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Random Thoughts & Pictures

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Grand Lizard marks my first foray into the realm of eBay pinball purchasing. I found the game in August of '09 and schlepped all the way to Pittsburgh to pick it up. The transaction went smoothly. Grand Lizard is not rare, but at only 2,700 units, it's not common either. Moreover, the playfields are often checked and the upper playfield area is usually worn to the wood.

But the playfield on this example looks reasonably fresh. The lower playfield benefits from factory Mylar. The upper playfield has some insert wear and a worn-to-the-wood spot under the tongue drop. But the spot has been touched up and the whole upper playfield has been fitted with a Mylar patch. I wish the inserts would have been touched up before the Mylar went down. But compared to other Grand Lizards I've seen, I can't much complain. There's wax residue in every nook and cranny and a little surface rust on some metal parts, but I expect everything to clean up nicely.

The backglass is near perfect with just a small spot of wear by the player #4 display. The cabinet finish is all original and looks pretty good except for what appears to be a few spots of duct tape residue.

Apparently the CPU and power supply boards were repaired in April of 2009 by Coin-Op Cauldron. But I don't know what was done. Everything in the head looks tidy and un-hacked. Some of the displays are mismatched and look like they've seen better days. And the power supply board is actually from a Pin*bot. But all the other boards are matched and everything is clean. The game is fully functional.

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The touch up under the tongue isn't too bad, but the Mylar went down without fixing the insert wear. I don't think I care for the purple flipper rubber.

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Clean boards with no wiring hacks. Note that the System-11 CPU board is mounted "right-side-up" like the old System-9 CPUs.

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The Grand Lizard head at the top of the playfield.

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Cabinet side art.

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Backglass details.

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Note the initials "BO" for designer Barry Oursler and the signature of playfield artist Paul Faris.

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BEWARE THE -- LEGEND OF THE -- GRAND LIZARD

This game caught my attention at a pinball show years ago. I enjoy the game's single-level arrangement of two distinct playfield areas. The layout is much like a split-level game from the early '80s, but without the connecting ramps. I never had much fun with split-level games because the ball speeds tend to be overwhelming for me. Grand Lizard is the best of both worlds. I get the two playfield areas of a split-level with the slower smoothness of a signal-level.

Grand Lizard is a Barry Oursler System-11. It's a low production game and somewhat unpopular. The game can be inexpensive, but also difficult to find in good condition. There are quite a few other aspects of this game that make it unusual. Based on the game's low model number (523), it would appear that the game was originally developed during the System-7 era around 1983 or '84. The playfield layout is based on Solar Fire, a Barry Oursler split-level from 1981. Much of Grand Lizard's concept was by Python Anghelo, but the art work was contracted to artist Paul Faris (of Bally fame). The Faris art package included a backglass to accommodate the numeric displays of the time. But since the game wasn't produced until the System-11 era, a revised backglass was needed to accommodate the new alpha-numeric displays. A completely new backglass was done by Python Anghelo along with new plastics and modified cabinet art. Many people seem to dislike the Python glass. In any event, the game has something of a haphazard look. It doesn't take a art critic to see that the backglass and plastics are of an entirely different artistic style compared to the original Faris playfield. Quite a few of the Paul Paris backglasses were produced. They aren't terribly hard to come by. An aftermarket insert panel was once available that would allow one to convert their Grand Lizard to the Faris backglass.

There are other throwbacks that make this game feel older than it is. There is no speech, just a jungle drum beat and lots of animal sounds. There's also a bell inside the cabinet that rings for extra balls and specials. Again, the bell is something that was more prevalent in the early '80s. Another interesting bit of trivia is that the System-11 CPU board is mounted "right-side-up" like the old System-9 Games. I am aware of no other System-11 game with the CPU board oriented in this manner. The game has an assortment of disconnected playfield features with no dominating objective. The game is not particularly challenging, but it's fun to leisurely tour around the playfield trying each feature in turn. Grand Lizard is probably the most unusual game in my collection.

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Side-by-side comparison between Solar Fire and Grand Lizard (with ramps removed). Click image for larger picture. The two playfields are nearly the same.

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Preproduction Paul Faris backglass.

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Shown above is the bell mechanism on the left inside of the cabinet.

Here's an under playfield view of the right Magna-save magnet. Note the associated circuit board and relay (green arrows)

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Each side of the cabinet includes an extra button to activate the respective Magna-save. The Magna-save buttons are also for entering high score initials.

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Shown above is the four page promotional flyer for Grand Lizard. Click for larger picture.

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Promo plastic key fob.

Torch Topper

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When I first began researching Grand Lizard I found a few examples of people who used flame lights for a topper. I thought it was a neat idea. But the idea got shuffled to the back burner and was forgotten. I wasn't even sure if the flame lights were still produced. A year passed. Then in an odd twist of fate I blundered across one of these lights at a campground store while on an RV trip. I quickly snatched it from its dusty perch on the clearance shelf.

The flame light consists of a small fan beneath light-weight flame-shaped cloth. Red/orange lights shine on the cloth. The combination of light and airflow gives the cloth the appearance of fire. It looks like the sort of torch you'd find in the jungle encampment of lizard-humanoids. Well... I'll admit I have never actually seen a jungle encampment of lizard-humanoids, but I'm sticking with my story.

The light includes a pedestal, which is too tall. But it's all held together with the same sort of threaded rod you'd find in a table lamp. So the light is easy to disassemble and modify. I made a new base by laminating two disks of ¾" plywood. And I added a longer cord. It would be easy to wire the flame light to the game's power switch. But I simply plugged it into my gameroom's system of switched outlets. So the flame light comes on with the rest of my gameroom lighting.

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Flame light out of the box.

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Flame light mechanism with cloth, fan and lamps.

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New base.

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New base.