Guest Post written by Scott Forman
A lot of time, effort, and love went into this refurbished machine. To all the purists out there, I did keep all the original decals and cabinet. It shows enough wear on the machine to tell the story. All the other parts were kept along with the original shipping box. If someone should want to rebuild this machine and reinstall all the original parts, they could. But because of the age of the machine and the fact that there is no difference in design of original to new, it made zero sense not fixing up the machine. Any pieces that were original to the Engineering Machine design, like the pop bumper caps, were not replaced. The machine had set the stage for the launch of the Dutch Pinball brand and TBL title, it saw the world. Now the machine has finally found its final home and is comfortably enjoying the proper care and attention it deserves. We all love this machine and cannot wait to see what Dutch Pinball comes out with next.
I had been watching Pinside for nearly a year in search of a nice Big Lebowski pinball machine. The more I searched the more I knew I had to have an early achiever badged machine. It was rare to see one of the early achievers come up for sale, when they did, they sold quickly. One afternoon I noticed a new listing for a Big Lebowski in Long Island NY. The post had only been up for 20 minutes and I reached out to the seller to see if it had an achiever’s badge. The seller thought it did, so I sent over a deposit for the machine until he could confirm that night. I asked him to pull the add, which he did once he received the deposit. That night my eyes fell out of my head when I saw it was ES-01. Not only was it an achiever’s badged machine, but it was the first Engineering Series machines. I did a little research and found that Cointaker had two of the five engineering machines, Barry at Dutch Pinball had one, and the other machine had just been found and sold in Europe for over $30,000 Euros. SOLD
I ran out the next morning from Cleveland OH to go pick this machine up in Long Island NY. My wife came with me and thought I was insane, if she only knew how nuts this would get. I did some research on this machine and found that it was sold to Nitro Pinball. I do not know why they sold it or who had it before I bought it from this seller. But it was played, a lot, and had seen a lot of miles. I was able to pick up the machine and the original box.
The condition was not great, but for $10,500 it was a good investment considering how much these games were going for, how rare this machine was, and because I knew what one of the only Engineering Series machines in the wild sold for. The scoop had a lot of playfield wear and needed a cliffy protector. The playfields in general were not in great condition. So, I decided to do a full playfield swap. Thanks to Cointaker for providing me with the playfields, plastics, ramps, and the carpet mech. Melissa was also helpful with giving me some of the backstory on the Engineering Series machines.
Anyone who has done any refurbishing knows that you should get the machine to 100% functioning order before you do a tear down. The machine worked fine, with the one exception being the car garage feature. The reason I point this out is because at this time I needed some technical support from Dutch Pinball. This was my first introduction to Barry with Dutch Pinball.
I didn’t buy my machine from Dutch Pinball; I didn’t have a warranty for any of the parts. So, reaching out to Barry at Dutch Pinball was a long shot. Dutch Pinball owed me nothing, Barry owed me zero amount of his busy time. I emailed him, he emailed me back within 10 minutes with his phone number so we could communicate on the WhatsApp. I explained to him the story behind my purchase, the machine that I had bought, and my wish to completely refurbish it. He was 100% supportive of what I was doing and offered his help. Over the past six months we were able to troubleshoot every issue I had on this Engineering Series machine. Many of the boards and parts were different from production machines, so it did take Barry and his programmers a lot of time troubleshooting these issues. If I needed a part, Barry overnighted it out to me or told me where to buy it. I paid Barry for the replacement parts he sent me, which were all provided to me at a fair cost. This dude went the extra mile for me at every turn. I now consider him a friend and support anything he does moving forward. I promote the engineering that went into this game and the thoughtfulness he put into each feature and mechanism. Disassembling and reassembling this machine was a pleasure. His use of Bally Williams coils and optos is a genius move. Most parts I needed were easily sourced at Marco Specialties. His wiring of the machine was done in a way that each coil or mechanism could easily be disconnected under the playfield and replaced with tremendous ease. Innovations where there were needs for them and simplicity where the engineering needed to be simplified.
