Atari Basketball Arcade machine restore

A while ago I picked up an Atari Basketball arcade machine. This is a black and white game made in 1979. I really like this one as it has trackball controls, so it is a bit unusual. I also really like the style of the machine, with a very 70s feel.

This machine is actually in quite good condition, and it is working. I really want to just neaten this up and make it look “nice”.


So first up is the control panel. The artwork has been scratched a lot over the years. It is a shame, because generally speaking the black under the picture is reasonably good. Anyway, I will get a reprinted CPO for it. So first off removal of the control panel. This provides a view of the trackballs underneath along with the optos. They are big and hefty!


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Fortunately I found somebody in the US who had already cleaned up a scan of the control panel overlay, and they kindly provided it to me. From there I got some help vectorising the artwork, and then did some test prints to make sure it all lined up.

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All good! Now time to get the CPO printed.


Now the laborious task of prepping the panel. First a wire brush to remove the paint. This took some time as the black paint is nice and thick!



Now thats done, time to do some more hand sanding of the panel. I start off with 320 grit, and end up on 600 grit.



OK now have sanded with 320, 400 & 600 grit sandpaper. Also have masked the back. Always give a good wipedown with tack cloth before painting. I use a few coats of heavy duty primer, with some light sanding after each coat. Need to get it nice and smooth to protect the metal plus ensure maximum adhesion with the overlay.



After each coat of primer I lightly sand with 1200 & 2000 grit to get the surface nice and smooth.




Now its time to apply the decal. First thing I will do is cut some holes where the trackballs go that need to be further trimmed. This will allow me to line up the holes with the panel better. I used an object that was around the right size as a guide.



Next carefully score the overlay backing about 10 cm or so from the top edge. This will allow a strip of backing to be removed and the CPO to be partly attached once positioned. Be careful to don’t apply too much pressure, or you may score the CPO itself.


I have placed a couple of cardboard boxes underneath the panel to keep it level. See the clips used to keep the cpo in place while positioning. Essentially I used the inner trackball cutout on the overlay as the guide to line up with the control panel. Spend as much time as you need getting this right. I pressed around the edges of the overlay on the trackball cutout edge, often moving the overly fractionally to get the final position. Finally ensured the CPO was level by measuring the overhang at the top.




After a few deep breaths, I removed the top strip, to secure the CPO to the panel. Next step was to slowly remove remainder of the backing, while carefully smoothing/ applying the CPO to the panel. Along the way I used a felt squeege to squeeze out any air bubbles. After applying the CPO completely, use a sharp hobby knife/ blade to trim the CPO around the edges, in the trackball cutouts and in the bolt holes. Looks great!




So where the control panel sits, it looks a bit light on the small gaps where you can see the wood underneath. I will give that a couple of coats of black paint.

CPO before paintCPO before paint 2After Paint


Time to clean up some of the rusty bolts. Rust is removed from the head using a Dremel wire brush. Bolts are placed in something like polystyrene or a cardboard box to hold in place for spray painting with killrust enamel paint.

bolthead cleanready for painting


The black vinyl on the back is a bit dirty, and the chipboard underneath a bit swollen in parts. Because replacement vinyl is easy to come by I will replace it. It is easy to remove with a heat gun, slowly pulling as the adhesive heats up. After removing the vinyl, the adhesive will need to be removed. Use thinners, then some methylated spirits to clean off remaining sticky residue. Finally wash with warm soapy water, then wash off with water and dry. The front lower laminate panel was removed as it was broken. All extra tacks were removed.

Heat Gun Rear Vinyl removed Bottom panel removed


The rear panel has a vent panel. It is a bit scratched, and needs to come off so the old vinyl can be removed and re-applied. The vent is attached by rivets, so they need to be drilled out.



Rear Door Panel Removed

To prepare the panels that have bloated and been water damaged, I use a sander like this to bring down the bloated areas to a smooth surface.


