Fever Queen II
フィーバー クイーン II  (Fever Queen II)
Sankyo - Stellar 2000 Frame, 1993

After getting back into the pachi community due to picking up an Ultraseven pachislo and very graciously being able to obtain a Fever Densha de Go!, I was on the prowl for pachinko locally once again in October of 2022.  I happened upon a craigslist posting during a work break, maybe ten minutes after it went live.  The listing was for a lot of four pachinko machines for $160 - a pretty crazy value no matter how you look at it.  He was a little further up the bay and offered door-to-door delivery for $200 all said and done.  I couldn't pass that up so I went for it. 

The seller said he used to import pachinko machines in the mid - late 1990's and consign them to Bay Area toy stores (Talbots, Kiddie World, etc.) as a side business while in college.  The four machines on offer were ones he kept for himself but never got around to really doing much with.  After having them in storage for 20+ years he decided to part with them.

In the back of my mind I expected them to be pristine for whatever reason, although there's no way something packed away for that long would be as such.  Three of the four machines were straight up what one should have expected, imported parlor pulls that had been packed into storage for a couple decades - so the grime of their parlor days + years of sitting in storage had grimed them up pretty good.  That's just how it was back then, and is still depending on who you import from, with minimal refurbishment outside of a quick wipe down.

Two of the machines were still wrapped as they were from way back when, and one of them had a container of 1000 or so balls stretch wrapped to the bottom as well.  One of the four machines was pretty rough and it looked as if it had been exposed to the elements a little compared to the others.  The gentleman who sold them was great to talk with and hear a bit of his history with pachinko.  Surprisingly enough it is so rare when I encounter anyone in the Bay Area who even knows what pachinko is, let alone had a part in the history of consumer importing and sales in the region.  You would think it'd be the total opposite but it just seems it is something that very few here are interested in.

The four machines were:

New Big Shooter

Fever Queen II
フィーバー クイーン II

Bout Legend 2
勝負伝説 2

Fever Powerful III
フィーバーパワフル III

My thought was I'd give the machines quick rebuilds, maybe keep two for myself, and sell the other two to friends for $100 each, making back my money.  However I realized pretty quickly that I bit off more than I could chew.  New Big Shooter was super clean and I really liked its earlier era design but realistically I didn't have the space for more than one machine (really don't have that either).  I decided to keep the one out of the lot I liked most, Fever Queen II, and relist the other three.  I paid it forward and listed the other three machines locally for $50, and they sold the next morning.  I kept the balls that were attached to the one machine, came to around 900 or so after tossing a layer of rusted ones at the bottom of the tray, and the others cleaned / polished no problem, so I figured I did alright all things considered.

I intended to fully tear down, clean, and rebuild the Fever Queen II and go all out on its restoration - kinda like what I did with the Ultraseven pachislo I picked up a few months prior.  After all, it couldn't be all that dirty, right?  I mean, it was carton fresh from being imported over twenty years ago...

On first pass, the machine looks exceptionally clean from the front.

And the back looks pretty god as well, except for the black area on the wood in the lower right...

It's a pretty cool machine, featuring three physical slot reels as the center attraction with a playing card theme.  There are a couple art packages and the plastic colors seem to be mixed and matched between them, with the paring on this machine the one I like most.  The artwork reminds me of 60's pinball style.  Apparently it's a popular series, with modern Fever Queen machines still being produced to this day.

After a quick wipe down the first order of business was to take the shooter handle and lower tray assemblies off for full disassembly and cleaning.  Of course this was all pretty filthy and every part got stripped and cleaned.

Removing the shooter handle and lower tray.

Once getting the lower tray disassembled I was surprised to find not just the usual grime and nicotine staining, but ASH - tons and tons of ash.  Nearly two handfuls of ash had become trapped within the plastics.  There was also an unusual amount of cigarette tar on everything.  I've rebuilt pachinko, arcade games, consoles, and now slot machines... but I've never encountered anything like that.

That's not mold nor spores but cigarette ash absolutely caked on everything.

