Oct 14 2009

Virtua Racing Twin Project

zorro @ 10:31 pm

After many years of wistfully dreaming about it, I finally gave in and bought a two-player, sit-down arcade racer. My favourite arcade racer, Sega Rally, is still prohibitively expensive (around $4000 AUD), mainly because, like Daytona, it continues to make money.

I recently passed on a Sega Rally and a generic Gottileb cabinet with Outrunners in it because I don’t like Outrunners too much. Since this is a part-time project, it had to be a good game to begin with.

My good friend Chris steered me towards a bargain though, $700 AUD for a Virtua Racing Twin. A highly technical racer, Virtua Racing was one of the vanguards of 3D driving games and remains a personal favourite. You can read more about the game at my Classic Games review.

Trying to organise shipping from Canberra to Melbourne proved to be a frustrating experience with the majority of freight companies uninterested in personal freight of that size and hiring my own truck was working out expensive too.

Backloads always seemed a bit random to me but I found one willing and able to bring it the following weekend and for just a bit less than the cabinet cost, I could ship it from Melbourne to Canberra and still consider it a good deal.

To cut a long story short, it arrived and with the help of a few mates we got it off the truck and into my garage. At 260kg, it wasn’t easy but fortunately it comes with wheels and in two main pieces – seats and screens.

After connecting the seats (rear cabinet) to the screens (front cabinet) and puzzling over a ‘spare’ connector, I powered it on. Or tried to. The power plug must have been damaged in transit but some quick work with a screwdriver and wire strippers and I powered it on again. Success! I had time for one game before bed :-)

The Cabinet

It is a Japanese-made machine and extremely sturdy. The frame is made of solid timber. I opened up all of the access panels and gave it a good vacuum and wipe, considering its age, it wasn’t in too bad a condition but it still needed the vacuum. The speakers are powered via a board and amplifier under the floor plate of each seat with the actual speakers mounted in the headrest. Apparently the whole two player seat flips up and there are the two game boards mounted underneath. I say apparently because one side is locked with a key that was not provided :-(

Behind the coin slot door was a fitted plastic bucket. The door itself had been fitted with a crude latch to enable a padlock (this will need to be removed). Directly above it another small door allowed access to the test switches. There are two mechanical counters under the bucket which show the number of plays (it’s linked to the coin slot). These display: Player 1 – 22867 and Player 2 – 18950, which goes to show what a popular two-player game it was.

Lights

There is a lit marquee in the back of the rear cabinet, the top marquee has a light for player 1 and 2 as well as the centre marquee. Also all of the buttons are backlit – V1, 2, 3, 4 and the Start Button. The Player 2 and centre marquee need replacement bulbs. These are 110v bulbs which may require some searching and the fluorescent tube is entirely missing and looks like it might have been bypassed at some point.

The Monitors

According to Wikipedia, Japanese VR Twins shipped with 29″ Nanao monitors, whereas the US machines shipped with 26″ Wells Gardner. This is a definite advantage as the Nanao monitors are not only bigger but more durable than the WGs. Though I will have to verify the models.

Access to the monitor controls is via the steering wheel. Two screws and two bolts enable the removal of a wheel and through a narrow gap, the RGB and hold dials can be turned with a screwdriver and a steady hand.

The Wheels & Pedals

Player 1’s wheel has obviously been replaced at some kind with a pretty shoddy clone and it’s taped up with Gaffa.

The force feedback on both wheels is currently not working – either broken or disabled and I took the wheel’s panel off to examine it more closely. The mechanism that controls the wheel’s movement is extremely robust with a huge, metal, geared wheel feeding into quite a complex mesh of interlocking gears driving two potentiometers. As well as the almost industrial design, I was impressed with the size of the motor that drives the force feedback and internet tales of its maximum ‘pull’ did not seem quite so far-fetched.

As it is, I can’t quite work out what’s wrong but some poking around with a multimeter might get me somewhere.

The accelerator and brake seem to be in good working order and were clearly built to withstand some rough treatment in the first place. They may need some grease but they certainly seem to work.

Inside Player 1’s monitor bezel is a small sticker:

Sega Original Seal / Original Virtua Racing / No. 18880


6 Responses to “Virtua Racing Twin Project”

  1. davefjedi says:

    Good to see it has gone to a good home and you are happy with it
    Hope the force feedback is an easy fix

  2. Chris says:

    Way to make me feel guilty for not pulling my finger out and making my project page but a nice start on yours, I hope to read your progress as you go!

  3. Grant Wagner says:

    What an amazing find! Good work. I personally never forgave myself after letting a Star Blade pass for only $300 US.

  4. zorro says:

    I don’t seem to have the confidence to get started either as a restoration or as a conversion and as a result I am thinking of getting rid of it. If my existing arcade machine is anything to go by, there will be a ton of ongoing work even if I do get it done and I’m not sure I want to spend that amount of time in the shed. Still considering.

  5. Anthony says:

    Hi,

    I have my sites on a Virtua Racing, like game you have. The co. wants $1400 (US). Any tips you could give me in regards to a purchase? What I should look out for..?

    Thanks

  6. zorro says:

    I’m no expert. You’d be better asking on BYOAC or similar. The left monitor has some colour issues (which I knew about when I bought it) and has been distracting me from getting a start on the full restoration. Do the usual: check screen quality (burn-in, discolouration, etc) , sound (all speakers working?), controls (all buttons, steering, force-feedback working?) and finally lamps (buttons, marquee front and rear).

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