubbed the black rubber mat, we were surprised to find that it was actually grey. It was in such poor repair we ordered new matching mat material from a industrial mat company, so it would look factory fresh again.
The "wings" were so badly damaged, we decided to cut them off and recreate them. We measured a small distance out from the curve of the cabinet so we wouldn't have to stress over cutting the exact same curve. Then we created a template from of the old broken parts, and cut new pieces. I bolted them in with screws and used wood filler to hide the seams and screw holes. The side metal plates will also hide any offending screw holes along the bottom. The t-molding groove was created using a Dremel tool and a metal ruler.
The bottom support legs and leg levelers were also in very poor shape. We knocked the old ones off, which where originally just glued on, and cut new ones. We elected to screw the new ones on along with some wood glue to make them a little stronger. These support legs seemed to have suffered a little bit of water damage over the years. This was probably not from flooding per se, but more likely from mopping the floor around the arcade game base night after night. Once this was done we started to address the cabinet body with some wood fill to cover up major dings. After that, it was time for primer.
Cabinet prep is everything to assure a smooth and even coat of paint. This requires a good bit of patience and attention to detail. Paint primer, sand, fill, and repeat. It is boring work, but the more attention to detail you spend here, the better the paint job will look once it is done. I find with any project, it is during that middle section when you really have to restrain yourself from rushing.
Once the primer was finished (I ended up with about 3 coasts of primer) we moved on to paint. I used a satin black paint for the cabinet, and a hammered black for the metal pieces. I find high gloss on a cabinet looks out of place so be wary of it. Again this was a long process of painting and wet sanding between coats using 1000- and later 2000-grit sandpaper. The wet sand really made a difference, giving the cabinet a super smooth and almost veneer-like finish. We ended up applying 4-5 coats of paint.
I had never done any kind of stencil work before this project, so this was a brave new world for me. Cabinet prep again is everything here, making sure you have a nice clean and smooth surface to work with. Using some blue painters tape really helps line the stencil up to provide an even application before painting. I cannot over-recommend having at least one other person to help with stencil applications. This is definitely not a one-person job if you want a smooth and professional-looking result.
One of the other big issues which is common for Out Run games was the cracked and abused control panel. Ours was in pretty bad shape thanks to years of rough play. There is a nice and talented man on Facebook named Wim Outrun who will make you an amazing new fiberglass control panel shroud which is stronger than the original. We also had to replace several parts in the steering wheel and do some major work on the shifter. People beat the crap out of racing games.
And there you have it! The video at the top of the blog post has about 100 photos and a much more step by step history of the restoration for your amusement or education. If you are restoring a mini Out Run, please feel free to reach out to me; I'll be glad to help you in any way I can. Happy hunting and thanks for reading.