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Crazy arcade game of the day – Night Driver Cockpit

Got to talking with a new friend at the fall USAmusments auction here in Indianapolis, and he was telling me about Night Driver. I only knew Night Driver from the flyer, the colorful well designed and retro flyer. I said “Oh yeah, the upright with the purple and yellow artwork, I’ve never played it”.

“No”, he said. “The cockpit version, it’s hard to describe.”

I looked up the Night Driver cockpit when I got home, kind of like a horizontal Computer Space without the collector demand.

A piece of the awesome Night Driver flyer

Here is a little snapshot from the Night Driver flyer. The artwork on the side of the cabinet is the same way, thick silhouettes that convey motion and a stylized drama.

Atari's Night Driver Flyer

Then, there’s the cockpit. Atari’s Night Driver cockpit is made of fiberglass and is world’s different from the upright version (Night Driver upright photo on Klov). It is interesting that not every classic arcade game made out of fiberglass has a strong collector demand, even though there were so few fiberglass games made and as of right now I don’t know of any other cockpits. Were there? Here is the Night Driver cockpit.

Atari's Night Driver Cockpit

I haven’t seen one of these in person, it looks like the cockpit is a dull green or grey in color. Not nearly the striking blue or red of a Computer Space, and not nearly the amazing shape of a Maneater, Night Rider suffers from a little boredom. Original, but boring, not nearly as resplendent as the upright version with decal stickers that look like a ported after thought from the wood cabinet. How cool would this cabinet have been if they could have done some sort of etching of the exact artwork on the decals into the fiberglass!

I did some poking around, it appears as if these old Atari cockpits sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200-$300 working! Maybe less today. I don’t know if they were hard to keep running, I tried out the game on Mame last night and it was pretty archaic. Reminds me of a game my mom copied code out of a magazine for our commodore in the mid eighties, but that was a skiing game and even then it was pretty lame. Are there obstacles or something in the road after the first level in Night Driver?

Who owns a sitdown Night Driver?

If VAPS.org is up to date, there are four people who own one of these sitdown Night Drivers, one of which is for sale. I don’t know any of these people personally;

  • Tim Burnham
  • Some guy named ‘Cleaner’
  • Tom Szymanski
  • A Ogrady

Interesting enough for A Ogrady, this is the only game he owns and ‘Cleaner’ was looking to sell his if you are interested (California). I have seen Tom’s name before, he has an amazing collection and I’d love to hear some of his stories. But as you see, not too many people own the cockpit, even if this was only a quarter of the collectors that own this game that would still only be 16 people total.

Final Thoughts

Anyone have any insights? What is gameplay like in your opinion? Why isn’t this game worth as much as some of the other fiberglass ones? (I would guess that it is because it doesn’t have the label as one of the first arcade games, but I could be wrong)

Here are some similar arcade posts

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Even back in the day, the game play required a hefty dose of imagination to work. Bally had a nearly identical game (Z280 Zzap!) and both are about as primitive as you can come. However, these were the first 3D first person driving games. I really love the design of this, but like you, I agree there’s a lot of potential left on the table. I really wonder how many of these were made. I don’t remember ever seeing one (of course, I was rather young when this was new). I think if I was to go for a bronze age racer, it’d have to be Gran Trak for the simple fact that I played that one a lot and I’m guessing it’s still fun. Night Driver, probably not so much.

Sidenote: I’m really wishing I’d picked up on of those Space Invaders cabs at the auction. As much as I love that game, I really should own one.

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Those Space Invaders cabs certainly went cheap cheap, that is for sure. But the nice thing is, you’ll probably see one or two of them back at the January USAmusments auction in Indianapolis.

Haven’t played Zzap!, but can picture the game cabinet. Not an exclusive concept to many of those early BW raster games, I am sure.

Where did you play Zzap! and Gran Trak? In an arcade like everyone else? Or were they on location somewhere here locally? Bloomington?

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IIRC, it would have been the Muncie Mall in the late 70s and I know I played somewhere on location. I distinctly remember the Kee Games logo on the wheel. I was always fascinated with the driving games until Space Invaders and Asteroids and then those became my games.

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IIRC, Hi-Way was also in a fiberglass sitdown cab. I played that game quite a bit back in the mid 70s. I haven’t seen one since, and do not know anyone who actually has one.

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i have one for sale

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Andrew,

Did you want to identify where you are located in the US, and some contact information for people that might be interested?

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@Brian

Thanks for that note Brian. I finally got out and took a look on Klov.com. I see they used the photo from the flyer…

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=503&image=1

There aren’t any images on the old Spies archive either…

Looks really similar, just a deep tan fiberglass instead. Bushnell must have really loved those cabinets.

