Restored – Williams (1967) Apollo Pinball

1967 was at the height of the space race and everyone wanted to share in celebrating the United States’ remarkable technical prowess.  The Williams Apollo pinball machine was created to capture and relive these moments for patrons in the back alley bars and bowling alleys.


About This Machine

This machine was produced in limited numbers (3100) and was made as a single player only machine so that more rules could be constructed from the limited number of relays and wheel logic circuits typically available in electro-mechanical machines.  The result was an instant classic, with a clear set of rules to achieve.  Also, this machine had quite a bit of depth, not usually found in machines of this era.

First and foremost was the rocket in the center of the playfield and the countdown rollovers.  The countdown would only decrease by rolling directly over the appropriate digit or hitting an ever changing lit target.  Once the count down reached 1, the launch feature would light, and you could start the count down again.  Each time the count down was achieved, the values of the targets would increase, until you reached the max values (special when lit credit).  Additionally, this machine also had an outlane gate diverter to save your ball and allow you to relaunch if drained on the right hand side.

If the launch was activated during a ball, and then you drained, the backbox feature would be enabled.  This feature is a mini pachinko style vertical pinball game that would reward anywhere from 50, 300 or CREDIT.

This game not only accomplished it’s main mission (to draw people in and want to replay), but captured one of America’s most proud moments in time – the space race and the Apollo missions.


Custom Request

We were contacted via a customer referral to find this special machine.  The request was quite simple, find an Apollo pinball machine and restore it.  After we determined what the availability of this machine was, we determined a value and set it restoration process in motion.  About the time the restoration was complete, we learned the true nature of where this machine was heading, and became very excited.  This was no normal pinball collector.  This was a NASA approved rocket restorer and this machine was going to reside in their main lobby among their other NASA awards and documented accomplishments.  How exciting!



Again, we had to maintain a budget for restoration on this machine, but immediately it got a little out of hand as availability of the Apollo pinball machine was virtually nill.  We were lucky to find one within a couple hundred miles of our facility, and since then we haven’t seen another.  So this was it – regardless of it’s original condition – we were in.

The machine was actually in surprisingly good original condition – for it’s age.  The front of the cabinet was worn well past normal use, but the back glass was the feature of the machine.  The prior owner(s) must have known to be careful with this one as it had some clear tape on the back side.  Well, from our experience, whatever is on there – stays there.  We were able to clean it gently and seal the entire back of the glass to preserve the paint.   I’ve seen most mid-80’s back glasses with almost half the paint chipped off, but this one was almost new looking.

The head and cabinet were almost without damage from serious chips, but the paint was worn off and yellowed significantly.  The leg mounts were damaged of course.  The front of the machine had to be rebuilt entirely, which means, the entire cabinet and head had to therefore be sanded down, repaired and repainted by hand.

The playfield was another wonderful surprise.  Only one spot on the entire surface was worn to the wood.  It was a strange location as well and it repaired without much ado.   We skipped clear coating this machine to save on cost as well as it was going to probably be played just occasionally anyway.  Otherwise, it was entirely stripped, cleaned, and deep polished. Followed by multiple applications of wax.  The original plastics were pristine, but we went with new pop bumpers and repainted the upper apron in order to match the cabinet accurately.

At this time, we also decided to completely convert this machine over to LED lighting.  What a difference it made.  We color matched a couple inserts and put whites under all the plastics.  It was a perfect blend of old and new and only made this classic even better.  By just going with slightly more white light, this machine just looked cleaner and fresher without looking electronic at all.

Lastly, the electronics were addressed.  This machine was stated to be in perfect working order.  Of course, the truth be told, at least 5 relay coils were burned right out.  The bell ringer coil had melted in to a pile of goo and half of the rotating mechanisms were nearly frozen solid.  That’s ok.  We repaired them all back to perfect order.


Restoration Summary

  • Repair and repaint cabinet and head
  • Full tear down of playfield, repair, buff and wax
  • New rubbers
  • New ball
  • LED conversion
  • New pop bumpers
  • Restore coin door
  • New Williams chrome shooter (upgrade from original plastic unit)
  • New Williams chrome legs and hardware (upgrade from flat metal)
  • New coils, relays misc
  • Every switch cleaned and adjusted
  • Every mechanical part removed, cleaned and repaired

The whole process took about 4 weeks, with about 2 weeks for the painting and curing process.


In the end, we were very proud of this machine, and even more proud of where it resides.  The owner of this machine is a great individual, hard working entrepreneur and has a wonderful family history in restoring NASA rockets (among other vastly successful ventures) for our great country.



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