An Arcade Road Trip – Way up North…

Hi everyone and thanks for dropping by again.

Today I am going to recount a recent road trip, north, to Glasgow and the adventure that unfolded in front of me leading to a most unexpected, yet very welcomed surprise. But first, we need to set the scene….

It was a Friday, in mid-May and I was spending a few days away with MrsM, up in Edinburgh, celebrating the passing of another year since her birth. We were kid (and fancy) free and making the most of it, before being due to catch the train home on Saturday night.

There had been a thread running on an arcade forum surrounding a certain deluxe cabinet, a known grail title, for a collector friend of mine. We’ll call him Jim, not to protect his identity, more because that is his name. He is Jim.

Now Jim has his own story to tell, when he is ready to tell it, and it is not my place or intent to steal that opportunity from beneath him, however without Jim and his tale, I would have no tale of my own to tell.

So, suffice is to say, that Jim had become quite the little detective, and from an almost throw away post and photograph, he had identified the location of the cabinet, sourced a local contact to act as an agent on his behalf, agreed a price and secured a deal.

Jim had (with some last minute scurrying around near to 12noon on a Saturday) also secured a Luton van with a tail lift, essential for the beast of a deluxe cabinet he intended on bringing home. Now all he needed was a willing mate to assist him in getting the cabinet into said van.

This was where my WhatsApp account started to get a lot of incoming messages. I was to be that chosen mate. But I was in Edinburgh, with MrsM, on her birthday weekend…. After some discussions, it was agreed that Jim would travel up North on Sunday morning, picking me up, en-route, from home (I would’ve just got back home), leaving MrsM to pick up the kids and do all the important stuff, whilst Jim and I swanned about in a truck, hunting for grail cabs! Seemed fair to me.

Joking aside though, I could’ve quite easily, and understandably, said ‘no’. Jim would’ve understood and hopefully found someone else, but I firmly believe that you have to put yourself out every now and then, both for your friends and also for yourself. Who knew what we would find when we got there? I mean hopefully Jim would get his cab, but the way this had panned out so far, nothing was for certain, not even that. But if you’re not in it, then how can you win it? Right?…

For some time now, I had watched from home, as others documented raids and road trips that they had been on, and such trips are by their very nature hard to get to know about, let alone be invited upon, so with opportunity now knocking, I wasn’t going to miss out.

And so, true to word, Sunday morning saw Jim pull up outside my house, in a slightly rattling Luton van and we were Glasgow bound. Also accompanying us on the journey was Jim’s good wife, for whom, possibly promised a grand day out, the stark reality would soon kick in.

From my house, Glasgow was approximately 100 miles, motorway all the way, easy driving, however Jim had already seen through an earlier puncture and with the sun beating through the windscreen, no air conditioning and a radio that would only pick up Heart 80’s, there was little left to do, but break out the blackcurrant liquorice!

Now the cab was being sold by a dealer in a local market, which on arrival appeared to have lost it’s once held grandeur and the large fronted antique hoardings now hosting a more flea market appearance. Holdings literally filled to bursting point with all manner of goods. We parked up and Jim made phone contact with the lady he had arranged the deal through. I forget her name, but she was every bit the character as the place itself was. She walked with a certain swagger and appeared to command the attention and respect of all the various shop/stall owners.

In a bright pink satin blouse and bug-eyed shades, she guided us, in our van, to the specific holding where Jim’s cab was indeed, awaiting. On pulling up, Jim was introduced to the owner by the Barbara Windsor character, leaving me free to wander deeper into the warehouse sized holding. Now, knowing that we were coming that day for the cabinet, absolutely no attempt had been offered by the seller to free the machine from the debris and detritus that surrounded it. But hey, nothing good ever came easily, and this was actually soon to become a blessing in it’s own right.

It really is hard to convey exactly how full this ‘shop’ was. The owner was a character himself, reminding me of Steptoe, for those old enough to recall the TV show, but I mean this as an endearment, not an insult. It was evident (from the layers of dust) that a lot of the stuff he had, he had had for some considerable time, and as the day progressed it became clear that he held a price for every item and would rather have it gathering dust for years to come than drop a penny below his ticket price.

But in amongst all the other stuff, old pictures in broken frames, pub stools and tables, miles of wires and cables, countless CD’s and LP’s, was indeed, as promised, Jim’s cab to be. A few hasty photos were taken as Jim made polite conversation with the owner, and I began to move the surrounding remnants and clear a path to Jim’s machine.