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@Mr. Wrong

I bet simulation games for driving, racing, skiing etc. were pretty cool at the time. It is hard for me to relate, as all I remember was 1986 and on….

But I do remember when my mom wrote a skiing program for our Commodore out of a programming magazine. It was just a flashing block moving down a changing diagonal passage that was supposed to be a course. I loved that simple game, so I can imagine what Night Driver and the like must have been like in person if I had been older at the time.

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I aquired a Night Driver sitdown/cockpit a while back. Hard to find working units like these. Coined up, sound worked. After sinking a couple hundred into the monitor, the game now plays great. Dark grey Metallic flake color of the fiberglass sparkles in the light, really beautiful and rare arcade. I really like it, but I have too many machines now. I’d consider selling if the price is right. I had it in a bar, it got played alot, had a few offers to buy, took it home because they needed room for dart tournaments. email jjeff500@yahoo.com, I live in Huntsville, AL. 2-17-09

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James,

Thanks for dropping a note about your machine…it’s cool to see owners turn up after writing a post about this unusual game.

You might try signing up at Coinopspace.com, go to groups, and find the Floriday / Alabama group to see if anyone down there might be interested in buying the Night Driver. Best of luck.

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In the late-90’s, I worked at a Mr. Gatti’s that had a Night Driver cockpit, in pristene condition.

The only problem is, they converted it into “The Great 1000 Miles Rally” game. I asked the owner if I could buy it, but they couldn’t sell it, because they rented all their arcade games from a local disributor.

It was a beautiful machine – it glittered like a Computer Space cabinet. The artwork was even still entact. God, I wish I’d bought that machine…

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Mike,

Where was the Mr. Gatti’s located? That was an arcade game chain? Or an family entertainment location?

Did they put some of the 1000 Miles Ralley hideous artwork on the cabinet too? Or did the leave the old artwork in place?

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It was in Franklin, Tn. It closed back in 1999. It was a pizza chain that died out in the late 90’s, but they did have a few Chuck E. Cheese-like locations known as ‘Gattiland’. I just worked in one of the normal locations.

They had a small room, in the back of the building with about 6 or 7 games, and a big screen projection TV.

The Night Driver was in great shape. It still had the original stickers on the sides, and back of the seat, and it still had the wobbly Atari steering wheel. Whoever owned the game just did a sloppy conversion.

I drooled over that thing for months, until they replaced it with a Fish Tales pinball mahine.

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I just picked one up last night. Have not had a chance to delve into it yet. Hopefully will know more by next weekend. It was not on the wish list, but was part of a package deal I got.

Jeff
Moorhead, MN

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Never get tired of seeing these fiberglass cabinets. If you have time, send me a photo or two…

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I also have one of the sitdown versions. It worked when I purchased it about 6 years ago but just the last couple of months (when I decided to sell it) did it decide to stop working. I get a screen of odd characters and just the hum of the car now. It did this once then went away after a day or two..now it just seems to be a screen of characters towards the top and a couple of boxes at bottom (its not anywhere near the test pattern..I have the service manual). Haven’t had time to mess with it much more..just cleaned the board connector tonihgt but same result. It has a replaced monitor (i think its an original one but without car decal). The seller also had given me the original monitor that was in it with car detail. I believe he said it worked, not sure. The coin op is rigged a bit i think and when u insert a coin the game just starts…you dont need to press the start button. The wheel and shifter seemed to work fine but i think it lost sound through 2nd or 3rd gear. Any ideas on a fix? ๐Ÿ™‚ someone that repairs these boards? Is it worth enough to bother with? I think I’d still like to sell it. I’m in Florida, East of Orlando about 15 mins south of Daytona.

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I had an upright Night Driver when I was in high school, it was the first video game I ever played when I was a child so I had to get one later… this was back before alot of the whole ‘arcade collecting’ even became a thing actually and before MAME ever existed. The tracks are so simple that I had them all memorized to the point that I would routinely get 800-900mph top speed on them. (Pro was harder than Expert, I don’t think I ever broke over 900mph on that one, but Novice and Expert I could clear 920-930mph or so) The entire track would whiz by in about a second or less than two! Was just mindless twitch response by then by muscle memory…

For all I know I might well have the world record by far and above, i’m not even sure where such things are recorded for games that old. I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many other players of the game anyways and despite it’s simplicity i’d still love to get a cabinet back someday just because it was my “first”. (even though there was no second, had to get rid of it when we moved and parents wouldn’t let me another thing so bulky in their house at the time, and then life got in the way)

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@jerry ยป Have you checked out Twin Galaxies to see what recorded High Scores they have?

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