The cabinet and the metal trim on the cabinet were beat up. I would like to say that it was my idea to go all copper on the machine, but that would be a lie. I was searching Pinside and I found a member, Time, that was selling a copper lockdown bar and side rails. I reached out to him and found out he was going to do the trim on his Big Lebowski. I bought those parts from Jayson and his vision led me to this design. I have done a lot of work with Chris Royalty at Pinball Plating in the past, so he was able to quickly get me a copper set of hinges, coin door, glass channel, and wire forms. I decided to leave the cabinet as is, I didn’t feel that fixing up the decals or wood would impact the game play and should remain as is to tell the story about being the first engineering series machine.
Disassembling all the parts and mechanisms from the playfields gave me a better understanding of how this machine was engineered. The ability to remove each mechanism from the board and move it over to the new playfield made this extremely easy. Troubleshooting problems with the way this machine was engineered was a breeze. If I ran into a roadblock, Barry was always there to provide help. He set up phone calls, sent diagrams, parts, photos, or messages on how to fix an issue. Once I had the playfield removed, I sent the old playfield to Cliff to have it scanned in so he could accurately make new Cliffy Protectors for the title. A win/win for any of the other TBL owners out there.
I will include a list of all the parts I replaced, which were a lot, and all the mods at the end of this article. Next to each part or mod I will include the source of that item. A super special thanks goes out to: Barry with Dutch Pinball, as none of this could have been done without his help and support. Chris with Pinball Plating for all his help and support in creating these amazing copper plated pieces. Bill Hansen with SuperSkillShot.com for creating my one-of-a-kind shooter button. Melissa with Cointaker for helping me get all my replacement parts, including the replacement playfields. Also, for helping me piece together the history of this machine.
Project Overview: Roughly 100-man hour’s Time, $4,500 Materials, and the following list of Parts.
- New playfields (Upper, Lower, and Main) – by Cointaker
- New plastic ramps – by Cointaker
- All new Plastics – by Cointaker
- New wire forms – by Dutch Pinball
- New lighted apron – by Dutch Pinball (replacement to original, these are not for sale)
- New display – by Dutch Pinball
- New control wiring – by Dutch Pinball
- New speaker panel – by Dutch Pinball
- New Mother Board – by Dutch Pinball
- New Power Board – by Dutch Pinball
- New Main Board (Under Playfield) – by Dutch Pinball
- New Coils – by Marco Specialties
- New Carpet Mech – by Cointaker
- New Stand-ups – by Marco Specialties
- New Optos – by Marco Specialties
- New Rubbers – by Titan
- All new playfield hardware – by Pinball Life
- All new under playfield hardware – by Pinball Life
- New speaker lights custom mod – by Lighted Pinball Mods
- New speakers – by PinWoofer
- New copper trim (Siderails, Hinges, Glass Channel, Coin Door, Wire Forms, Shooter Lane Guard, and Apron wire form) – by Pinball Plating, Note that wire forms are an exchange product.
- New metal scoop protectors for the playfield – Cliffy’s
- Playfield protector (I ended up removing this)
- New Folgers Coffee Can spotlight cover Mod – by the ModCouple
- New Creedence lighted cassette mod – by the ModCouple
- New Pins GB “Gutter Balls” RGB Light mod – by the ModCouple
- New Pins mod for the bowling alley – by the ModCouple
- New Brunswick bowling balls mods for bowling lane toy – by the ModCouple
- New lighted Doobie mod – by CPR9999 on Pinside
- New stand up target decals mod – by CPR9999 on Pinside
- New bowling alley decal mod – by CPR9999 on Pinside
- New upper ramp support for Lebowski multiball ramp – by CPR9999 on Pinside
- New Topper Mod – by Cointaker
- New leg lights mod – by MustangPaul on Pinside
- New cup holder light – by MustangPaul on Pinside
- New bowling ball launch button mod – by Back Alley Creations
- New custom shooter button mod – by Superskillshot.com
- Lighted rails mod – Pinstadium Lights (Yet to be installed)
- New custom stool cover – by Daniel Alexander on Facebook