It was simply crazy.  Everything got a full wash and scrub.  Upper tray wasn't much better, and I have no idea why Sankyo thought the best place to locate the speaker was RIGHT ABOVE the ashtray, with an open speaker grille.  The speaker was filthy as well, as was the volume adjustment board.  The speaker cone became about 100x louder after having all the grime and tar cleaned off it.  Remember, this was a machine still packed from import over twenty years ago, this is how the exporter sent it out for sale.

Bath time - everything got a total and complete washing.

A couple days later I stripped off the chrome and light bars.  I got the rust and grime cleaned out as much as possible but the chrome itself is in really nice shape, no pitting or other wear, so it didn't need any extra work on the surface.

The light bars also got fully disassembled and cleaned inside and out.  Thankfully all the lamps looked to be in good order, which was nice to see as they don't appear to be the easiest to replace.

With that the front of the machine was done, it all cleaned up really well and I'm glad to have all that ash and grime gone!

A couple days later I decided to get to work on the inside of the machine and stripped it down to just the wood.  Even though the machine is from 1993 it is a cell game in Sankyo's Stellar 2000 frame, which meant tearing it down would be easier than a straight up vintage machine.  I went through and made sure the cabinet was structurally sound and that all the fasteners were tight.

First order of business was to clean the internal frame, so that would be all the blue parts.  Again, pretty crazy how much ash had built up on the plastics but it all cleaned up pretty nice - and as before, glad to have all that ash and grime gone!  The blue and black parts above are part of the frame, which sandwich the cell, the red playfield above, between them.

The internal frame and cell reinstalled in the cabinet,.

Here's a before and after of the lower part of the internal frame, again it's not mold or water staining, it's ash...

The black on the wood seen before wasn't mold - it was even more ash.

Next it was time to address the back of the frame, the area where all the balls travel - whether they follow paths down after coming through the playfield, or are awarded from the hopper up top and through the front as payouts.  On most pachinko machines this is the dirtiest part, which makes sense, as it's where all the balls roll through.  In the case of this machine, as dirty as the back of the frame was, it was nothing compared to all the ash in the front.  I tore it down completely, every part cleaned, and any part that could go into the sink to be scrubbed with dish liquid was given that treatment.  If I were to go hardcore I guess I could have bent new rods and so forth but everything cleaned up well enough eventually.

The back of the frame being torn down in preparation for cleaning.

The Stellar 2000 frame uses a constantly running motor to trigger winning balls to trip the jackpot releases, along with a couple cams and other assemblies.  This too was given full disassembly and servicing.  I also cleaned all the old grease out of the gearbox and replaced it with high grade RC gear grease.  If you pop the gearbox open, be very careful not to lose the two tiny spacers that are on two of the gear shafts.  The whole thing is more or less a slightly modern rework and combination of the jackpot and payout mechanisms you'd find on a vintage machine.

This is a pretty complex assembly with a lot of moving parts.

The back of the frame as clean as I'll ever get it, reassembled front and back...

The objective at this point was to get the machine to be clean enough where I felt comfortable keeping it inside my apartment.  It wouldn't have been a big concern until I found all the ash in the front lower tray plastics.  After that I knew I needed to get the frame taken apart and cleaned ASAP.  I basically cleared my evenings after work for a couple days to get it done as quickly as I could.

Next would be cleaning the cell, giving it a full rebuild as well - everything with the exception of pulling all the nails.  Once I got the machine back together again, I played it just a bit to ensure everything was matched up correctly and noticed I also had a couple segments out in the LED display inside the attacker door.  At this point I would have to wait a couple weeks until I had time to address the cell and look into the LED issue.

Before I knew it, the couple weeks had passed and I had the opportunity to get to work on the cell over the course of a few days.  I took everything off with the exception of the nails and rails. I lack the facilities to tumble the nails at present and they eventually cleaned up alright, as did the playfield.  Everything came off pretty smooth front and back, all screws, just take your time.

The lighted spinners were taken off and restored as well, but I found it less hassle to do so with their wires still tacked in place.  If you attempt to disassemble and clean this type of lighted spinner, be very careful as the E-clips are very soft and can deform very easily.  After all the sub-assemblies were pulled off I set them aside.  I decided to detail the playfield and nails first.  It seems like either the parlor where the machine operated, or possibly the exporter decades ago, took some gold paint and painted over the nail grime.  I've seen vintage machines where full loads of ash int he ashtrays were just sprayed over with silver paint, so I wouldn't be surprised.  After scraping that off the nails came out pretty decent for remaining on the board.  Down the road I can always pull or polish them if it bothers me too much.

