Bought a new (unopened box) from climate controlled warehouse, Gold Smaug LE Hobbit 2 months ago. We played the heck out of it already, 500 plays. Here is what I did...
1) Just did my Beast mod and we put them in from underneath. Was simple. Put them in place, apply pressure fully seated and put the screws in. The screws JJP sent were wrong. I simply picked up wood screws from Ace and no issue. We immediately tested each Beast and there was no rubbing. I'd estimate the total time to install all four was less than a half hour. Have not had any jambed ball issues since.
2) Did the ramps at the same time. No issue doing the mod, getting the ramp out was about a half hour. Re-riveting was ten minutes. My ramps at 500 plays were starting to curl.
3) Bought the "new and improved" left rail for ~$100. Put it in in less than a half hour. Noted that I've had almost as many flying balls since as I had before with the old style.
4) I changed all the rubber in my machine, had a couple dried out flippers and the others looked good, but I thought as long as we were in this deep, why not? Glad I did. Put all blue and orange throughout. Matched the color to the playfield immediately in the area.
5) Put in a Lermods rear and ball trough orange LED. Made a big difference.
6) Installed a metal "Ring Button" plate in lieu of the cheesy decal. Installed gold Ring Button.
7) Changed the battery for good measure.
9) Installed Cliffy's.
10) Installed clear plastic protectors under all plastic.
11) Detail cleaned and waxed the playfield twice. There was a ton of dust in the machine after sitting in the box for three years.
I opted to not install the new drop springs. In 500 games I have not had any issues with them. JJP claims that eventually I will, and they will break. I've kept the new style and will monitor them as we go. They look very simple to install should I have to.
I feel like my game is probably now about 95% of what a new one from JJP would have been. Of course getting a Hobbit new was not a consideration as they have not made them for awhile. Finding a NIB was a gift. The guy I bought it from was an absolute angel. He delivered it and didn't leave until it was set up and everything was working. I read and vetted his feedback on Pinside prior to the deal. Every sale he made was given superb feedback just as I am with him now. Moral of the story is that there are great folks out there. There are great machines. A little bit of TLC and maintenance not only tweaks your machine, in my case educated me on my investment. Now if I can only master this "beast" called Hobbit. This truly is an excellent theme. For a basic player like my wife and I, it will take some time to get good at it.