So my random visits to 2nd hand shops & pawnbrokers finally ended in spending some money.
It also came with the garishly-bright-orange lined, grey padded vinyl carrying case and a few bits as well. Was a little bit of a haul on the bike but it survived the journey home strapped to the pannier rack.
I took the top off and it looks unworn although there are a few wear marks here and there externally. I ran a few stitches and it seems to work ok, certainly better than the other machine from such a limited test. It has some strange stitches such as ones that move the needle backwards and the zigzag width setting mechanism is just a bit novel.
Not much about this make on the internet apart from someone trying to sell the same one for $400 on gumtree. But it just appears to be a Brother rebadge and there's more info on those and best i can tell it seems to be about as old as me. Strangely there are almost no manufacturer markings on the machine at all apart from the branding on the front and a serial number on a plate riveted to the underside. Maybe they were hiding the fact that it was made in Japan?
I just wanted a free-arm machine and given it was almost all metal and it looked to be in good enough nick the $89 cash converters wanted didn't seem much of a risk even if the bloke gave me some funny looks. Not that i have anything in particular to sew but it's handy to have one that works properly.