June 21

News : Pinball wizard brings old machines back to life : The Elkhart Truth

The Elkhart Truth has posted a story about John Freel, a man who repairs pinball machines and sells them for profit.


ELKHART — At the end of Homer Avenue, just off the embankment from the U.S. 20 Bypass, a brown metal building holds hundreds of hours worth of entertainment.

The building houses Elkhart Pinball, a repair, restoration and showroom for dozens of machines with flashing lights, kooky sound effects and pinging bells.

The man behind the coin-operated fun is John Freel, who opened the business in 2001 as a retirement hobby-business after he finished his career at AM General in Mishawaka.

Freel bought his first pinball machine in 1988 for $35. He said it was always a dream of his to own a machine, but he couldn’t afford a working one.

“I bought my first one and it wasn’t working,” he said.

When he finally found a place that could repair it, that company said it wouldn’t because he had not bought the machine from them.

Freel, being a resourceful man who did everything from welding to air conditioning repair to painting at AM General, figured out how to get it to work himself.

“The first one I ever bought was a 1953 Marble Queen. I’m glad I bought that because it’s like working on a ’55 Chevy,” Freel said. “You could open up the hood, crawl inside, close the hood and still have plenty of room to work inside.

“The ’53 pinball was pretty much the same way … bare-bones, real simple and easy,” he added. “After I got it running, I found one in the paper for $35 not running (and thought), ‘Well, I’ll try it again.’”

Soon he was buying one to three machines a week.

Freel said he is unsure of exactly how many pinball machines he has right now. A loft in his shop has dozens of machines that he will eventually repair, refurbish and sell.

“I do it for enjoyment,” he said. “I like bringing dead games back to life and then making a couple bucks.”

Freel’s shop includes thousands of parts and original factory circuit board testers, as well as tool racks he fashioned himself.

To read the entire story, click the link below :

Thanks to the Elkhart Truth and Sam Householder for the story and pictures.