Some maintenance on the panels: Filled same small nail holes. On the lower rear panel, someone has cut a small wedge at the top for the power cable to go through. This is not needed, as there is already a circular hole for this. I decided to fill this using a 2 part epoxy. This stuff remains flexible for a short period of time. Using some bits of MDF, and a razor blade I filled up the hole plus shaped it to include the lip. This stuff sets rock hard, and is very easy to use.

hole fill knead it T slot



Since the panels had some bloat water damage, I sanded them back then applied some primer/ sealer/ undercoat. A couple of coats with a roller, and a land sand in between each. Around some of the edges I applied some matt black paint, in case the new vinyl doesn’t quite reach the edge in some areas.


Rear Door Prime Cab PrimeBlack edges



Some of the metal pieces could do with makeover. Some rust/ pitting/ scratches here. First task is do over with wire brush on an angle grinder to remove paint. I give it a couple of coats of primer, lightly sanding in between for protection and to help with filling small imperfections on the metal. Finally spray with black gloss enamel. Looks much better!

Metal for brushPrimerSpraypaint



Time to apply blackboard vinyl to the cab. I really like this stuff. It is tough, thick, easy to apply and forgiving in imperfect surfaces. Before using this stuff though make sure you know a few tricks for application. Plenty of good tutorials online are easy to find. After applying the vinyl, where possible I use a metal ruler held in place to trim back the vinyl level with the wood. The rule helps keep a nice clean line, and prevents the blade catching and digging into the wood. In the pictures below you can see progress and various parts of the cabine. I have also installed a new cam lock on the back door, and replaced the old screws that were removed to apply the new vinyl because they were rusted. Looks good, now the t-moulding looks awful next to the new vinyl.


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Time to fix the lower front panel. Previously there was a sheet of laminate there. I tried to get something comparable without having to buy a huge quantity, but didn’t have any luck. As an alternative, I cut out a piece of 3mm MDF and covered it in blackboard vinyl. I screwed it to the front to attach it, and used some black screw caps to keep it all neat. Starting to look much better, though now the coin door and base really stick out as they need to be cleaned/ fixed up.

Botom_Panel_1 Bottom_Panel_2 Bottom_Panel_3 Bottom_Panel_4


Next up some clean up on various parts. The coin door frame needs a bit of a tidy up. I reckon I will sand it back a bit and paint. The flaps on the coin returns are a bit rusty. to remove them undo screws on the rear of the coin door. Lastly for now there is some paint over the LAI logo on one side that will need to be scraped off for a better look.

coin_doorcoin_door_rear return_flappaint_logo


There are a few bits of the sideart peeling off. To stick it back down, have used a water based adhesive, Kwik Grip. After applying, need to hold down firmly until it sets. Also have taken wire brush to the coin door frame in preparation for painting.

kwikgrip loose vinyl stick coin door brush


The T Molding on this cab is not bad except for the back. However the whole let will be replaced.


Supplies for this part include new T Molding from . Rubber mallet for banging the tongue into the groove, box cutter and gaffer tape.


The gaffer tape is used in some areas where the T Molding doesn’t sit tightly in the groove. Cut a couple of strips of gaffer tape and place over the tongue where this is required. now it will have a much better hold. This is especially required in areas where the chipboard has bloated around the base.



When going round corners, sometimes it is necessary top cut a little piece of the tongue out. This is required when the bend is too great and the tongue buckles out of shape, and will not go into the groove.



New T Molding now applied. Looks much better!



Put in a new power cable, the existing one had bent prongs and a few cuts/ nicks. I bought a simple extension lead, chopped the end off and attached molex pins. The coind door frame now has shiny black paint.

power_cable Coindoor_frame


Last thing to do is tidy up the base of the cab which had a few nicks out the bottom. Have filled up with Knead It (as used above).



Have repainted the base now, looks much better! Well I think that will do for this project. Seemed pretty easy, but took much longer than expected. It is an awesome cab and game! Would love to have a whole room of these old B&W Atari games. Maybe one day………………

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What will the next project be? 🙂


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