Shuswap man goes full tilt for pinball

Howard Vangool shows his collection of retro machines

Stepping into Howard Vangool’s basement, one is greeted by a multitude of flickering lights accompanied a disjointed chorus of swooshes, clicks, gunfire and the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 proclaiming, “I am the future.”

The lights and sounds emanate from Vangool’s collection of pinball machines. There are currently 10 machines, along with a vintage “cocktail table” arcade machine, a converted upright cabinet arcade machine, a Japanese three-reel slot machine and a pachinko machine.

While the Terminator 2 pinball machine may have been the future in 1991 when it was released, all of the machines in Vangool’s collection are both retro yet trendy, as pinball is seeing a resurgence, both competitively and as sought-after collectibles.

“Five years ago, pinball was basically unknown. Now, there are pinball stores running full time… It’s actually amazing, we’re almost at a renaissance, a new age of pinball machines,” said Vangool. “For pinball people, there are some machines that are coming out that are just incredible. Lord of the Rings started it off probably six or seven years ago.”

Five years ago, the Shuswap photographer picked up his first pinball machine, Data East’s Time Machine, a game that allows players to travel back in time from the 1980’s, to the ’70s, ’60s and the 1950s when the machine simulates an older, pre-digital pinball complete with bell chimes.

Vangool got into playing Time Machine and soon after found himself responding to an ad for a used Lethal Weapon pinball machine. And so the collection began.

“I have an electronics background, so people were phoning me and saying, ‘hey, I’ve got one of these in my basement but it doesn’t work. Can you come and fix it?” said Vangool. “So I’d go over there and take a look. Each one of these machines has its own story, basically.”

One of Vangool’s more memorable pinball purchases took him to Rossland in the West Kootenays. It was for Comet, a Williams Electronic Games Inc. machine from 1985.

“It was the first one (digital pinball) to have the million point shot on it… It was a big deal when it came out,” said Vangool. “So the guy said, ‘I’ve had this machine for 14 years and I’ve only made the million shot three times or four times in my life.’ So I get it home and start playing it and that night I got the million point shot three times.”

With their popularity increasing, Vangool said decent old pinball machines have become harder to find. When he gets them, Vangool has no problem lifting the playing field and doing the repairs needed to get them back in tip-top condition – provided the parts are available.

“I’m always looking for machines,” stresses Vangool. “If anybody has got a machine sitting in their basement or whatever, I always offer the fairest price I can. If it’s not working, I can’t offer a ton of money because – usually it’s a board gone or something like that, boards can cost $300, and then I have to put in $200 worth of LEDs.”

Vangool has had up to 15 pinball machines and sells them from time to time. There are a few, however, that will remain staples to his collection.

“I probably would never sell GoldenEye or Lethal Weapon and probably not Terminator – Each one of these is worth $3,000 and probably more,” said Vangool.

Asked if there’s a particular machine he’d like to add, Vangool says there’s a few, but the 1997 Williams’ classic, Medieval Madness, tops the list.

“Medieval Madness is actually being remade because it was named as the number one, most wanted pinball machine…,” said Vangool. “That one for sure. To find one in somebody’s basement or something would be awesome.”


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Reel Reviews: Parlour games or video games

We say, “Rampage is silly fun and Truth or Dare is just silly”

Counterpoint sings for the waters

Counterpoint Choir presents Alleluia for the Waters May 4-5 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Vernon

AT RANDOM: Searching for the right process

RDNO directors want to help Vernon Search and Rescue find new home. But do some of their colleagues?

Chamber community excellence finalists announced

Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce Community Excellence Awards winners announced April 28

Nature Centre fundraiser uproots

Allan Brooks Nature Centre’s Wine and Wild Things is June 23 at Lonepine Ranch

Polson Park goes blue

Polson a flurry of activity as people gathered for the fifth annual Autism Awareness Walk Sunday

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Ballet Kelowna drives classic hit through Okanagan

A Streetcar Named Desire is at the Kelowna Community Theatre May 1-2, Vernon May 4

Headbones welcomes new exhibition

INTERwoven covers the Headbones Gallery walls April 26

Low fog creates stunning views near Sicamous

Motorists on the highway between Salmon Arm and Sicamous were treated to spectacular scenery.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Okanagan-Similkameen freshet looms large: district

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen says property owners have window to prepare for flooding

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Most Read