After that I worked on one part at a time, completely tearing it down, giving everything a full cleaning and washing - every part - and then reassembling them into the cell.

sub-assembly removed in preparation for cleaning, the blue tape keeps the screws for each piece together.

Everything is pretty straightforward as long as you don't rush it.  Pay attention to how the wire looms at the bottom are stacked and folded, as it gets pretty tight once sandwiched inside the frame.  You want to make sure they are all folded back the same way - taking a ton of pictures helps with this.  Every wire was also cleaned as I went and every connector had its contacts cleaned as well.

The one place there are buried screws is on the "QUEEN" pockets at the bottom, their screws are beneath stickers.  These were positively filthy and definitely needed to be scrubbed in the sink. The vinyl stickers are actually very robust and are backed with clear plastic.  You can get a thin blade under the plastic and remove the smaller stickers and peel the larger one back enough to get to the screw without damaging anything.  If you've ever removed the hood on an old Coleco tabletop VFD arcade game where you have to peel the control panel sticker back, this is exactly the same.

I reassembled the cell as I went along, using pictures I took during the disassembly to get everything back on in the proper order and positioning.

The repopulated cell, cleaned and rebuilt.

The reel assembly is pretty interesting, basically just a miniaturized version of a pachislo reel assembly.  I believe the reels are optically positioned but it looks like the optos are inside the stepper motors as there's nothing external.  These got fully cleaned as well, along with a bit of contact cleaner in the motors as they felt grimy and rough - in addition to making a bit of a rubbing sound when spinning in the machine.  I thought the reels were a bit smoked intentionally but no - they're pearl cream white!  Here's a comparison of dirty (hearts) and clean (spades) -

It's a bit hard to see how bad they were originally as pachinko ALWAYS looks cleaner in pictures, but trust me, they were caked with nicotine and grime.

With that I got all the ball races and wiring looms tucked back in and the reel assembly reinstalled, completing the cell restoration.

As one can see, it's a really tight fit for the wiring looms at the bottom, make sure they are folded properly.

Then it was time to reunite it with the completely overhauled frame...

Now that's a clean vintage frame - especially compared to how it started!

And done! An absolutely beautiful machine and easily one of my favorites in terms of theming and design.

The lamp behind the green indicator at the upper right was burned out.  Unfortunately it was unmarked other than 28V.  It took a bit of searching but a CEC Industries #356 bulb is a suitable replacement.  It's a sliver longer than the stock bulb but the diameter, shape, everything else is spot on for the 28V bayonet bulb the machine uses and fits fine.  They're also really cheap, I think I got a pack of 10 for less than $5.

There are a ton of lamps with very fragile wires all over the reel assembly.

The only problem with these machines that I've read about, this one included, is the plastics are enameled with a foil coating.  As the plastics wore down from play, they became pitted and began to peel and flake off.  It seems to be an issue across the board, especially with how popular this machine apparently was.  Cleaning only makes this worse but it had to be done, as I'd rather it come off more in cleaning than get gummed up in the machine.  I guess it's better than if they were made of metal and rusted out.

There are actually a ton of lamps with fragile wires everywhere on this machine!

Giving the machine a proper run-in couldn't have gone better, as I hit the Joker Fever almost immediately.  The machine worked like a champ through all 16 rounds.  These machines with the physical bells are crazy during fever rounds - it's like bell fireworks!  The transformer was pretty hot after I was done, but I ran the machine for almost two hours and there's a lot going on for a non-video machine: five constantly running motors (shooter handle, payout motor, three reel motors) a ton of incandescent bulbs everywhere, and what must be about 50 LEDs including a huge matrix behind the warp tunnels. The transformer isn't labeled but it seems up to the task as performance is without issue and it's pretty big.  The reels are totally silent now, so the cleaning remedied that.

Also the LED counter display in the attacker door got itself sorted once I cleaned everything!  Dirty connections I'm sure but I wasn't sweating it as it's connected with simple individual lines, so worst case I would be able to troubleshoot or replace - but not necessary.

