The first decision to make was to build a cabinet from scratch or to buy an existing one. My almost complete lack of power tools made the decision for me: I would have to buy an existing cabinet and convert it.
Having read the Build Your Own Arcade Controls Manifesto, I knew I was going to have to be careful to find an already gutted cabinet so I would not be hacking up a restorable game. I finally found the perfect cabinet on eBay; a last-second bid netted me the cabinet for a mere $61.00.
The picture at right shows the cabinet as it was when I picked it up. Originally a Super Contra machine, at some point in it's history, it had been converted into a Tekken 2 machine.
The conversion was not done cleanly. The marquee had been held in place by Plexiglas screwed directly into the T-molding. The control panel had its original overlay stripped and a laminated piece of a Tekken 2 poster used in its place. All of the original art had been removed. The original speaker panel had been replaced with a new piece of fiberboard with two square holes cut out for the speakers, so the speakers (two car speakers added after the conversion) didn't fit right. This panel was held in place with two finishing nails, and easily came off with a tug.
The cabinet was close to empty when I received it. There were no boards or monitor. A monitor shelf had been added, created out of what looks like the top piece of another game's back door. The coin door was in place, but the mechs were missing. The only electronics in the machine were a complete control panel, a JAMMA harness, a power supply, and a flourescent light for the marquee. There was also several years worth of dust, debris, and bug bodies inside.
This cabinet would be perfect for the project: its previous conversion had left it as generic
as possible, and although there was not enough of to left to restore, there were plenty of reusable
Here's what the cabinet would have looked like brand new. As you can see, it is but a shell of its former self...
Next: The Control Panel