Feb 122018
Gotlieb Card Whiz

Apologies dear friends and loyal readers, we’ve been away for a spell. The society suffered a major computer failure a week ago and spent pretty much the entire time since recovering and cleaning up the resultant mess. It was ugly! Reinstall this, reinstall that, pull from archives, configure, setup and tweak. Then rinse and repeat. You don’t realize how much work you’ve done till you look at it as a backup waiting to be restored. What, we’ve shot that many photos? And written that many articles? That many terabytes? No way!

The hard work behind us now, we’re back and itching to post. Got some catching up to do too. Lots.

Leading off, here’s a piece about a pinball machine, a favourite subject of ours. This one from the “golden age” and is getting a little TLC and we’re here to document it all. Join as we watch local expert, the man to call, Gary Makota, master pinball repair tech, do his magic. Another non-working pin made to run right and we’re witness to it all. Enjoy.

Card Whiz: a 1970s era “EM” pinball is fixed up to play as new. Researched, Written and Photographed by Chris Doering & Connie Biggart. (BIGDoer/Synd)

Today’s patient is Card Whiz from the mid-1970s. It comes from the firm D. Gottlieb & Company (or simply Gottlieb) one of the largest makers of the era and like it’s two main competitors (Bally and Williams), was based out of Chicago Illinois. All good pins were made there.

Scroll down for photos and to comment.

Gottlieb was in business from the early 1930s to the mid-1990s. The ’70s was a high point with sales at their greatest. Players loved them and they couldn’t make them fast enough. At that time your author was into competitor machines (Bally and Williams), but today appreciates those from this firm. Didn’t quite get them then, but do now.

In total some thirty two hundred Card Whiz machines were produced in the summer of 1976. Built earlier in the year were some twelve thousand (and change) Royal Flush machines, which were a four player version (Card Whiz only allowed two) with minor artwork differences, but otherwise with the same layout and play.

Card Whiz is an “electro-mechanical” (“EM”) pinball – all scoring functions controlled by stepper motors, relays and such. By 1978 “solid state” machines were king and pretty soon after the only ones produced, integrated circuits and transistors being used instead for tabulation, with digital displays replacing the old score reels. All makers in the industry switched over about this same time. Card Whiz can be seen as a fairly late model EM. Not the last, not even remotely so, but the writing was most definitely on the wall when it was produced.

The playfield here is pretty straightforward in design, nice and open and fast. Rollover lanes or stand up targets increase the kick-out hole bonus. A row of nine drop targets, beside scoring, also can increase the end of ball bonus. There’s one pop-bumper. Rules are plain and simple but executing them is another story. The game is not as easy as it looks.

Take a look at the innards – all those wires and coils and switches. How in the world can anyone make heads or tales of it?

Pinballs are finicky things and maintenance intensive. Own a pinball? Befriend a tech. Good advice here people. There’s a lot of mechanical parts, connectors and such to go wrong. In the case here, simply moving the machine caused it to fail. That’s all it took. Time to make a call.

Gary’s been fixing pins since the 1970s and is soon on the scene. The machine is opened up, turned on, and in mere movements the problem narrowed down and identified. It’s quickly attended to as only an expert can do and in no time Card Whiz is back up and running. The owner’s manual, found inside the machine, is pulled out, but not really needed. When you’ve done it this many times, it’s mostly in memory.

A general tune up always follows. New rubbers are installed, lamps replaced, and the playfield given a good cleaning and waxing. It plays fast, almost like brand new. It’s a whole different machine.

Jerry, the owner plays, his broad grin a tell-all. There’s one happy fellow. It’s not just that the machine is fixed and plays well – a game for the sake of the game is simply pure joy – there’s more. It’s the memories. In the past this here Card Whiz belonged to a friend and together Jerry and he would face off and play frequently. I challenge you! “Sometimes I’d win, sometimes he’d win”, two silver ball warriors about equally matched.

With his friends unfortunate passing, the machine was willed to Jerry and is a cherished possession. It’s something more than a plain old pinball machine, it’s a connection back to someone meaningful that’s now gone but hardly forgotten. That’s something quite touching.

Lost in the game, a twinkle in his eye, you can see how it all came flooding back. The bells ring, the reels spin, the loud clack of a free game won. But it mattered not. It was far deeper than that.

That’s Card Whiz, one fine pin and this Card Whiz has one fine backstory.

Have a game that could use some attention? Go here…Gary Makota on Facebook or here…Gary Makota Pinball Repair.

More pinball…
Golden Arrow – another fixed.
Pinball Art – big boobs a recurring theme.
Keeping the Faith – time spent with pinheads.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: September, 2017.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references and thanks: Jerry Drews, Gary Makota Repair, Internet Pinball Database.

Gottlieb Pinball

Pinball innards.

Gary Makota Repair

Gary Makota, master tech, gets into his work.

Gotlieb Card Whiz

Today’s patient a Gottlieb “Card Whiz”.

Card Whiz Pinball

The machine dates from the mid-1970s.

YEG Pinball Shirt

YEG Pin, an enthusiast group out of Edmonton.

Gottlieb Score Reel

Score reels in the backbox.

Gary Makota Pinball Repair

We’ve chronicled Gary fixing pins many times – and are always in awe.

Gottlieb Card Whiz Pinball

The owner’s manual found inside.

Pinball Tech Gary Makota

A true natural at work.

Fixing a Card Whiz Pinball

This is a fairly late model “electro-mechanical”.

Big Dog

A new friend…

Fixing Gottlieb Pinball

A series of problems are tackled with expert precision.

Chris BIGDoer.com

Doing what we do…

Card Whiz Playfield

Playfield details.

Card Whiz Pinball Cleaning

New rubbers and a good cleaning and waxing.

Pinball Waxing

It’ll play much faster when done.

Pinball Adjusting Legs

Legs get adjusted.

Card Whiz Owner's Manual

Gottlieb was huge back in the day but closed in the 1990s.

Card Whiz Backglass

Some 3200 Card Whiz machines were produced.

Fixing Pinball

A few more minor adjustments.

Gottlieb Pinball Card Whiz

So many coils, switches and wires.

Gottlieb Card Whiz Pin

Ball in motion – a couple games to test it out.

Chris Doering Photography

Capturing the next shot.

Card Whiz Pop Bumper

Details – pop bumper and standup target.

Pinball Kickout Hole

The kickout hole scores big when they’re all lit.

Playing Gottlieb Card Whiz

Lost in the game, this happy owner.

Card Whiz Pin

Card Whiz, one fine pin!


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2 Comments on "Card Whiz"

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Some really cool shots there BigDoer!