One Arm Bandits

For a short time Wolverhampton was a centre for the production of gaming machines. Tractor Spares was a major player in the industry.  This is the story of that calamity.

Mr. Robert Sneath, who operated from 9 George Street, Snow Hill, Wolverhampton, had a D4 fitted with one of our £500 Baker TD9 Angle Dozers purchased from Long Marston in 1946 for £35.

Bob Sneath started purchasing old "One Arm Bandits", stripping them down, replacing worn parts and renting the units out to Pubs and Clubs. By 1966 he was working from The Round House, New Road, Wooton-under-Edge. Bob borrowed £1,000 from me and £1,000 from Ray Chapman. After trading for a year or so, he repaid us both.

In 1969 Bob Sneath, Ray Chapman, C. Hermitage, John Duggan and I each advanced £4,000 to start a new company to make a new gaming machine.

Qual-Tec Limited was incorporated on 6th May 1969.

We purchased this church in Bleanavon, Monmouthshire for £5,000, with completion at the end of two years, so as not to deplete working capital.

Mr. Duggan was a gaming machine designer and, as a full time working Director, would design, manufacture and sell the gaming machines. He estimated the company would require an initial capital of £13,000 to enable it to attain production of ten machines per week by October 1969.

Delays arose in obtaining new specification machine parts from other manufacturers. With the company having no income and being short of working capital, I advanced a further £4,000 to enable wages to be paid and so that two Prototype machines could be displayed at the Gaming Machine Exhibition at Blackpool.

A selling price of £365 was fixed for each machine, based on costs of parts at £135 and overheads at £150. These costings were based on producing ten machines per week, leaving a net profit of £80 per machine. As a result of the display at the Exhibition 400 machines were sold.

Further delays took place due to design changes which necessitated re-tooling. This, together with labour costs which were double the estimated figures, and bulk purchases, further depleted working capital.

The Company was never able to pay its debts on time. The first year's trading showed a nett loss of £29.


The Discovery Mark 3.


   The Vista hybrid solid state AWP

Memomatic of Wigan placed an order on 11th January, 1971 for 2,000 machines, the first 1,000 at £320 each, to be delivered at a rate of 40 per week. This price should have resulted in a profit of £30 per machine. Only 18 per week were going out of the factory. So we appointed Mr. Walter James Anderson (ex Decca’s Tractor Spares factory), a qualified electronics engineer, as Managing Director on 4th March, 1971 at a salary of £3,500 per year. By April production had increased to 43 machines per week.

The output could not be maintained due to the lack of materials from suppliers who were by now owed substantial amounts. There were 150 suppliers chasing money and Customs and Excise wanted £16,626 Purchase Tax. To help with the shortage of working capital, £25,000 was borrowed from Messrs. Dawes of Hagley Road, Birmingham, at 11% interest.

Memomatics first bill of exchange for £50,000 was met, but the second bill for £50,000, due in September, was dishonoured. This bill was in Tractor Spares name and 80% was covered by E.C.G.D.

In 1972 a further loan of £6,650 was made to the Company by S. E. Weight to enable it to produce a new range of machines. However, from May to October only 18 machines a week were produced. In September, in order to reduce overheads, Qual-Tec ceased trading in the church and moved to Bay 6, Strawberry Lane estate, Wolverhampton. By this time the net loss was £85,072.

On 29th December, 1972 a petition for £5,198 was presented and a winding up order was made.

A total of 1,400 machines had been produced in the period 1969-72.

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