WALLINGFORD — Mike Acabbo stood at a workbench, looking at the glossy black 1971 Pontiac LeMans Sport in his garage. The car is surrounded by trophies and photo collages of the Pontiac at car shows.
“This is what it used to look like,” Acabbo said, pointing to a picture from the mid-’80s that showed the car painted green with rust patches.
The car has a 467-cubic-inch engine and is equipped with a nitrous oxide system, which adds even more horsepower.
“It’s got a high number of horsepower,” Acabbo said. “I’ve never told anyone how much it is.”
The 47-year-old town native has worked at Lyman Hall High School as a custodian for the past four and a half years. He’s had the Pontiac since he was 15.
He graduated from Wilcox Technical High School in 1985 and worked at a local garage pumping gas after high school. He next took a job at Connecticut Power & Sport, a motorcycle dealer where he worked for 11 years.
He moved on to Read’s Auto Repair. Over 11 years, Accabo learned a lot from Jack and Tucker Read, he said.
Accabo’s current boss was a customer at Read’s and recommended he take a job with the school system.
He didn’t want to change jobs at first because he liked working at Read’s.
“It was a good move — the best move I’ve ever made,” Acabbo said of taking the custodian job. “I love going to work every day and going to the auto shop classes and passing along the stuff I learned.
“I can’t say enough about the people,” he added. “They treat me like gold.”
Building and Grounds Supervisor Marc Deptula said Acabbo has been a valuable addition.
“He’s very dedicated and his interpersonal skills with the staff is phenomenal,” Deptula said. “He takes this custodial thing to a new level because he has this great mechanical ability.”
When he’s not working, he spends time in his garage — tinkering with his snowmobiles or his Pontiac.
Accabo and his wife Jennifer have three daughters — Haley, 15, Gina, 10, and Sammi, 9.
“All of this is for them,” he said of his family. “They make it worth it.”
It’s not unusual to find his daughters working in the garage with him. He frequently teaches them how to take something apart and put it back together.
“Sammi can put together a clutch as good as me,” Accabo said.
“In like two seconds!” Sammi said proudly.
While talking about his car and his career, Accabo’s daughters chimed in enthusiastically using technical terms.
“It means the world to me,” he said of seeing his daughters wanting to get involved. “I love having them out here.”
Asked how long he’ll continue working on the Pontiac, Acabbo laughed.
“There’s always little things I find to work on,” he said. “I’ll probably keep doing it forever.”