Honestly that's the only caveat for this machine - there are a LOT of wires that have to be folded up just right at the bottom to allow the back of the frame to close without pinching anything.  Only four sensors: one to activate the reels, and then a left - center - right inside the attacker.  All payouts are manual, with the balls queuing up atop hammers that are pushed by the rotating cams on the payout motor to trip the jackpot mechs.  The green light up top quickly flashes when contact is made here, kind of like the flashing payout lights of a vintage machine.  On occasion a ball will hang out here waiting to be pushed through the payout assembly and the light will remain illuminated, for what I assume is an indication of a pending payout.  It always clears itself after a couple seconds though, I'm guessing when this happens the ball just hasn't settled completely to get pushed through.

For cleaning I use my general three cleaners - 91% isopropyl alcohol, a bleach-free Lysol multi surface cleaner, and Windex.  Hitting most stuff with the alcohol and then the Lysol is a one-two punch that cleans pretty much anything without any damage.  Parts that can be properly washed go into the sink and scrubbed with a sponge, hot water, and dish liquid.  All connectors get treated with a plastic safe contact cleaner, careful to catch any overspray or excess.  And of course WEAR GLOVES - it's incredible how fast I go through nitrile disposable gloves, but my hands always thank me.

I also dampened the speaker volume but not with a potentiometer as is standard.  The speaker cone and assembly are plastic on this machine, not surprising for the simple audio, and I didn't want to hack in an additional adjustment for something so simple.  I took some fabric and folded it up into a little pad, about 2" square, and put in the lower door between the speaker and the speaker grille.  It dampens the audio perfectly on the lowest volume setting and has the added benefit of keeping grime and whatever else from getting in the open grille.  I think the dampening / filtering like this benefits this type of machine as the sound can be harsh during reaches / fevers since that whole assembly is plastic against plastic, sounding into a plastic enclosure.

At first I forgot to clean the in-line fuse holder on the 24V connection between the power block up top and the main PCB when I was doing everything else.  I noticed that if I moved that connection around I'd get slightly intermittent power and sure enough that was the issue . Not filthy or anything, just enough oxidation on the spring-loaded holder terminals that needed to be cleaned off and it has been 100% stable since.

I use cut to size adhesive Mylar from Marco Specialties but any pinball supply should sell it.

The cladding on the plastics was the last thing I needed to address.  The gold metallic areas on the attractions are all plastic with metallic foil cladding.  As the plastics wear down from impacts and ball erosion during play, the cladding flakes off and becomes pitted.  The plastic erosion is especially bad on the left side of the upper part (where the star is) and the left side of the reel surround.  This looks to be very common with these machines.  On this machine some of the missing cladding was touched in with gold paint, and I'd say it was during its parlor life as there's obvious patina and ball trails over it all.  Cleaning broke the loosest bits of cladding off and got the areas as good as they'd ever be.

I decided to put a bit of pinball Mylar over these heavily traveled areas to protect what was still there and preserve smooth ball action.

I put strips on the cladding anywhere it was heavily traveled, starting with the sides of the top target and the top of the reel attraction.  The key is to not "fill in" over places where there's supposed to be a difference in height, the part that tilts back into the warp zone here for instance.

The warp out area, careful not to disturb the natural ball pathway or action.

And the left and right sides of the assembly at the bottom over the drain, as it was surprisingly worn on the ends.  I also did the sides, both outside and inside, of the start pocket as not only had the cladding worn away, the plastic had also become eroded fairly thin.

It all laid in really nice, although I did take the reel attraction plastics and the start pocket off to make it easier to apply.  Ball action is super smooth now, especially over the reels as there were a lot of pits that would cause balls to loose momentum.

This is a really fun machine.  It pays out like crazy, there's constant action, and it plays a really good balance between vintage and modern.  I can see why a lot of the retro pachi halls in Japan seem to have one.

I still wish I would have also kept the New Big Shooter as it was in spectacular condition, and I know a lot of people would love to had the chance to own a reasonably pristine Fever Powerful III (I find that machine boring personally), but if I could again only pick one of the four machines - it would still be Fever Queen II.

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Last updated 09/24/2023
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