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

Penticton Speedway cleaning up landslide

Owner Johnny Aantjes expects the slide to be cleaned up in time for the next race on Sunday

Free entrepreneurship program for Indigenous women

Women from across B.C.’s southern interior can apply for the free program

Okanagan Lake levels stay steady but snowpack is growing: officials

Whether or not the tributaries and creeks flood depends on how suddenly the snowpack begins to melt,

Penticton robbery trial starts days before accused’s murder trial

Narcotics, cash stolen from pharmacy; accused scheduled for murder trial next week in Abbotsford

Listen Up to The Pack A.D.

CFUZ radio bring garage punk duo to Penticton

Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian

New acts join Roots and Blues Festival lineup

An eclectic mix of musicians added to Salmon Arm’s slate

Fighting racism is society’s job

BC Hockey’s plan to provide an education package makes a good first step

Proclaimers walk through the Okanagan

The Proclaimers play Vernon Sept. 11. Tickets on sale now through the Ticket Seller

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

Most Read