Gottlieb logo Steve Kulpa's Black Hole
Pinball Machine
Gottlieb logo

In December of 2001, I found a sweet deal on a Gottlieb Black Hole, which includes two non-working but complete machines. That's my favorite way to get them, one to restore and one for spares! I sold my Jumping Jack and bought these machines. Now I'm going to take both machines and make one real good one out of it.

First off, a TON of thanks to Clay for his System 80 repair guide and The Pinball Lizard for their excellent Black Hole repair guide. It's a well known fact that System-80 machines are full of flaws and both of these repair guides are full of suggested repairs and upgrades.

So, let's get started! Just click on any thumbnail to see a bigger picture.

Here's some pictures of what I started out with:

Machine #1
Machine #2

I decided to use the upper playfield from Machine #2. It is mylared and is in pretty good condition overall. The Playfield from Machine #1 was not mylared and has you can tell in the pictures above, there are several places that have visible wear. Same with the lower playfield. The one from Machine #2 was also mylared and looked a whole lot better, so I decided to use it.

The first thing I did was to remove all the surface components from the upper playfield so I could clean it up. After I removed all the components, I removed the playfield window. It was quite scratched up but the window on the other playfield was perfect, so I gave it a good workout with Novus #2 and it turned out real nice. I then cleaned the playfield off with a damp rag to start with so I could get all the dirt off without scraching anything. I then wiped the areas that were not covered with mylar with rag soaked in naptha to remove any old wax. I then I cleaned the entire playfield with Novus #2 and followed that with two coats of Johnson's Paste Wax in the areas without mylar.

The next step was to clean all the posts, metal parts, and playfield plastics. I had a few plastics that were broken but since I had two playfields, I was able to assemble a complete, unbroken set. I cleaned all the plastic posts and flippers with Novus #1 and a tooth brush. I also cleaned the pop bumper bodies and caps with Novus #1, then polished them up with Novus #2. I then replaced all the playfield components, installed new rubbers, and new lamps.

Finally, I replaced all the under playfield transistors with new ones, and rebuilt the pop bumper driver boards with new components, strip sockets for the ICs, and applied the proper circuit modifications if needed.

Upper playfield

Upper playfield

Upper playfield
Ball's Eye view

A view with
the hood up

A pair of rebuilt Pop
Bumper Driver Board

I replaced all the lamp sockets in the pop bumpers with wedge-style sockets. I hate those crappy bayonett sockets they (and Bally) use in their pop bumpers and have replaced them in all my pins with wedge sockets. Visit my Gottlieb Page for more on Gottlieb pop bumpers.

I replaced the pop bumper lamp
sockets with wedge style sockets

After I got the top side of the upper playfield finished, it was time to work on the underside. All of the pop bumper coils were fried, so I replaced them with good coils from the other machine (see, I love having a spare playfield to work with). I have never worked on a machine with so much stuff underneath!

Next came the lower playfield. Like with the upper playfield, I took everything off, cleaned and waxed the surface, then cleaned all the assemblies as I put them back on. I also rebuild all the pop bumper drivers here too, and replaced all the under-playfield transistors too.

Lower playfield
all cleaned up

Lower playfield
Ball's Eye view

Lower playfield
underside view

Ball gate and

A peek through
the window

The next order of business was to upgrade the electronics. First off, I performed all of Clay's mandatory and suggested modifications on all the circuit boards. I went even further and replaced both filter capacitors in the lower power supply and replaced the bridge rectifiers with new ones, rated at 400 Volts and 35 Amps. I also replaced all of the electrolytic capacitors on the power supplies in the head too.

The MPU had some minor corrosion, so the first thing I did was cut off the on-board nicad battery. I then ordered a System-80 corrosion repair kit from Great Plains Electronics, removed the affected components, and cleaned the board. As Clay suggests, I first scrubbed the board with a 50/50 soultion of vinegar and water and a toothbrush. I scrubbed until all traces of corrosion was gone. I then rinsed it with clear water for a few minutes, followed by a quick rinse with alcohol. I soaked the bank of dip switches, and Ed's repair kit only had 1, so I ordered 3 more. After the additional components arrived, I then replaced everything, and used a memory capacitor (again from Great Plains) instead of a battery pack.

