Pinball, the classic car that wont break your heart

Pinball, the classic car that wont break your heart

By Jeffoto

December 15, 2016

1 year ago

It started with a 1958 Chevy Impala in a parking lot in Utah. As though I'd never noticed the beauty of one before, I became suddenly irreversably smitten. It wasn't long before I bought a 1956 Buick that broke my heart with a mix of hidden problems, backyard mechanics, and poor auto body shops, I then trekked it across country and got swindled on a trade for a 1960 Buick Electra that broke down on the way back more than twice before getting stuck in a blizzard. I later had a 1965 Barracuda and the mechanic working on it skipped town mid-job, with the transmission. Then I got a 1957 New Yorker and a 1960 DeSoto... all beautiful, all obsessed over, all tragic at times. I stopped owning them for the last 10+ years and only recently traded my lust for classic cars last summer when, like before, I unexpectedly and suddenly fell in love with the idea of owning a classic pinball machine.

I scoured the internet for info, and pictures, and craigslist ads, and decided on a whim to buy one. After a 9 hour trek with my dad to ultimately decide against buying a 1965 Lucky Strike as a fix, play, and flip... (I still regret it a bit, as it seemed like a diamond in the rough for the price), I was even more determined than ever to buy one. I grew up with a Bally Night Rider in our basement that eventually stopped working and, in my college years, just sat idle in my room as a nifty safe for... uh.... other stuff.

Anyway, later that night I started to look around very carefully at pinball machines in ipdb for something with a good rule set, working condition, and not too expensive. I then came across one locally that fit my criteria: fun to play, chance for an extra ball, and wont break the bank. The next day, I bought a 1974 Bally Amigo. It had all the features I wanted from a first pin, simple layout but challenging, a pop up post between the bumpers, (cause I'm new at this) and the clencher, even before learning this for sure through research, the machine just had a familiar feel to it. Turned out that it was the first design by Greg Kmiec, who later went on to create Wizard, Xenon, and of course, Night Rider. The pop up post was sort of the bonus fix from Night Rider's death shot target in the same location by preventing that dastardly instant drain I remember as a kid when ours worked.

The night I brought it home, I had a full on panic attack. I was so excited about having a pinball machine, sure, but suddely had that buyer's remorse of "Holy Crap! This is a bit like the old cars, I don't know what I'm doing if this thing breaks down!" and so continued the stream of pinball videos to teach me about solenoids and adjusting switches, and cleaning contacts. It wasn't long before I, very proudly, rebuilt the flippers and diagnosed a sudden wierdness here and there until.... there was nothing left to fix on the machine except my ability to play it well. I could tell my dad was also getting excited again about pinball and, as a thank you to him and my mom for all the help they gave my wife and I during our move to Denver, I bought and shopped out a 1971 Gottlieb Play Ball which was very well recieved by them both.

Once it was no longer in my basement being constantly played and tweaked, I felt a strong sorrow growing as the need for a second machine eventually led me to add a 1976 Gottlieb Solar City to my collection cause, the need for drop-targets was very strong. :)

Now I am ready for a third, although my wife said otherwise. So perhaps a trade. Not because I am tired with either machine, on the contrary, I play them several times daily. I work from home and take 15-90 minute pinball breaks regularly. My son, once excited for them, has mostly moved his interest back to video games. I cannot get tired of pinball. I'm constantly learning more each day and whether I'm checking out the latest machines for sale, watching Todd Tuckey show me how each one plays on Youtube, and conversing with Steve Young about all the pieces I need to fix the latest minor issue, pinball is now my biggest day to day distraction.

I feel like a rich man owning two machines I can play whenever I like and finally, unlike classic cars, I own something that brings me just as much joy to wax and stare at as a 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible or a 1972 Buick Rivera. Only, I'll never end up on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck ever again.

Story photos

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1 year ago
Nice story it's cool how pinball reaches out to people everywhere.
1 year ago
Great story – thanks for the share. Yes, pinball is fun and never seems to lose my interest. I'm learning more and more each day myself and can't get enough.
1 year ago
Thanks for sharing. The problem with cars gotta take them outside to enjoy them. And who knows what will happen to them. I've thought many of time of selling my stuff and buying a late 70's Vette because they're fairly cheap and I like the look of them. But, once the car is out of your garage, they're at the mercy of the world.
1 year ago
I agree! The best times i ever had in my classic cars were when I was driving them. But even then, I recall worry of parking them. Other than admiration, I think pinball has completely taken over my desire to own another old car. I mean, think about it, how many pinball machines can one pick up for the price of just one cherry classic auto? By the way, the addiction continued as I just picked up a Revenge from Mars and Star Wars conversion kit to more or less double my collection. It will never be enough, but 4 machines should buy plenty of time before I get that itch again :)
1 year ago
I just bought #2 myself and my wife said that is the limit. She's playing them though so won't be long for her to feel the need for another one! Had the Playball. Very fun game! I play everyday too, it is a great stress reliever and people light up when they see a pinball and just lvoe playing. I really like getting my teen daughters into it as wel. Playing "old school" games instead of vids is a plus.
1 year ago
Great story. Well written. Best of luck in your future pinball (and classic auto) pursuits!
1 year ago
Thanks for the story, loved it. Your machines were out on the circuit when I first started playing, so it brought back fond memories. Most of the machines in the local arcade were Gottliebs, but there was a Fireball 72' version, still the best of its line. Along with Nip-It and Spanish Eyes. Unfortunately, it took 35 years before I bought my first pin LOTR, now ten years later, I have six including 2 EMs. : ) Keep the torch burning for the classics. Bill Hanson
1 year ago
Nice games bro. Welcome to the hobby. And btw, give up any notions that you will only have a few at a time. ;)
1 year ago
"Pinball unlike many other things is highly flexible. Unlike like a significant other, you can shut them off. Unlike a pet, you do not need to feed them or clean up after them. Unlike a car, they take up much less room. In the long run, no matter how old they get, they are still fun to play."

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