Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Ultimate (So Far) History of Allied Leisure/Centuri - Part 1

            Not all video game and coin-op companies were located in Silicon Valley or Chicago. Allied Leisure Industries was located in faraway Hialeah Florida. Today, not many people remember the name Allied Leisure (though a few people remember them by another name) but for a while, they appeared to be on their way to the top of the video game heap - only to literally crash and burn and then rise from the ashes.

All-Tech Industries

David Braun, 1970 - courtesy Billboard

David H. Braun had been in the coin-op industry since the 1950s and in the music industry even longer. In 1944 he and his brother Jules formed a record label called Deluxe in Linden, New Jersey and began recording artists like Billy Eckstine and the Four Blues. In 1947, they became one of the first labels to explore the burgeoning New Orleans R&B scene, recording a number of sides including Roy Brown's proto-rock-and-roll classic Rockin' at Midnight. That same year, their plant and warehouse burned down (it wouldn’t be the last time Braun had to deal with a devastating fire) and the Brauns sold half of their interest in Deluxe to King Records. Two years later they started a new label called Regal Records, which they liquidated in 1951. Finished with the record business, Dave started a new career in the coin-op business, working for a kiddie ride manufacturer in Linden named Mars Manufacturing. In 1952, he moved to Florida and co-founded All-Tech Industries, a manufacturer of kiddie rides, pool tables, and grip testers. In the early 60s, Braun became All-Tech's lead designer. In the early 1960s, he created a number of innovate machines that combined kiddie rides and games. In 1961's Indian Scout, kiddies could ride a galloping horse while using a six-shooter to gun down rampaging buffalo. Hi Way Patrol put tots in the role of a traffic cop, chasing down speeders in a miniature police car complete with flashing siren. A similar game, Cross Country Race was created by Braun and Harry Mabs (inventor of the pinball flipper). Braun wasn't All-Tech's only designer, however. Ron Haliburton was a tinkerer. Early on the Nashville engineer built one of the first $1/$5 bill changers in his garage. In the early 1960s, he created a prototype for a coin-operated slot car game. Word of his creation reached All-Tech, who hired him to work in their engineering department alongside Braun.

All-Tech's Indian Scout

Patent for All-Tech's Cross-Country Racer
by David Braun and Harry Mabs

Allied Leisure - the pre-Video Game Years (1968-1972) 

courtesy RePlay, 1976

By the late 1960s, Haliburton had risen to president of All-Tech when he and Braun decided to form their own company to build arcade games and to give Braun's son Bobby (who had cerebral palsy) something to do. In November of 1968, Haliburton and the Brauns' new company was incorporated as Allied Leisure Industries. The company, however, had been created six months earlier from the merger of other companies[1]. Like Bushnell, Dabney, and Alcorn, the Florida trio never intended to manufacture games. At the time, coin-op was still a closed industry and a group of outsiders, especially one from Florida, was likely to have a hard time breaking in. Instead, they planned to use their design skills to create prototypes for existing coin-op companies. When they began talking to other companies, however, they didn't care for the deals they were offered and when they saw how well their prototypes were received, they decided to build them themselves. Their first game, Monkey Bizz (1968) belied their kiddie-ride roots. The player used a metal hook to snag plastic monkeys from the bottom of a playfield. Next came Unscramble (October, 1969) where players tried to unscramble letters to form three-letter words (a five-letter version called Select-O-Matic followed in December). While their first three games were successful enough that Allied moved to a new 1,000 square-foot facility, they had still lost $79,000 in 1969 on modest sales of $415,000. Their next game put them on the coin-op map.

Wild Cycle

In early 1969, Chicago Coin released Drive Master one of a new breed of driving games that quickly became all the rage. In earlier driving games, like Southland Engineering's Time Trials (1963), the players drove tiny slot cars around a miniature track. Drive Master was different. The image of the track was stored on a large plastic disc and projected onto the playfield, where the player steered a plastic model car.


A number of similar games appeared in 1969, including Sega's Grand Prix, Kasco's Indy 500, and the biggest hit of them all, Chicago Coin's Speedway, which went on to sell 10,000 copies. In 1970, Allied Leisure decided to get into the act, but with a difference. Instead of a car, Wild Cycle (April, 1970) put the player in control of a tiny fluorescent motorcycle. As the player drove around the track, the handlebars vibrated, and when he crashed, they popped out at the player (perhaps one of the earliest "force feedback" controllers). The game even featured an 8-track tape deck that played music as they cruised. Chicago Coin answered with Motorcycle (October, 69), which blew air in the player's face. Despite the competition, Wild Cycle was Allied's most popular game yet. So popular, in fact, that two other manufacturers tried to buy Allied out. Allied decided to continue making games on their own. When their cabinet maker refused to continue working for them because he also worked for a competitor, Allied created its own woodworking shop. By this time the company had moved two more times before settling into a 40,000 square foot facility. They also had two other divisions turning out billiard supplies and consumer products (including a jogging machine called Master Jogger and  an exercise bike designed by Dave Braun)

            Next, Allied took to the skies with Sonic Fighter (June, 1970), another projection screen game in which the player shot down enemy fighters. Engineer Jack Pearson[2] explains how these games were created.  


