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Matters of the Heart
Published on: December 30, 2022
Keith and Jeff Dorton of Automotive Specialists

When it came to the heart of the #50 Pontiac Tempest we spent a lot of time looking for a perfect original engine. With the help of Robert George, Roger was able to locate a Tempest short block, not in perfect condition, but workable. Then, the next big choice, who would work on the heart of the car? The Tempest team chose very carefully from those people they knew and the recommendations they had received.

We selected the father and son team, Keith and Jeff Dorton of Automotive Specialists in Concord, North Carolina to rebuild and dyno test the engine. It really was an easy decision. After all, Keith is well-known in the racing world and has been building engines for over 50 years. He started when he was just 12 years old by rebuilding a flathead engine for a 1932 Ford Coupe. He was drag racing by the time he was 15. Then, after working for race car builder Holman-Moody for a few years, he opened his own business at just 21 years old. One of his first paying customers was none other than NASCAR’s Ralph Earnhardt.

One of our main goals, besides the cleanup of the older engine, was to take the engine from around 405 hp all the way to 500+ hp. Besides all of the small typical engine rebuilding chores, one of the first major things that Keith did was to lighten the rotating assembly. Then, in order to make the Tempest driveable at Daytona, they had to hand-build an old-school oil pan that would allow sufficient room for Daytona’s steep track banking. The team decided to go with an Edelbrock aluminum cylinder head for the engine so Keith and Jeff had to do a little creative machining to make it fit with the OEM aluminum intake manifold.

Sometime later and after many questions were answered, the heart of the Tempest was completed. A quick trip to the dyno showed it producing 500+ horsepower, just what we were striving for!

Automotive Specialists is a true family business built from the ground up. Jeff has spent his life growing up in the shop and started working on engines as a youngster alongside of his dad. Keith’s wife, Patsy, and daughter, Camille, also work for the business. They work together building and testing engines for a wide range of uses, including drag racing, boats, a wide variety of circle track applications (ARCA, USAC, NASCAR) and even Bonneville land speed vehicles.

We could not be happier with the time and work that Keith and Jeff put into building us a remarkable engine. They helped us meet all of our goals and made the #50 Pontiac Tempest’s heart pump stronger than we could have imagined in the beginning.

Published by: Roger Rosebush

With 54 years of racing experience and over 40 of them in the Automotive Aftermarket, Roger is in a unique position to speak to those wanting an insight into many areas of interest in the industry.

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