1958 Gottlieb Double Action

In 2011, I acquired a 1958 Gottlieb Double Action pinball machine.  This was a Craigslist find.   It was non-working, and in pretty rough shape.   It looked like a fun and challenging project, and I was very interested to work on 50’s era pinball.

Double Action Flyer


Someone had repainted the cabinet with a smeared brown paint, I think they were trying to create a “stained wood” look.

It looked pretty bad, especially the front!  Since this machine was in pretty rough shape I thought it would be a good opportunity to try my hand at stripping off the paint to see if I could get down the the original paint.   I’ve seen this technique on Shaggy’s videos: http://pinrepair.com/top/ and I figured I couldn’t make it any worse than it was, so I got out the Goof Off and went to town.


The playfield was very very dirty as the machine had been sitting for at least 5 years (I suspect more like 10 years) without a playfield glass.   I stood it up vertically and sprayed it down with  Mean Green.     From their website, it says you can buy it at Dollar General or Wal-Mart.   The grime that started flowing off was amazing.   Be careful though because you don’t want to get the wood too wet or it will start to get into the wood and start to cause other problems as the wood warps and expands.   Also, be careful, as meangreen will dissolve ink in the pop bumper caps and flipper bats.  You can re-ink these with a sharpy, but hey, why create more work for yourself?

The inside cabinet was dirty and dusty, but the metal parts were not rusty, and that’s a very good sign.   This is the oldest pinball I’ve ever worked on, and I have to say I impressed with quality of the parts used in the 50’s.  I did a thorough vacuum and tried my best to clean 50 years of dust and grime out of the cabinet.   In the end, it still smelled a little musty, so I took out the lower cabinet electronics, did a light sanding, vacuumed,  and sprayed a light coating of clear finish on the inside of the cabinet.

The inside of the back-box was in pretty good shape as well.   Pretty much a given though that all the units would have to be cleaned and lubed.

The hold relay was burnt and one of the wires was actually melted off the relay.   Shaggy has a technique in his videos to remove this relay.   You either bend the switches together into the “hold” position, or you wire the two wires together.   You then disconnect the coil.   Since my coil had disconnected itself I just cut off the ends of the leads and put wire caps on them.

Here’s some pictures of disassembling the units and cleaning and lubing them.  I usually use a toothbrush with some meangrean to tackle the old grease on the gears and metal parts.   I use a green scotch brite pad and meangreen to clean up the bakelite discs and brass contacts.  I try to get all signs of the old grease off before I re-lube with “Teflon Gel Lube” as Shaggy recommends.  http://www.pinrestore.com/Supplies.html (look for Super Lube”).

The flippers needed a bit of work as they were a bit gummed (greased) up.   I took them apart and put in new coil sleeves and cleaned the plungers and grommets.   They moved nice and smooth after that.

Now on to the back-box.   The score reels each needed cleaning.   They were all slow or frozen.

I cleaned the old grease off with mean green and cleaned the score reels themselves with Novus 2 like Shaggy recommends.   http://www.novuspolish.com/fine_scratch_remover.html

As I was going through the score reels I found that the 100’s reel on player 1 had a problem.  The coil was burnt.   I wondered how this had happened because there was no obvious signs of the cause.   I cleaned up the plunger and coil stop (which wasn’t easy as the coil sleeve had melted to them both.  Look how burnt that coil is in the 3rd picture below.

After I got done replacing the coil I was checking the switches and realized that somehow the 0’s position switch had gotten bent causing a permanently open situation.  I guess someone had just left this one while the reel was trying to reset?   Must have eventually fried the coil?  Not sure, but anyway, I fixed the switch and checked the adjustments on the other switches and everything seemed fine.

This is the first time I’ve seen these old style relays in a pinball.


Completed machine with new repro backglass from BGResto



6 thoughts on “1958 Gottlieb Double Action

  1. Good job! You were lucky to find the original paint underneath. I’m in the middle of restoring a ’64 Williams Heat Wave with a sub-par repaint. Unfortunately the “artist” stripped the cabinet before they repainted.

    A lot of the die-hard collectors knock the multi-player Gottlieb woodrails, but I actually like them. Glad to see I’m not alone! I’ve got a ’57 Flag Ship and a ’60 Captain Kidd in the restoration queue.

    • Thanks, I have to admit, I do really like this game. It has such a completely different feel than my other games. It’s actually made me want to get some more 50s games. I see them come up occasionally, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I sure learned a lot about stripping the top layer of paint vs. the original. I really wish I had experimented on a less visible area of the cabinet before I dove in. As it stands, one side looks “ok”, the other side looks pretty bad… I figured eventually I’d make myself some templates and do a repaint, but since the game is usually in between two other games – out of site, out of mind…

  2. I am looking for several items for 1950s pinball. I need top glass to cover it in plexy glass, plastic sling covers and cover for front of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 8 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, text, archive. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here