In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Automotive Specialists, Inc.’s Concord, NC facility, ACL Distribution recently paid tribute to company founder Keith Dorton and his team. “This commemorative memento marks the company’s fiftieth year of race engine innovations,” said ACL president Tim Vehlewald. “But, in fact, Keith’s performance engine skills and experience extend well beyond 50 years.”
Dorton’s first internal combustion engine challenge was with an early vintage flathead Ford that he rebuilt when he was twelve years old. While most twelve-year-olds were tinkering with their bicycles, his attention was on points, plugs, timing, carburetion and any other way of coaxing a horsepower or two from each of the V8’s cylinders. The boy-motor head continued enhancing the performance of OEM engines and at age fifteen started racing his accomplishments at a local drag strip.
Fortunately for many racecar drivers and teams, Dorton chose not to pursue racing as a driver and concentrated instead on engine building. He continued visiting Charlotte area tracks and drag strips, not as a driver, but as an observer to watch his engines compete and learn what he could about increasing horsepower and durability. Before long Dorton had gained a reputation for building fast and dependable race engines. The word spread and he was soon building a clientele and a reputation as the go-to guy for custom performance engines.
In 1965 Dorton got serious about developing an enterprise devoted exclusively to performance gasoline engines. and established Automotive Specialists, Inc, in Concord, located only about three minutes from the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Since that time, Automotive Specialists, Inc. has received international recognition for having established nineteen SCAT-sanctioned World Land Speed Records at Bonneville Salt Flats events and for winning numerous races in various circle track venues, including a NASCAR Daytona 500,” Said Vehlewald. “Dorton and his staff are credited with developing and building engines for a number of high profile race car drivers, including the legendary Dale Earnhart as well as Dale’s father, Ralph, and Dale’s son, Dale Jr. We at ACL are proud of these legendary professionals and their accomplishments.”
Today’s Automotive Specialists is a huge departure from the one-man shop of a half-century ago. At the outset, Keith continually invested in equipment and technology; their machine shop, dyno lab and assembly room are second to none. The staff includes Keith’s son, Jeff, and married daughter, Camille, who oversees the administrative functions of the business; and Keith’s wife, Patsy, who has been the business mainstay since the beginning.