Northwest Profiles: One Proud Pin Head! (Pinball Machine Restorer)

♪ ♪
– And now, on with the show.
(arcade music)
♪ Take your shot, do
you wanna win or not ♪
♪ Take your show, we
will always win a lot ♪
– My name’s Dale Nagy.
I am a Deputy Prosecutor
for Spokane County,
and my hobby is restoring
pinball machines.
(rock music)
I always said boy, when I grow
it’d be great to have
my own pinball machine.
It kinda sat in the back of my
Being in the Air Force,
I’m moving every two years,
so I can’t really have a pinball
So finally, when I retired,
that’s when I decided
it was time to get one.
(“Theme from Star Trek”)
Got a master’s degree in
aeronautical engineering,
and I was a pilot in the Air
I loved that, but engineering
seemed really boring to me,
that’s why I became a lawyer.
I loved getting into those
manuals, the schematics,
figuring out how something
works, fixing that,
so I’m sure that’s really
kinda what drives my passion.
That’s probably why I fixing
them more than I like playing,
because of that engineering
At least, I think I’m doing
with my engineering degree
(arcade music)
They started out as something
called a bingo machine.
Bingo machines were about
the same size and shape
of the modern pinball machine,
but they didn’t have flippers.
What they had were 24 holes,
and on the back glass,
they would have what appeared
to be, like a bingo card.
And the patron would go
in to put the nickel in,
they’d get five balls, and
you’d shoot the ball up,
and you’d try to get five
balls in a row on the numbers.
And then, in 1947, Gottlieb put
on these things for the first
got rid of the holes, made them
and that’s when they really took
(rock music)
Pinball machines were
tough for the arcade owner,
’cause they broke a lot.
Pinball just about died
around the year 2000.
The Williams company
and the Bally company,
late 1990’s, were the last two
But then, over the last four
years, they’re making more,
there’s actually four companies
now making pinball machines.
And they’re putting out
quite a few every year.
(intense rock music)
What makes pinball machines
special in my mind,
is, if you got that very large
metal ball,
and you get to hit it with those
and just the action of the
pinball seems more real to me
than an arcade game where
everything is just digital.
Here you have real life
targets you’re aiming at,
you get to knock things down
with this large silver ball,
just gives me a lot of
a lot of good feedback.
(laughs) Well I don’t know,
I wouldn’t say that, but it
My job, I have a bad habit of
my work home with me, but
whenever I’m down here,
and whenever I’m repairing
a pinball machine,
I forget about my work, I
forget about everything else,
and I just concentrate
on fixing that game.
(strong beat)
My father, unfortunately,
never had any hobbies and
I’ve kinda gone too far the
other way,
I’ve golf, I’ve got the slot
I’ve got Lionel trains,
a lot of nerdy stuff.
When I saw your ad for the ACDC
Finding machines, that’s
part of the fun of it.
I was wondering, I saw your
it’s reasonable, certainly.
I look on Craigslist, and
I search in Nickel Nik.
Occasionally I’ll go out to yard
garage sales, I’ll look in the
That’s mainly how I find them.
I did, have my own website now.
and on there, I tell folks,
hey, I’ll help you find how
to fix your pinball machine,
but if you want to sell it,
I’d be more than happy to buy
When I look for pinball
machines, there’s a camaraderie.
I’ve met some of the folks
that also are looking
for pinball machines.
And some folks are real
They want nothing to do, they
won’t communicate with you,
they won’t give you a name or
there are just people,
you know, are out there,
so you gotta be quick, if
you find one you really like,
you gotta get in your truck,
and get out to that location
and check it out.
– Let’s rip some road.
(rock music)
– Part of the greatest
part about the hobby,
I get to play all these games
quite a bit.
And once I play it, after a 100
I’ll pretty much know if
it’s one of my top five.
I won’t sell it unless it works
perfectly 100 straight
times, and then if it’s not,
okay, I’ll put it on the market,
and usually they sell
within a couple weeks
once I get them on the market.
When they come to buy one, I say
have you ever owned a pinball
And I make them take the top
and I lift it up to show
them what it involves.
And I say look, if you’re
afraid to open this up,
get underneath, get a soldering
iron, and fix something,
’cause that’s probably all it’s
gonna be, is one loose wire,
don’t buy this, ’cause I’ve
got it working good now.
But you’re gonna get it home.
It may be two years from now,
it may be two months from now,
it may be two days from
now, it’s gonna break.
And you’re gonna be mad.
But if you’re not afraid to do
what I’m showing you right here,
open it up and look for that
loose wire
and solder that loose wire
or fix that little switch
that’s just bent, that’s
all you need to get it up,
if you’re afraid to do that,
you’re not gonna like the
pinball machine, don’t buy it.
– You’ve just crossed over
into the Twilight Zone.
(rock music)
– I’ve got my favorite machine,
I’ve got in the back
there is Twilight Zone.
That is the best pinball
machine ever made.
It’s got the most elaborate
it’s just a fantastic machine,
I can play that forever.
I haven’t come across a
machine that’s not fixable.
But I will tell you, the one
that you see
in the background there, the
Grand Prix,
I’ve been working on that
for eight months now.
I’m almost there (laughs).
(rock music)

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