Semi retired pinball Mr. Fix-It for hire
Keith Best contacted us to tell us about his fascinating career in pinball and to let you all know that he is still available at an amazingly low price to come and repair pinball machines in the South East. As you can see – Keith can turn his hand to just about anything – so make a note of his details.
“Pinball Express started officially in 1987 supplying and mainly repairing ‘Solid State’ pinball machines, although in truth I started to dabble back in 79 when I bought my first game through the local paper in Brighton.
This was a “HI DOLLY” Electromechanical flipper that never worked properly and after another three years and having repaired and sold another five pinballs, I got my first trade call from a busy arcade in West street in Brighton. There were six amusement arcades in that same street in those days and it wasn’t long before I was working for all of them in some way or another! This was together with the Nobles’ Palace Pier that had around 10 pinball tables that were in constant need of attention.
When I started Pinball Express in 87 in Turners Hill, Crawley, I was repairing with arcades from Portsmouth to Broadstairs and I left my company car job (with Unlimited petrol allowance) with Paynes Poppets in Croydon to follow the dream! In truth, I have seldom looked back.
At that time I was largely dealing with Philip Shefras Spares (now Suzo) & Deith Leisure and buying pinball stock in job lots to get the best price, until Deith sadly broke up towards the end of the millennium. I would have traded more with quality North London companies like UDC, Electrocoin, Brent and Eurocoin, but they were twice the distance of Deith … and anyway Deith had a far superior coffee machine.
I dealt commercially with amusements arcades, blue-chip companies, bars and restaurants, for on-site repairs and was registered with the “Gaming Board of Great Britain” as an operator/repairer of pinball machines, under the umbrella licence of another company called “Bobbitmatics” in south London.
I also dealt with the public: royalty and rock stars including Richard Branson who had a Twilight Zone that had some connection with Virgin Records (he never did let on – why?) and that was set up in his private studios, in Bayswater, which I then took after three years or so, after a full renovation, to his estate in Oxford.
Here are just a few of the famous names I dealt with and their chosen pinball games:
Robbie Williams – The Addams Family
Brian May – all three Star Wars and Flash Gordon
Roger Taylor – six various music-related pintables
Sol Kerzner, the Moroccan Royal Family and a Top Secret USA military base (masquerading as an RAF base from the front) were also interesting customers of mine. I’ve supplied on-site machines to private home-owners from penthouses and large country estates to council flats. Plus a Pharmaceuticals Co. that wanted a TERMINATOR 2 of all things!
One of the highlights of my career was a slot on Channel 4’s “Big Breakfast Show” on pinball machines. I also enjoyed building a customized pinball from scratch for the biggest construction company in the world. They used it for exhibitions all around Europe. They loved it and kept it going for years, although it needed the odd makeover!
Finally, after the machine had been battered around by transportation services for over 5 years, the company then asked me for another idea. I produced a 1950s mechanical lite up One-Armed-Bandit where clients were invited to pull handle in order to win a number of prizes. The reels were also printed with the new services the company wanted to promote.
Following this, I was approached by a PR company who asked me to produce models of pinball playfields for a Sky TV music show. They wanted footage of a chrome ball hitting targets towards the countdown of the charts.
This took three, 16-hour days of filming at Shepperton Studios to create just three minutes of footage – but the end result looked astounding!
There were tough times too – like the time I was visited at my Pinball Express showrooms by the Department of Trading Standards in 2005. They insisted I would have to change all my doorways to take wheelchairs, have a wheelchair friendly lift installed and ensure that any jobs were available to disabled people.
While I protested that the job required anyone to be fully standing to be of any use, I was told all companies will have to do this regardless of whether job applicant suitable or not.
This wasn’t the only piece of headless-corpse ideology being imposed quite unfairly on small companies without any reform or redress appeal avenues being available, – I was looking at thousands to be wasted on a property that I did not even own, as I was renting at the time.
So after consulting my accountants (it really does pay to have a good accountant) I decided to retire three years early and enjoy life. I traveled around the US and Europe before coming back and claiming my pension!
I’m still repairing and renovating Pinball games for the customer base built up over the many years.
Parts are becoming more difficult to obtain but collector groups around the globe are finding easier ways to copy circuitry without infringing copyrights and improving on original technology to give these great Pinball games made from 1976 right up to present date, a new lease of life.
Even I myself have kept back thousands of parts bought new up to 2006 for just this reason and am slowly using them to best effect long lasting quality repairs for both new and ‘old school’ customers.
Should you have any interest, parts or complete machines dating back to the late 1800s when these were started as bagatelle boards, I would be pleased to give any help or advice regarding these now cherished works of art.
Roger Taylor of Queen rock group asked me to renovate a 1949 Wurlitzer 1015 that he had shipped from USA which I took on to good friend Tony Rolfe to be renovated properly, which he did, and still works perfectly as a 78rpm jukebox should do.
Covering S.E. England counties I still repair all Pinballs for any location.
I get as much pleasure repairing as playing them, and if its beyond my understanding then I know just the person to put you in contact with. without charging dreaded VAT and other excessive charges, being retired at 62, I can now take life easier and would charge a mere £10 call out fee plus 0.40p per mile from home in East Grinstead.
This £10 payment covers a “slap-up binge” at KFC on the way home!
Should there ever be a time where an effective repair is beyond my understanding then I know just the person(s) to put you in contact with.
Please contact Keith by Tel: 01342-312311 or 01342-715542 (a/fone – anytime),
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