Williams Duramold – Part 1 – Coming Home!

In early November of 2016, my friend Jacob and I saddled up and headed into the far north of Vancouver Island in BC, Canada.  A few weeks earlier, I had managed to strike a deal with Ken Falta, the proprietor of Golden Age Arcade Parts, which involved, among other things, trading some 3D printing equipment for a Battlezone Cabaret project, as well as a Williams Duramold. For those who may not know what I’m talking about, Williams Duramold cabinets were cylindrical arcade game cabinets made out of plastic, rather than the more usual wood.  Unfortunately, they were produced just as the arcade market was starting to crash, so they never really caught on, despite their eye-catching style. as a result, they are generally highly sought-after by arcade collectors. Three games were originally available from Williams in Duramold: Blaster, which was in a black cabinet, Bubbles, which came in blue, and Sinistar, which came in black. None of them were produced in large numbers, but Sinistar is, by any measure the rarest of the three. It appears that it was never actually produced in quantity, and there are only three known original examples in existence.  The one that I was about to acquire had started as a Blaster game, but had then been converted to a fighting game, and had finally become the home to a rebuilt Sinistar board set. Both games were complete projects, and both had me quite excited.

Largely because of a favorable exchange rate, most things we found to be less expensive in Canada than in the US. Gasoline was a major exception, so we fueled up before crossing the border.

We left in the morning of the first day, and after realizing that we had forgotten a few things (I did NOT want to get in trouble with anybody’s Customs services on this trip!), we managed to get across the border before dark. We had a small disagreement with Google maps about exactly where the ferry terminal was, but despite out best efforts, we managed to arrive into Campbell River, BC, by mid-evening, where we stayed in a surprisingly nice hotel. I wasn’t expecting much given the price, but this was the beginning of my education about all things Canadian.

The following morning, we made it to Ken’s place, and sure enough, there was a big beautiful black plastic cylinder there! Ken and his wife, Noreena, really are great people.  I felt like we had gotten to know each other pretty well on-line, and it’s always great when you meet face-to-face and discover that person is just like the image they put forth on the internet.  If “rule number one” among arcade game collectors is “Pictures or it didn’t happen”, then Rule number 2 has to be that whenever a game is getting picked up, the visiting party gets a tour of the host’s collection. Ken has almost exactly the same arcade interests that I do, so I found his collection to be extremely tasteful and properly focused.

I gave Ken a quick inventory of the gear I was dropping off, then we got the games loaded into the van, and we were off!  We knew we would be in violation of some kind of Canadian law if we didn’t have some poutine before leaving the country, and we had a couple of hours to kill on the ferry, which had a full-on food court, so we had a snack while we made our way back to the mainland.  We made it back late that night, and it was a couple of days before I was able to get the games into the basement.

The Duramold cabinet with a blank control panel and no marquee.

At that point, I was able to take careful stock of just what was going to have to happen with the game.

The problems:

  • During the initial conversion, someone had chopped off the wires between the transformer and the power supply board. There are a couple of inches of stub left, which will be sufficient to figure out what goes where, but the wires will need to be replaced when I attach the new connector.
  • The harness is currently absent.  as part of our arrangement, Ken has the harness for a while longer, in order to document it for reproduction, as well as to make some adjustments to neaten things a bit.
  • The monitor (G07)has some Time Pilot burn, but it’s not visible behind the tinted bezel glass.
  • There is no artwork: none on the control panel, no bezel except for tinted glass (Normal for Blaster), and no marquee.

On the other hand, there are some very good things:

The “Williams” logo, molded into the cabinet under the control panel.

  • Somehow, against all odds, during all of its various conversions, the control panel was never drilled.  That is highly unexpected, and since Blaster and Sinistar use the same panel layout, it’s really a good situation.
  • The cabinet is in overall very nice shape, without any major dents, holes, or really even many scratches.
  • The Sinistar board set was rebuilt by someone with a significant reputation in the arcade community, and I have every confidence that it will work.  That is great, but not really necessary, as I actually plan to use a JROK board for its reliability and flexibility
  • With the known exception of the harness and the power connector, the game is complete.

The two-speaker setup is one way to identify this unit as a former Blaster cabinet.

The first step will be to repair the power brick,  and ensure that there will be electrons flowing through the game as they should be.  I suspect that process will involve installing a cap kit on the PS board, and very likely the monitor will need some work.

At the end of this process, I am very much looking forward to having a highly unusual Sinistar game in the Zencade!


The Sinistar Duramold harness, which was hiding in my house the whole time!

UPDATE: 1/2/2017 – Only hours after I posted this, Ken Falta read over it, and expressed that he recalled putting the harness into a box which included the various parts of the game that weren’t installed. Sure enough, after a very brief search, I found the harness, right next to the 49-way joystick and a few other parts.  Once again, Ken, I am in your debt. I’m not sure how long I would have sat around waiting for a part that had been in my possession the whole time!  Watch this space, as the Sinistar project has now moved significantly higher on my list of projects in the Zencade!

4 comments to Williams Duramold – Part 1 – Coming Home!

  • Keith Galocy

    I’m working on a similar project (from a bad multi-williams conversion) and I’m currently stuck with finding Duramold Sinistar repro art.

    • Michael Zenner

      The basic problem we are both facing is that Williams made such a small number of dedicated Sinistars in Duramold cabs. My plan is to generate custom vector art files and make my own marquee, CPO and bezel. It’s going to be a lot of work,and I am almost certain it won’t be right. On the other hand, almost nobody who sees it is going to know. 🙂

  • Keith Galocy

    Although I intend to follow your progress, send me your email.

    Do you believe the few duramold sinistar bezels shown online are custom or were they modified by Williams?

    If you have the art talent, I’d appreciate the opportunity to buy a set too.
    I contacted ThisOldGame and they suggested they could do it too, but their response time has been … difficult.

    • Michael Zenner

      I assume Williams made the Sinstar art, although it may well have been one-off, and didn’t get to where it was tooled up for production. The cabinets have some differences, though, so it does seem they were planning a wider release at some point. Any artwork files that I produce will be freely available to anyone who wants them, and at cost for anything that gets printed. I’ve reached out to one of the owners of an original game, and he said he’d try to get me some clear pics of the art. Hopefully that will move things along. I’ll shoot you an email momentarily.

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