Having just wrapped up a Gottlieb 2001 restoration, I’m going to switch gears back into Solid State mode with a Star Gazer. I was really lucky to snag this project game last summer before interest in it really took off. I guess it has always been a darling amongst the Bally/Stern enthusiast crowd, but it seems there is a recent fever towards getting hands on a Star Gazer in any condition (if I were a betting man, I'd bet on Stern remaking the game at some point in the near future). I’ve had some generous offers to take the game off my hands, as is, but it’s a project I’d like to see through before deciding that to do with it.
It is nice to have friends that are bored. Drano swore off hunting new games for a short period of time last summer (he has since fallen off the wagon, surprise, surprise!) and lamented the fact that his pinball hunting days were behind him. I said he could always hunt games on my behalf.
Drano: What do you want?
Me: Find me a Star Gazer.
A few days later, Drano had a line on a project game. But it was in France. My international pin-hunting had been limited to importing games from the US in the past, so bringing a game from overseas, unseen, was way beyond my scope. Drano had done it before, and assured me wiring money to a complete stranger with only a slight grasp of the English language was nothing to worry about. The price was…acceptable, I guess, given the scarcity of a Star Gazer, however, I'd purchased working EM games for the same amount. The air freight charges to get the game from rural France to Toronto almost equaled the price of the game itself. Throughout this process, I seemed to just be the money man financing a multi-continent pinball purchase orchestrated by a friend who was more than willing to spend my money and help me obtain a classic Stern. There were no ulterior motives here, as far as I could tell…because Drano already owns a Star Gazer!
The game arrived with few surprises. I knew what I was getting into, as about ten pictures were sent. The game was packed well by the French seller and arrived undamaged. There was no backglass in the game. No boards were included except for the lamp driver. No lockdown bar. It included an incomplete set of displays. Various coils were missing from under the playfield. A complete plastic set was included and packed separately. The cabinet was in decent shape. The playfield was mylar’d with some areas of wear around inserts. Ball guides, brackets, coin door, coil plungers, and nearly everything else made of metal was covered in rust. The worst of it was the upper ball guide, it was one solid strip of crusty rust, and probably will not be salvaged. The wiring liberties taken on the game were interesting to say the least. Most “hacks” (or creative European work-arounds) were related to the game’s power supply and rectifier board. I hope these are simple challenges that can be retraced and corrected using schematics, and photos from Drano’s properly wired version of the game.
One positive is that the game was an early unit in the Star Gazer production run. The playfield has the famous “hairy knee” (really, a poorly transmogrified tassel from the backglass art) that was deleted from the art on the later runs. It also has the yellow spinners, matched with white stand-up targets. The serial number of this game was “504”. According to the Internet Pinball Serial Number Database, excluding the sample games, the production run started at serial 500 or 501 and worked its way up, so this game was one of the first to roll off of the Stern production line.
The game has been sitting through the winter, and I'm finally ready to dig into it.