ACA Machine Shop Returns!

After closing shop for nearly a decade, the Pullella family is back in business.

By Frank Adkins

Most local folks who raced or hot-rodded cars in the 80's and early 90's knew the name ACA Machine Shop. Located at 2415 W. Fifth St. in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a mainstay of the automotive community.

ACA (which stands for Atlantic Coast Automotive) wasn't your average machine shop sustained by routine valve jobs on utilitarian passenger car engines. Sure, they did that type of work, but they were better known for custom engine work, focusing more on high-performance build-ups and machining. Owners Joe and Cheryl Pullella had a hard-earned reputation of providing excellent workmanship, sound advice and fair pricing. For years their business thrived, and they even sponsored a few area racers.

Then, on day in October 1996, the doors on their tiny block building closed forever and an icon was lost.

Even now, nearly a decade later, there are people who fondly remember ACA. Some still speculate on why a busy shop with loyal clientele would close. The truth beneath the speculation is that Joe injured his back and required surgery.

Two operations and several months of physical therapy left him barely able to stand, much less toss a pair of cast iron cylinder heads onto the workbench or hoist a crankshaft into the balancer. The Pullellas could have hired help, but Joe was wary.

"I didn't want somebody else doing work for me when I couldn't even supervise. Our name was at stake," he explains. At the time, it seemed Pullella's days as an automotive machinist were over.

Eventually, Joe took a job as the service manager in an area dealership while Cheryl worked for the same organization in the accounting department, but they never lost their desire to recreate what they once had. Finally, they left the dealership, and in March 2004 they went back into business for themselves. ACA was back. Only now, grown sons Joe, Jr. and Anthony have joined the business.

Their new facility is located at 73 Albe Drive, Suite 1 in Newark, Delaware. When you visit, don't expect to find a showroom adorned with neon lights, chromed engine parts or other eye candy. ACA's shop is all business. Hulking pieces of equipment fill the building, but in this well-planned shop there is a place for everything. There was no glitz or glitter in their original facility, nor is there in this one. The Pullellas know they don't need it. As before, their reputation speaks for itself.

The new ACA Performance is a full-service machine shop, offering engine block and cylinder head reconditioning, crankshaft reconditioning and balancing and the like. They can do complete engine tear-down and assembly or machine just the pieces you take them. Furthermore, they have the knowledge and equipment to do custom machine work for high-performance and off-road applications, and they've been known to remove and install engines in special cases.

In addition to the machine work, Joe often gives advice based on three decades' experience to help his patrons select the proper camshaft, compression ratio and headers for their individual applications. It's a service you wouldn't receive with a crate engine. With a custom built engine, Joe explains, "You get what you want and you usually save a few bucks doing it."

When talking horsepower, Joe says, "We seldom speculate on horsepower numbers. Bottom line, if an engine didn't run well, the customer would be unhappy, regardless of any horsepower number. We always shoot to build engines that run well.

If you've dealt with ACA in the past, you'll be glad to know that they're back. If you are new to the automotive scene, give them a call in Newark at (302)369-0200.