BAL-AMi Restoration Project
restoring a juke box ? Here's what you need........lots of spare cash, a spare
room/garage/shed, plenty of patience, a supportive partner.........
Peter May had all of the above (although he says the cash has now gone!). Here's
his story of how he rescued a BAL-AMi S100 from that great musical scrapheap in
the sky and brought it back to its former glory.
My first jukebox was a
BAL-AMi S100 I purchased from Terry Price (now semi-retired and living the wonderful
life in Florida) at the Jukebox Madness show in 1995 where it won the award for
the best Silver Age jukebox. I became so interested in jukeboxes, and intrigued
by the rather Heath Robinson electromechanical genius of the way they were
designed and put together, that I set about looking for another that I could
undertake as a restoration project. I eventually found another S100 which was a
bit of a wreck and reluctantly handed over wads of cash for it together with a
box of spare parts (I hadnít got a clue what any of them were). Did you know
that you can get an S100 into the back of a Vauxhall Vectra ? When they designed
that particular AMi range they must have known that the hatchback was on its
way. The rake of the rear door matches the rake of the jukebox front screen
beautifully! The jukebox was supposedly sold with all parts to convert to 200
play. Not true....but then how was I supposed to know?
I dismantled the jukebox down to the last nut and bolt and spent the next nine
months painstakingly restoring every bit in anticipation of it all going back
together again and working perfectly. This of course assumed that all the
necessary bits were there in the first place. This is why it was a good idea to
restore the same model as I already had, as I was able to use the good one as
blueprint. Believe you me I was glad I had it. Itís amazing how when you take
something apart youíre convinced that putting it back together again will be a doddle. Come back to it a few days later and itís a different story when the
gremlins seem to have changed the parts for bits that donít look like they go
anywhere however hard you try.
All metal parts were re-chromed and I had to get some of the trim re-made as it
was beyond re-chroming. This was becoming an expensive business and I began to
see why dealers charge such high prices for a fully restored jukebox. For anyone
living in the London area I can fully recommend The London Chroming Co. in the
Old Kent Road. They are not cheap but really look after your bits down to the
smallest piece. They are also able to re-chrome the cast parts as well as
pressed steel. Itís important to use a plating company who know what they are
doing. Drop your cast parts into the wrong tank and theyíll just dissolve!
As my first jukebox had been converted to 200 play from its original 100 status
I wanted to do the same with my second one. This is a fairly simple procedure
provided youíve got the replacement 20 position sprag wheel, arm and magnets
set. Guess what? These most important parts were not evident in the box of juke
jumble I had purchased with the jukebox. So much for buying with Ďall parts to
convertí. After many enquiries and being told on more than one occasion that I
was unlikely to find the parts I wanted I was feeling a bit dejected and started
to understand that there were more reasons to kick a jukebox other than it
didnít play the record you just paid good money for. However, those jolly nice
people at (what used to be) Jooks came up trumps and I purchased a set at a very reasonable price.
The 10 position plastic number selector dials on these jukeboxes were all
pressed as 20 select and then repainted to use only ten number positions. All
you need to do is remove all the paint from the wheel and carefully repaint it
using the full twenty numbers. The 100 select mechanism only used a hundred pins
positioned in every other hole in the pin wheel so you also need another hundred
of these to fill in all the spare holes (yippee they WERE in the box of bits!).
The last thing to do is to renumber the record basket to use every slot instead
of every other one. The Jukebox Man supplied a set of decals to help here (but
what a boring job it was sticking those on!). Et voila, I had a 200 select
While all this was going on the amplifier was away being restored. Did I say
amplifier? It was more a chassis full of odd electronic components soldered
together to see what might happen. It was pretty lethal and had it been
connected to the mains whilst installed in the jukebox a press on the select
button would probably have meant I wouldnít be here now to tell the tale.
Another mortgage later and I had a fully restored amplifier (only the chassis
I eventually got everything back together again and with a completely re-sprayed
body and new chrome it looked beautiful. Now to hear what it sounded like! Well
Iím the worldís biggest optimist. I hadnít seen any of the moving parts
actually moving as yet and nor was I going to as every time I started the
mechanism the DC circuit fuse blew. The turntable worked fine and with the
amplifier now working I could at least listen to a record but you can only stand
listening to Heart And Soul by The Cleftones so many times before you get sick
of it. Listening to it now still reminds me of frustrating cold evenings in the
garage blowing fuse after fuse, with my wife asking when she would be able to
get her car back in.
The only answer was to take the mech out and try to solve the problem on the
bench. Just how many times I lifted that mech in and out I donít recall, but
it beats lifting weights to tone up your muscles. I blew so many fuses trying to
find the short that Tandy had to get some on special order for me, but
eventually the problems were solved. There were no less than three dead shorts
between the wiring on some of the old solenoids and the mech itself, but finding
them took ages and much greying of hair. These mechs run on about 28 volts DC
which comes from a transformer housed in the amplifier. To avoid having to use
this as a power source I simply used an old 12 volt model train transformer to
provide the mech power. This provided enough juice to make it operate and at a
speed which was slow enough to watch the parts moving and identify where the
problems might be. It was very satisfying to see the mechanism working as it
should after so much aggro. Seeing it actually operating successfully inside the
jukebox instead of on the bench was even better. It sounded great too with the
rebuilt amplifier except for an íorrible íum which didnít seem to want to
This proved to be an earthing problem and entailed re-routing some wiring inside
the amp. That done everything was fine.
I found this a very satisfying project and I feel that perhaps Iíve managed to
save a little bit of history rather it being consigned to the scrap heap.
Although I was rather loath to part with it, two jukeboxes residing in one
dining room for a long period of time is a little over the top. Iím glad to
say it found a new home and its new owner seems very happy with it.
From this early restoration experience, I now
restore jukeboxes commercially.