SOUTHERN BELLE Sample Pinball Machine

1955 Gottlieb

by Alan Lewis

When I bought this machine I discovered that it was a sample when I was disassembling it to take it home.



sn combo.jpg

The photo above shows how the s/n was stamped 7716 on both the playfield and the cabinet.This playfield and cabinet are matched.

This s/n does not follow any Gottlieb sequence used in 1955 nor does it use an ďSĒ for sample as was typical in other 1955 Gottlieb Sample machines (click here for example from 1955).

The number didnít make sense, too few numbers and no letters at all.

I have read that some people think that Gottlieb did not always follow a set pattern with s/n assignment and that unusual s/nís were sometimes assigned.Is mine an example of this?Read on and decide for yourself.


While I was doing some final touches I caught a fleeting glimpse of something that stopped me dead in my tracks:


The bare ground wire had penciled layout trace lines over the entire playfield bottom.

Why is this notable?Having worked as a Manufacturing Engineer and Designer for 40 years I immediately recognized this as the work of a Tool Maker or Designer doing the first hand layout of the wire path before assembly.†† You donít ever see the penciled tracings on sample or production machines.This machine was most likely the first one assembled, and probably before any sample games were produced.The first game assembled is sometimes called an Engineering Sample to denote special handling for working out the details needed for Sample and Production games.Whether or not Gottlieb used this term is unknown but apparently they did do hand layouts for first assembly.

Both freehand and straight edge ruled lines were drawn.This is typical of a hand layout where you are not sure of the final path.Some paths are straight and obvious and others are to fit around other objects in the way.In industry I have done this many times myself, just not on pinball machines.

A search of the IPDB verifies that Bally used penciled wire tracings for prototype games (CLICK HERE) but no other examples of a Gottlieb game using them.

I checked with some of the woodrail pinball experts and none had ever seen penciled wire tracings before.So this is very unusual.



It is possible that a random s/n was assigned because it was not meant to be a sample or production game, rather it might be a prototype.

When considered together both the penciled trace lines and the odd s/n notation indicate that is machine was different in some way from other Sample or Production machines.