I've never been much of a ball sports guy, especially when the balls tend to get inordinate in size. Those tiny little golf balls always end up arcing off in directions that would make the St. Louis Arch blush with shame for it's gentle shape. Worse yet are those big ass bowling balls, I swear there are magnets in the middle of those orbs that draw them into the gutters a mere 10' down the alley. So I found myself a bit perplexed when I really enjoyed playing Clay's ball bowler during the VFW open house this past spring; I really do not enjoy bowling but this was FUN! The next thing I knew, I was on the search for just the right machine; one that would not take much work to get it playing at a price that a family with one kid in college and one on the way could afford.
After a few projects proposed by Pinsiders passed on, a night of little sleep led me to some surfing for yet another prospective candidate. This night, however, was not a loss of sleep for no reason. I ran across an estate sale for a gentleman who had a well outfitted gameroom...from 1970! Among the requisite pool table and a few pins sat a 1970 El Grande Big Ball Bowler, purchased new, set up, and never again moved. I was ecstatic to find a true home use only machine that had a good chance of working 100% with a little love. The auction company would accept phone bids, so despite that fact that it took place during work hours, I thought I would have a good chance of bringing this one home unless something drastic happened to intervene. Wouldn't ya know it, something did.
I work as a firefighter/medic for our city, a job that can leave a fair amount of latitude for such things as calling in a phone bid for a vintage arcade machine, unless you get called out for an emergency. As the lot neared it's time, it happened, a structure fire in an industrial building. No getting out of this one, my hopes of finally finding my ball bowler literally went up in flames.
I was a bit dejected for a week, but pulled up my boot straps and figured that the right machine would find me eventually. Eventually happened much sooner than I anticipated.
Browsing for machinery for my business the next day, the bowler from the estate sale popped up in a regional ad with a lathe and mics. chattel. Seems that the bowler was swept up by a gentleman who cruises auctions and flips the items that do not fit into his stores particular genre. A few emails later and he confirmed it was the same machine, that he witnessed it lit up and operating, but that it would need some work as it had a few operational quirks. He had it loaded into his enclosed trailer and offered to deliver it for a few hundred dollars more if I would give him a few leads on people to pick in the area. Before I knew it, the El Grande was headed west to it's new home.
When it arrived, it was in great shape albeit quite dirty. The bad news...in an effort to move the machine out of it's previous residence, he had cut the wiring harness "because they must have hard wired it when it was installed since it was in a permanent residence." Oh boy. When I pointed out the Jones plugs a mere 10 inches from where he had cut the harness to separate the head from the lane, he just shook his head..."so that's what those board things are! Let's get it unloaded."
Some serious man-handling got the monster in the house and downstairs so I could begin working on it.
The machine is like a time capsule, every manual, schematic, and typed instruction sheet is in place.
Opening the back, pin hood, and lane access was a bit intimidating, so many switches, stepper units, and relays, but armed with the TOP ball bowler video and a lot of patience, the work began...I keep telling myself that I really don't like bowling, seriously
Off to bed now, more progress in the next post.