A Bronze and Golden Age Driver Join the Collection
Updated: Apr 26
Howdy! It has been a hot minute since I have made either a blog post or a video on YouTube. Much of the reason for this lack of “content” has been due to finishing up my master’s degree, working in the social work field, applying for post-grad school jobs, and wrapping up production on my upcoming price guidebook (which you can take a sneak peek of here). These life events have not, however, stopped me from stalking the occasional auction or arcade game sites. With my higher education and book endeavors about to conclude in the next month, I figured it was time to scoop up a project or two for the upcoming weekends. So, let’s take a gander at the two newest additions to the collection, both which are in need of various TLC.
TRAK 10 by Atari, 1974
I have been increasingly interested in bronze age arcade games, which are those titles manufactured from 1971-1978-ish which normally contain black and white monitors and pre-processor technologies. Gran Trak 10 is an important and severely interesting bit of gaming history. There are so many firsts with this title it is a bit overwhelming. Gran Trak 10 is the first: driving video game, overhead racing game, 1st with a steering wheel, 1st with pedals, 1st with a shifter, 1st with security chips on the main PCB, 1st video game with interlaced video, and most critical of all is the 1st video game with a ROM.
The game was developed by Atari’s think tank subsidiary known as Cyan Engineering who would help with other iconic Atari products such as Pong and the 2600/VCS home system. This 1st attempt at a racing game in video game form made commercial sense since many popular electromechanical arcade games of the 1960’s and early 70’s were based around racing. The game would not only showcase Atari’s innovative gaming ideas, but also its growing pains as an early company. Gran Trak 10 was sold accidently at a loss with every copy sold. The game was so popular the losses amounted to over a half a million dollars for the young company almost bankrupting it. Future variants of the game helped Atari get back on track (both two player versions and Kee Games branded versions exist) and helped set the pace for future overhead racing games from not just Atari but other manufacturers.
Our version is a second issue of the game in a much smaller and less elaborate cabinet which was retitled simply as TRAK 10. Although the smaller size of the cabinet was listed in sales material as a selling point, it probably was done to make the game cheaper to build and recoup some of the losses from the original version of the game. The cabinet is comically short compared to a standard upright or even most mini/cabaret cabinets. It’s total lack of any decoration other than the 1970’s woodgrain is very appealing to me.
Currently the game does power on, and I have gotten the PCB from displaying garbage to a stable but not yet playable image. The monitor is very strong, and the control panel elements are intact. The cabinet has seen water so the base will need to be rebuilt especially around the area where the pedals are housed. Overall, for a game that is creeping up on half a century of existence, it’s not in terrible condition and is a great candidate for a full-blown restoration.
Turbo by Sega/Gremlin, 1981
Sega’s Out Run gets a lot of (rightful) credit for it’s innovative pseudo-3-D graphics, but Out Run was really an evolution of Sega racing game concepts. All of Sega’s mid 1980’s based 68000 Motorola CPU titles that used sprite scaling (Hang-On, Space Harrier, etc.) owe a lot to Turbo. Turbo’s unique sprite scaling was done via a voltage trick since the hardware wasn’t quite strong enough yet to pull of such a feat. The same tech was used for Sega’s Buck Rogers and Subroc 3-D titles as well. Turbo uses a unique 2/3rds top-down and behind the driver perspective with early sprite scaling technique creating a sense of perspective that had never been seen in a racing game before. It also has additional unique features including a separate LED scoreboard, faux gauges on the control panel, and cool in game visuals including a level that takes place in a tunnel.
Turbo was one of Sega’s best-selling games in the early 1980’s and was offered in three cabinet styles, with our example being the smaller “mini” cabinet variant. Our example is in decent overall condition but will need some work. The base has seen a little water damage with the laminate peeling a bit. The side art is complete on one side and is partially missing on the other. As of this blog post I have already rebuilt the monitor (which was DOA when the game arrived), started working on the very dirty sound and power boards, and will start to rebuild the base in the next few weeks. The game plays well but will also need an inside out scrub down and a fair share of maintenance items addressed.
Turbo is the farthest along in its restoration efforts and won’t require as much cabinet rebuilding as the TRAK 10. Now that the weather is getting nicer and my weekends won’t be dominated by writing papers for school, I should have both machines in tip-top shape by the end of the summer. I look forward to having these classic racing titles in the collection.