Sheriff cocktail restoration – Part 1

Who in their right mind would decide to completely dismantle an item they treasured, that is possibly the only one of its kind in the world and that they have no real experience of doing so?

Well that’s what I’ve set out to do to my Taito/Nintendo/Mystery Sheriff cocktail from 1979.

If you are unaware, Sheriff was the first game Shigeru Miyamoto worked on for Nintendo. I had played it as a kid but hadn’t heard of it for years until I was reminded of its existence by a fellow collector, Nintendo fan and YouTuber, Nintendo Arcade.

This particular version has the Nintendo name on the title screen but is in a Taito style cocktail cab and has no markings of either company.  General consensus after discussing with both Nintendo and Taito aficionados is that this is most likely a prototype of the Taito licensed version of Sheriff, Western Gun Part 2

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One last go before I take it apart

I’ve owned the cab for about 18 months now and when I bought it I knew that, whilst working fine, it was a bit rough aesthetically and had lots of potential for scrubbing up.  I’ve been putting off taking it apart since then, partly as I’ve enjoyed playing it so much but also through the fear that it may never work again after I’ve eventually reassembled it.

I’d already cleaned the machine up with a bit of scrubbing and polishing and had the relatively simple job of re-chroming the glass retaining corner clips done but ahead lay a lot of work to restore what was a 1979 arcade cab that’d spent a lot of its life in a pub back to its former glory.

I also have to say I was inspired to document this adventure by the excellent The Arcade Blogger articles written by Tony Temple.  So many great restoration projects over on Tony’s site as well as other fascinating stories of arcade gaming history.

So let’s begin…

1. Dismantle everything
Tip one here is to take a LOT of photos of everything before you take it apart for future reference when you need to work out how to put it back together again. This was especially important with a one-off cab that has no documentation or schematics available.

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Pictures pre dismantling are essential; photograph everything… then photograph it some more.

Tip two is to bag up screws, bolts, etc. for each element of the cab separately and label them clearly.  Bag them up immediately as it’s amazing how quickly you forget where the pile of bits by your foot came from.
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This may look a bit obsessive but trust me, your chances of putting everything back together successfully will be greatly increased with this level of care and detail

Here’s a time lapse I set going of the dismantling process: https://youtu.be/1R8WgLd5U0o
As you can see, a second pair of hands to help lift at times and fetch cups of tea is invaluable 🙂

2. Respray the metal work
I’m not going to do any metal spraying myself but to have it professionally shot blasted and powder coated you have to get everything attached to the metal parts removed.  In the case of Sheriff that includes the controls from their housings and the coin mechanism from its surround too.  All the metal work had been hand painted in gloss black emulsion at some point and then bubbled and chipped over the years, as you can imagine it wasn’t the best finish.

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Main body, coin box, leg holders, and legs removed and ready for a trip to the sprayers

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You can see the finish around the control panels and coin mech are non-too pretty

3. Restore the wood work
I won’t be replacing any of the wood work so I will, with no previous experience, make good the various paint splashes, chips, and other damage in and around the wooden top section of the cab.  A glass scraper should do the job on the paint and a bit of filling, sanding, gluing and painting should be fine for the rest.
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These old paint splashes and over run should be easy pickings

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Chips away… this will be a little tougher to make pretty.

4. Repair the artwork on the top glass
The artwork for this game is silk screened to the underside of the glass.  This means there is no option to replace with nice, new, unscratched glass for this project and no reproduction art either.  Luckily the glass isn’t in too bad condition given its age so I will aim to repaint the silk screened art as best I can to improve the overall look.  Most of the backing is black so that will get the gloss spray treatment followed by a few damaged spots that will be touched up with acrylic paints mixed to match the colour.

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The black areas are quite damaged near the corners but should be straightforward to repair

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Some slightly more targeted and delicate painting will be needed on these small holes

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Other than the above it will be general cleaning up of all of the inner workings, wire looms, etc. to really make this beautiful and rare game shine like it’s 1979 again.

Please do comment below and see you in Part 2 coming soon…

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