I’m not sure this can be called a “restoration” as I won’t be taking every component off the play field, rebuilding the cab, etc. but it will certainly be a refurbishment. Anyhow, on with the show!
First some history, I am new to the pinball hobby having purchased my first machine, Pinbot, about three months ago. Pinbot was very dirty and missing some parts when I got him so I spent about a month in my garage getting that game up and running. It was a great learning experience for me and I definitely got the bug after that.
My Whirlwind took me a little time to track down. I had posted on our local Facebook group that I was looking for good system 11 titles and someone had replied that they thought there was a Whirlwind down in south Texas in a warehouse. The story was it had been in a pizza parlor for years and didn’t see much play. Then it disappeared from the pizza place for years and had recently been seen in a warehouse or storage unit. I messaged the poster several times for more information but never heard back. That was back in January. Fast forward to early March and I was mentioning to my wife that once we got our 3rd pin (we had bought a JP and had a line on a STTNG) one of the pins I would still run out and grab was Whirlwind. That got me thinking about that Facebook post a couple months before that I never heard back on.
So I messaged the guy again, again no answer. At that point I decided to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and see if I could find this elusive beast. I started calling pizza places in the town where the machine was last seen and got a number for an amusement company who might know about it during my second call. I called them and BINGO! They had the machine in their warehouse. The owner was out of town so I left a message and was told to call back in a few days.
I did get in touch with the owner and he said he had routed the machine in the 90s and 2000s in the local area. He then sold it to a customer who had it in their house for 15 years. He recently bought it back from them because it would not boot. He originally planned to fix it and have it in his house but he didn’t know much about pinball repair and had hit a wall. After hearing I had called he decided he would sell it as he had too many projects. He told me if I wanted to come get it he would sell it for $1000. I almost dropped the phone! I asked him to send pictures to me and I would come get it in a couple days.
A few days later my son and I got up at 2 AM, drove 14 hours round trip and got the machine. Here’s the machine after we pulled it out from behind a bunch of boxes: