Have you ever "lost" a pinball machine? I have, and I'll tell you about it as I give you some background into how I started fixing pinball machines. I began playing pinball as a teenager in the early 70's. The first machines I remember playing were Satin Doll and El Dorado (still my favorite EM to play). I own a Target Alpha, the four-player version, but I like the single player El Dorado better. When I was thirteen, my dad bought me a Williams Hayburners II, the first machine with 3" flippers. This is the machine I lost, which I'll explain later. Instead of a plunger, it had an oscillating turret between the flippers that you could aim and shoot the ball into play. It was the first skill shot I remember for getting a ball into play. Hayburners II also had great animation in the backbox. It had six race horses that moved across the backbox as you hit targets on the field. By today's standards it is an easy game to beat, but it is super cool. I really wish I still had it. For nostalgia purposes, I hope to get one again in the future.
When I was seventeen, the TILT arcade in the mall got a Firepower machine and had a contest to see who could post the highest score. The winner would get a party for 20 people at the arcade. To be honest, I didn't care about the party, but I did want the satisfaction of knowing I could win the contest. I did win and to this day haven't cashed in on my party. Later that year they held what was called The World Pinball Championship in another mall, though I am sure that it wasn't worldwide. I assume it was only for those in the Tidewater area. They had five new machines all of which were the first generation Williams electronic games. Those who posted the best combined score on all the machines moved on to the championship held at the Marriott Hotel. After the qualifying, I had the highest score going in to the tournament. The winner would receive an electronic version of a Hot Tip pinball machine. It was a single elimination tournament and I breezed through until the semi-final match. I then played a game on the Williams widebody machine CONTACT which had those dreaded in-line flippers with dual action on the flipper button. Out of five balls, three drained immediately down the outlanes without me touching them once. Needless to say, I lost the game. To this day, I despise CONTACT.
It was at college that I "lost" my Hayburners II. One summer when school was out I stayed in Nashville to work at UPS. I moved my machine from Virginia to Nashville so I could play it. When school started back up in the fall, I wasn't allowed to bring the machine into the dorm, so I left it with a married "friend" so that he and his kids could play it. Well, my friend moved across country and took my pinball machine with him. I didn't realize he had moved until it was too late. By the time I found out, it was too much trouble and expense to get my machine back.
After this incident as well as going to college, seminary, and getting married, I quit playing pinball for awhile. Yes, I said seminary. It may seem a bit out of place for a preacher to be a pinhead, but I still enjoy playing a real game. Just call me the pinball preacher. Anyway, I got back into pinball accidentally by placing a bid on E-Bay for a Space Shuttle. I was sure that my maximum bid would not win, but it did. So I got a Space Shuttle and the pin bug bit me.
After getting my Space Shuttle, I was able to get a "lot" of 19 early solid state machines for less than a Medieval Madness. I thought, I'd rather have 19 machines instead of just one Medieval Madness even if I don't get an exploding castle. Plus, most of these games were from my teen years and held a nostalgic place in my heart. The shipping for all 19 machines from Canada was only $1,000, a little under $60 per machine. So, I bought the machines for $5,000 plus $1,000 shipping for a total of $6,000. I've been restoring these games over the past 15 years. You can see the descriptions and pics of the games at my website: www.thepinballfix.com If I can do it, then anyone else can. Hopefully, my work will help and inspire you to "fix pins for the fun of it."