Bally Flash Gordon
The Bally Flash Gordon pinball machine came out in May 1980 and was designed by Claude Fernandez with beautiful arts by Kevin O’Connor. The pinball was issued shortly after the blockbuster movie, starring gorgeous Italian actress Ornella Muti. This pinball was a huge success and more than 10,000 units sold quickly. Thirty five years later, this machine is still coveted and will call for a high premium on the used market thanks to its dual playfields and movie theme.
I bought my Flash Gordon Pinball from a small town, an hour away from where I live. The pinball had been kept in some kind of shed and was in a very poor condition. Although the tempered glass over the playfield was in place, the playfield was stained and filthy beyond reasons. I later on understood what had happened to this machine: a family of mice had used the playfield to build a nest and lived there for who knows how many years. Mice urine is highly corrosive and attacked the artwork, staining the wood beyond any hopes of ever repainting it. Fortunately, I was able to secure one of these overlays that you can glue on top of the ruined artwork. All this was long before CPR ever thought about replicating the Flash Gordon playfield.
The Flash Gordon plastics are extremely rare (again, this was long before CPR replicated them) and I was relieved when I realized that all of them were present and unbroken despite the incredible coat of dirt, grime, smoke and mice urine. I recall that it might have taken me a good hour to clean each plastic part. Surprisingly, the condition of these plastics was outstanding under the shell of dirt and filth.
The backglass was in excellent condition and I quickly triple coated it with Krylon triple thick, after a delicate but thorough cleaning. The glass being vertical, the mice had not been able to pee on it.
The CPU board was replaced by a new CPU unit and each individual board (Solenoid, Lamp, Squawk and Talk and Power) was rebuilt using components and parts from Big Daddy (formerly owned by pinball enthusiast Steve Kulpa).
Flash Gordon is one of the most beautiful pinball you can play and look at. It is a feast of red colors, lights and sound and the overall artwork was truly a masterpiece. I have to say that I was mesmerized watching this pinball in the dark for the first time: it was truly one of the most beautiful sight I have ever experienced in front of a pinball machine. My second most pleasant experience was to watch my son plays Xenon, while my daughter was standing on a little stool and played Flash Gordon next to each other with the glow of Medusa near by….
Rebuilding that machine was a challenge. The entire playfield was taken apart, sanded down to the wood, cleaned, disinfected, and varnished before applying the plastic overlay. The overlay was left to dry a few days before any re-assembly and I made sure that no air bubbles were trapped underneath.
One of the drawbacks of overlays, is that the light from the inserts is considerably dimmed. To circumvent this problem, I used higher wattage lamps under the playfield. Overall, I was never really happy about the overlay and its appearance even though it was the only possibility to rescue that unit.
I ended up selling the machine. Had the reproduction playfield from CPR been made available earlier, I may have kept it as it was such a beautiful and rare pinball. Below is a picture of the fabulous CPR reproduction (worth every penny in my humble opinion):