KONGMAN lives again!

A classic 1980s Tomy Kongman game pays a visit to the workshop, for some much-needed TLC.

Every now and again, a little gem drops right into my inbox and I think; Christmas has come early. My eyes light-up! It’s nice to get something different to work on, and hopefully repair, especially when it involves motors, batteries, ball bearings and a gorilla.

A customer contacted me after rediscovering Kongman in his attic, not literally you understand, but the 1980s hit toy from Tomy. The toy was in wonderful condition, despite being a little dusty. A new battery had been installed, but upon switching it on, nothing happened. Not even a peep.

FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’21, Kongman box

I should really kick this thing off by saying what Kongman (the game) is. Kongman is an animated vertical game with the objective of getting a small metal ball bearing from the bottom of the wall to the top. The player must defy gravity and move the ball up-stairs, across a bridge, along several steps to a magnetic swing and then into a lift. The zenith of the game is reached with a quick flick of the ball on to Kongman’s magnet hand, which then gets dropped down a hole, ringing a bell on the way down. Fun really doesn’t get any better. If you’ve ever played Screwball Scramble, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I am talking about. Did I mention that this infuriating game can be set against the clock too? Bonkers!

Tomy’s Kongman comes from a time just before kids games started to contain many electronic gizmos and wizmos within, parts that when kaput, render a toy useless, forever. Luckily, Kongman uses an electro-mechanical animation movement; elegant and clever. Old, but good.

Kongman is powered by a single D-cell, 1.5V battery and the motion of the toy is actuated with a reassuringly simple little motor, connected to a compact gearbox driving a series of levers and rods, which make up the games’ animation. On a slightly different note; are D-cell batteries an endangered species? I mean, really, ‘what the 1980s torch’ takes D-cell batteries any more?!

Make and model: Tomy Kongman, circa 1981

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement machine: £40.00 if you can find one working

Manufacturer support (in the UK): 0/10

Cost of parts (for this repair): £0.99p

My time spent on the repair: 1 hour

Tools needed: Small knife, pliers, small screwdriver

Sundry items: None

Cleaning materials: Silicone spray, contact cleaner

Repair difficulty: 5/10 (fiddly)

Beverages: 2 teas

Biscuits: 2 custard creams

So, on to the repair.

The toy wouldn’t run and after checking the basics like battery contacts and proving that the local wiring from the battery compartment to the main gubbins was OK, it was time to dive in.

One of the things that makes this already difficult game to complete, is the fact that as a player, you’re up against the clock. This seemed to be the next logical place to check.

The timer seemed to be part of the gearbox which is responsible for driving the rest of the game’s motion. I found this a most practical application of sound and efficient design. You can trace the DNA of this toy back to early pinball machines and jukeboxes, something I also love. Anyway, I seem to be getting romantic, not the workshop way.

The gearbox was easy to remove, just a few screws, and it was out. The timer’s switch contacts were situated within the ‘box and came apart with a gentle prod of a small screwdriver. This allowed me to apply a small amount of additional tension to the switch’s spring and to clean the contacts with cleaner. Reassembling was pretty much the reversal of the disassembly.

With the gearbox back in, it was time to turn some attention to the mechanism, to ensure smooth, reliable performance. With nearly 40 years’ worth of dust to contend with, it was time to clean all of the game’s nooks and crannies with a small brush and treat some of the sliding parts to a little silicone, plastic-friendly, lube.

With the D-Cell battery installed, a deft twist of the timer’s knob, and the game sprang to life.

I’ll be honest with you now. I tried several times to get the ball the whole course to ring the bell, against the clock, but alas, I failed. I did complete the game, but only with the timer set to ‘auto’… which provides as much time as you need, or at least until the battery runs out.

Until the next time…

Poorly Scalextric Sport Digital Lap Counter (C8215)…

Scalextric C8215 lap counter repaired in the workshop…

First off, I must confess, that this is part of my own Scalextric collection, not part of someone else’s.  I’ve always enjoyed slot car racing and a lap counter is an essential addition to anyone who wants to prove that they’re the fastest around the track!  Trust me, it can be very addictive, especially when racing against one’s better half.

IMG_4854
FixItWorkshop, Dec’17, Scalextric Lap Counter C8215

Anyway, I wanted to share this little repair in the hope that others might benefit.

My once reliable lap counter started to miss laps on lane two at very crucial stages of a race.  It started by only happening occasionally before completely missing several laps in a row, forcing a stewards’ enquiry to settle the race finish times.  Lane one was fine.

Time to get out the screw driver and delve in to the workings of the timer.  Once removed from the main track layout, the back of the unit has a cover which is held in place with six small self-tapping screws.  These come undone easily and removing the back reveals two sets of electrical switch contacts, operated by a lever on each track, just under the slot car rails.  The idea here is that the slot on the slot car operates the lever as the car passes the lap counter track piece, operating the switches contacts, completing a circuit, thus counting the laps.

Comparing the switch contact clearances, lane one’s was considerably closer than lane two’s.  This means that the ‘dwell’ time on lane two’s switch would be less that the switch on lane one, which was working ok, meaning a possible cause of the problem.  To anyone who’s adjusted contact breaker points on an old car, you’ll know what I mean here.

I had no idea what the correct clearance should be, so took an educated guess and closed the gap to about 0.5mm, done by eyesight alone.  I made sure that both sets of switches were the same (see photos).  While I had the counter in pieces, I cleaned the contact surfaces with a little electrical contact cleaner, just for good measure.

After re-assembly and re-fitting to the track, a few test laps with my fastest race Mini, proved that the counter was working as it should once again.

Cost of a replacement counter (second hand) circa £12.  Cost of the repair; 10 minutes tinker-time.