And there it was……… In amongst all the pub furnishings, poked out the corner of a cocktail cabinet.  Moving the boxes of CD’s from atop, revealed the rest of the cabinet top. Covered in dust and grime and missing the glass top and corner clips, but otherwise, externally intact. The visible control panel overlay, black with white bordering lines, looked surprisingly immaculate and the wording surrounding the buttons, made me stand up and really take notice; rotate left, rotate right, thrust, fire and of course, hyperspace………

Yep I had found an Atari Asteroids cocktail cabinet, just sitting there, filthy, but in reasonable nick. No real damage to the wood, except for around the main cabinet lock where it had been forced open at one point in it’s life.

It was at this point, that my interest, caught the attention of Mr Steptoe who was quick to state that this was for sale at £150. Bringing my honed poker skills to the table, I gently explained how so many things internally could be missing or not working and with no way to test, I was going to struggle to commit, and gingerly pushed it to one side and concentrated on the real job of the day, getting Jim’s cab onto the Luton. A task which was quickly carried out, and back to the Asteroids we returned, this time armed with a large screwdriver.

The lock was easily popped and inside, was, well, everything, the original pcb, power supply and monitor, even the coin box was there. And not only that, but in stark contrast from the outside, everything was remarkably clean. Not just from dirt or dust, but also the pcb showed no obvious signs of corrosion, as neither did the monitor chassis or the power supply, with big blue standing proudly tall.

Again, I maintained my pro-poker stance and mused that £150 was just too much of a risk and threw in £100 as my offer. After a little ‘dancing’, with Mr Steptoe walking away, followed by myself having to find him deep in amongst his Aladdin’s cave, a deal was made for number in between our respective pitches.

With the cab now mine, it was time to let the poker face fade away.

Smile for the camera…

The second cabinet of the day was loaded onto the Luton and the tail-lift locked shut, as we were now starting to attract the attention of quite a few locals, both traders and punters, who had became very interested in our haul and particularly questioning how much we had paid and how much we thought they were worth.


Both Jim and I would’ve loved to have had the time and opportunity to park up the van and explore far deeper into the many, many wonderful looking businesses that were at this location, but we just felt that the time to leave, was now, with our merchandise safely strapped in, and with that we departed as quickly as we arrived.

Jim dropping me off at home, but kindly agreeing to take my Asteroids cabinet with him, to put in storage along with his haul of the day, whilst I finish getting my games room ready.

Of course I wanted to keep it at home, but it just wasn’t practical and Jim was kind enough to send me some photos of the cab in a bit more detail which I’ll finish this post with shortly, and I hope you can appreciate how excited I am, not just to own a genuine slice of Atari, but the whole series of events that led to it’s discovery, being able to save it, and looking forward hugely to the restoration of this cabinet, which of course will be documented right here for you to follow along with me.

The photos that follow, are taken after Jim has applied a baby wipe or eleven to the exterior and the glass shown, is on loan from a further friend/collector, but more on that as the restoration progresses.

Enjoy the photos.

Minus the glass top, under the dust, I spy Atari..


Atari insert coin decal plus iconic cone buttons intact
Annoying that it’s ripped, but it’s all original
Inside – all present and correct (coin box removed prior to photo)
Power supply unit with the ‘Big Blue’ capacitor
PCB component side
PCB solder side
Original coin box, complete with old 10pence coin
Game counter showing 33,368 plays
And to finish on a high, a glimpse of things to come….

So there we go guys, I hope you enjoyed recounting this day as much as I enjoyed living it.  An absolute massive shout out must go to Jim for inviting me along, and also for MrsJim who must’ve realised early in, that the day was not going to be a pleasant sightseeing tour with a gastronomic pitstop, yet never complained and brought along the best sweets!!


I’m hugely looking forward to restoring this cabinet and shooting those pointy rocks. But first I have to get my games room conversion finished, which will be the focus of my next posts on this blog.

Please stick around, come back again, hit the like/share buttons below and help keep the love for this hobby growing. I’d love to hear what you think too, by leaving a comment.

See you all next time, where we will (hopefully) be building walls and turning a garage into a games room….

8 thoughts on “An Arcade Road Trip – Way up North…

  1. Great story. Lesson to take those opportunities when they present themselves. Hoping that vector monitor’s OK! Will look forward to resto updates on Twitter:)


  2. Wow neil
    That’s a fantastic find.
    One of my favourite games of all time,a true classic.
    I’m looking for a deluxe upright to add to my collection.


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