Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It's officially winter in New England, and you know what that means--trying to grab one last game before your basement gets snowbound! A local collector recently rescued a Vanguard and a Phoenix from a barn in New Hampshire. The story on the machines was that they were put away working. I've been keeping my eye out for a Vanguard, and fortunately for me the rescuer decided to pass the games along to other collectors. With a storm baring down on me, I managed to wheel this game into my basement just before Jack Frost hit us with 17 inches of powder.

I received the Vanguard complete, and pretty much unhacked (except for some wires hanging out through the coin door lock hole--obviously because there were no coinups available when this machine was stored). The game was pretty filthy (it had been living in a barn after all) and I had to extricate a wasp nest and several larvae of unknown origin. The manual (complete with schematics for the game boards and monitor) was in an envelope in the bottom of the cab.

After checking the connections, I plugged it in, and immediately got monitor crackle and speaker hum. The marquee blinked to life. Initially, there was practically no image on the monitor--it was a super dim bluish haze; the brightness control didn't help. I hooked up my trusty Heathkit rejuvinator, and all the electron guns in the CRT tested fine. At this point the game would not coin up or play bind, so I figured there was something up with the boardset. I checked all the DC voltages and they were fine.

I pulled the boards, reseated the ribbon cables, reseated the CPU, and cleaned the edge connector with a pencil eraser. At this point I could see some Vanguard like junk on the screen (still dim) and in a triple (overlapping) image. It looked like the attract mode, sort of. It still wouldn't coin up--then I realized that someone had twisted some of the coin switch inputs together (perhaps as a cheap attempt at a free play switch). These wires were sticking out in through the lock hole in the coin door. With this input shorted, the other (unhacked) coin switch would not activate. After separating the wires, the game coined up, and I was able to hear sounds, music, and speech.

At this point I set about adjusting the monitor (Wells 4600). Since the brightness control wasn't doing anything, I figured the dimness might be solved by a cap kit to be performed later. I really wanted to get rid of that triple image. I played with the adjustment a bit, and then started to work the horizontal oscillator coil (L351) on the XY board. That adjustment requires a plastic tool, since it is a bit recessed and not readily accessible. Upon turning this coil a bit, all of a sudden an nice saturated image flashed on the screen--yes!

At this point I had to adjust the vertical hold (which I had fumbled with earlier) and had to turn down the brightness a bit. The game plays, but it does have a graphics glitch on some of the sprites. I'm going to check the ROMs next and see if there is an issue there.