Next, I bought a new motor from Grainger's to replace the original motor on the spinning disk, which was shot. I installed it with some rubber gaskets (cut from an old innertube) to help keep it quiet. We have a small machine shop at work so I had a co-worker fix the mounting hub to accept the larger shaft on the Grainger motor. The mounting method Clay suggests would have put it right over a lamp socket, so I rotated it 90 degrees. The MPU sort-of lays on top of part of the motor, but only where the connectors are, so it's no big deal. Just to be sure, I put a couple layers of electrical tape over the motor to insulate it from the MPU board. I also used a 2-pin Molex connector so it would be easy to remove the motor in the future.

Power Supply


New Motor

The next thing to do was to take the driver board test all of the transistors. I just went ahead and replaced the heavy duty ones (O53, Q58, Q59, Q60, Q62, and Q64). Then using Clay's testing methods, I identified a few other bad ones and replaced them too. One note here, while testing the transistors as Clay suggests, I did not get the same values and Clay did, but the readings I did get were consistant from transistor to transistor, so it was easy to spot the bad ones, since their readings were different.

I then took the small power supply in the head and gave it a new set of electrolytic capacitors. Larger electrolytics have a tendancy to dry out over time, so I just went ahead and replaced them all. I also replaced the large transistor (Q3) and all the zener diodes. All this on top of Clay's suggested modifications.

Finally the time came to put it all together, so I placed all the boards in the head, hooked up all the wires, and powered it up for the very first time.

All the circuit boards in place

When I first powered it up, it spoke some jibberish but would not coin up. I checked and rechecked everything I did and could not find any problems, so I started up an e-mail dialog with the only System-80 guru I "know", Steve Charland. He talked me into sending him my MPU and Driver boards, and he was able to find a few problems w/ the MPU that I had missed (I lack the proper test equipment to diagnose all but the simplest problems). I had them back in 2 weeks, put them in, powered it up AND IT WORKED! I then proceeded to play the shit out of it for the next couple of weeks to "break it in" (at least that's the reason I gave my wife).

There's something funny about the wires Gottlieb used back then. I had a problem with the wires on this machine and on my Joker Poker (System 1) too. DO NOT CUT WIRES, but unsolder them instead. Whenever I cut a wire off, then stripped the insulation, there was "something" on the wire, some kind of grease-like stuff, that made it very hard, if not impossible, to solder back on. I found this more than once and it is very frustrating. Finally I learned my lesson and I no longer cut/strip wires, but I unsolder them instead. Then it's very easy to solder them back on, since the wires are already tinned with solder. I have no idea why this happens but it does, on both System-1 machines and System-80. My guess (actually my wife's guess) is that over the years, something funky leached out of the insulation and saturated the multi-stranded wires. Anyway, it's a pain, believe me.

Here's a couple of handy tool tricks that made my life a little easier while working on this beast:

To remove all the post screws with the hex heads quickly, I put a 1/4" socket on a small extension, then chucked that in my drill. I was able to remove them all in just a matter of minutes. Removing the hex screws that hold down the playfield window was also a pain. I took a spare Allen wrench of the proper size, cut off the leg, and chucked it in my drill. I had them all out in under a minute (don't slip or you'll scratch it)! I did not use the drill to replace them since I wanted more control on the tension. I didn't have a deep well 1/4" socket, so I had to remove the mini-posts the old fashioned way. If I did have a deep well socket, I would have chucked it in my drill as I mentioned earlier.

If you're looking for parts for your Black Hole, or other Gottlieb machine, you might find some here.
I also do Gottlieb board repair work. If you need some work done, look here

Here's some more information on Black Hole, if you're interested. If you own a Black Hole machine but do not have a manual for it, some of this stuff may be of use to you.

Rubber Ring
Rules of
Black Hole
Dip Switch
Fuses Solenoid and
Lamp Info

Don't forget the flyers:

Thanks to An Ugly Flyer Reference Site for their nice collection of pinball flyers, including Black Hole

Reproduction Black Hole instruction/score cards:

If yo don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader, then go and get it.

Other Black Hole pages

Stork's Nest excellent Black Hole page

If you own a Black Hole, I'd love to hear from you and share info/parts/etc. Just send me an e-mail Mail Icon by removing the NO_S*P*A*M_ to reply and I'll tell you all about my machine

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Created 1/4/02 - Last Modified 10/12/05 - Steve Kulpa Mail Icon Nolensville, TN
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