[Jack Pearson] "What you did was you went to a local hobby shop and bought a 3D model of an airplane or whatever you wanted to shoot down and you painted up this model and took 35mm slides from all different angles and then built a projector. We’d go out and buy a projector lamp and build a mechanism for it ourselves and buy a lens. Then we’d have the projector mounted on a mechanism that we could move. So when we wanted to send an airplane across a screen, we’d turn this motor which would drive the projector and then turn the lamp on and it would show that picture going across the screen.
            You had a little PC board that had contacts on it and a wiper blade and as the projector moved, the wiper blade would move to different contacts on the projector. The gun would have the same kind of mechanism. So if the projector was on pin 2 and the gun was on pin 2 and the trigger was pulled, you’d get a [closed] circuit. Then we’d have a solenoid that would pull another slide in front of the projector with a picture of a red explosion. So the explosion would move the same way the airplane would have. It was difficult because you had to make everything yourself - the projectors, the guns and so forth"

Allied came back down to earth with two more projection driving games, the two-player Drag Racers (June, 1971), and Spin Out (October, 1971). On November 24, 1971, Allied went public, an unusual move for a coin-op company, but Allied did it to avoid having to rely on banks for financing.  In 1972 and early 1973 came the quiz game What-zit (February, 1972), two more air combat games, Crack Shot (November, 1972) and Rapid Fire (February, 1973), and an old-school driving game, Monte Carlo (1973?)[3]. Troy Livingston was VP of manufacturing during this period. He had come to Allied after a career that included a stint at NASA, where he'd designed motors, some of which ended up on the moon. At the 2005 pinball expo, Livingston told a humorous story about Rapid Fire and Crack Shot. At the, he was running a route on the side and Allied gave him some prototypes of the games to put out on test. When an ice cream store on the route closed down, Troy and a friend went to retrieve the prototypes, one of which came in a greyish cabinet that looked like a safe. Perhaps a little too much. As they carted the game out the back door, they were surprised to find themselves surrounded by five police cars.

The most unusual and innovative, product during these years came when Allied entered the pinball field with two games: Sea Hunt (May, 1972) and Spooksville (September, 1972). They may have been pinball games but they were anything but standard. The idea came when Allied's designers watched players bang and pound on regular pinball games and wondered “why not give them a machine they can shake without tilting it?” Their solution was something called shakerball. Shakerball was similar to regular pinball machines but the games were housed in a vertical cabinet with a smaller, free-floating playfield. The cabinet featured two large handles that the player gripped and shook causing the entire playfield to move up and down. Thumb buttons on the top of the handles activated the flippers. Despite its innovation, the novelty never really caught on, in part due to reliability problems, and shakerball remains a short-lived mutant offshoot of the pinball bloodline. Allied, however, was convinced that the concept could work and planned to enter the pinball market full scale in 1973, once they'd fixed the service issues. Then something happened that put all their plans on hold - Pong.

[1] Allied's first annual report in 1971 said that " Allied Leisure Industries, Inc. is the surviving company of successive mergers of affliliated companies. These mergers have been accounted for as poolings of interested and accordingly, the summary of earnings includes the operations of the company and its predecessors since inception on May 28, 1965."
[2] Note that Pearson didn't actually work on Sonic Fighter.
[3] Monte Carlo may have featured a ball bearing rather than a car. Allied's 1974 annual report includes a production schedule of games . It lists a game called Speed Ball as being in production duing March and April of 1973, but I have found no other reference to it and it does not appear in their list of games in the same annual report..


  1. Another great article. The local pinball arcade had a Spooksville for a while. It plays pretty slow since there isn't much incline on the playfield. The penny arcade also has Sonic Fighter, which I found fun and challenging. It was pretty impressive given the technology.

  2. Hi,
    My name is David Hodge.
    I am working with Ron Halliburton in a new startup company.
    Acme Game Designs LLC
    Ron could certainly help with any information you might need to fill in the blanks.
    Ron has had a life full of very successful game designs along with some other very interesting products.
    My email is
    Feel free to contact me regarding Ron and his life story he will be happy to reply.
    David Hodge
    Ron is still designing amazing games and God willing far into the future.

  3. Hello,

    I have an All-Tech Grip tester model GTA that I an trying to find more information on as the link for the grip unit to the gauge is broken and looks to be missing the connection part but need picture or diagram to find or build.


  4. great article.....I just picked up a wild cycle in almost perfect condition

  5. I have a All-Tech pool table that I can only find a patin number and 2 hand written numbers on, 1674. I want to restore this table as is in great condition. I just needs some TLC. my question is where can i find model number so i can track down the date of this table and if it is a one pr three piece table.

    1. I have done some research and the table paten was made in 1966 and viewed many tables that are similar but to no success I can not find out my answers to my questions.