Yes, Al Bergler is a racer but he is also much more. Al is a master craftsman who earned a reputation in several areas within the hot-rodding arena. Al grew up in the automotive city of Detroit. In 1958 he started his participation in the performance arena by building his first hot rod in his parents’ garage. He chopped the top of a Model A Ford coupe, channeled the body over the chassis and installed a 392 cubic inch multi-carbureted Chrysler Hemi for power. His drag racing career began shortly after completing the coupe/roadster and continued with a Chrysler powered 1934 Ford coupe. Already bitten by the speed bug, in order to go quicker and faster in 1959, he built a sleek rear engine modified 1950 Crosley wagon powered by a blown 392 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi. Al’s next ride was the first in a series of Austin Bantam coupes. One a highly modified A-B body mounted on a Chassis Research Dragster chassis and was powered by his reliable blown Chrysler Hemi engine. 1964 saw the introduction of his newest Austin Bantam coupe. This time mounted on a purpose built Logghe chassis and featuring a blown 392 Chrysler on gas for power. With this car Al won Super Eliminator and Best Appearing Car at the 1966 NHRA Springnationals in Bristol, Tennessee and was Super Eliminator class runner-up at the 1966 NHRA World Nationals Finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This car also provided a very rare achievement for Al when it became one of the very few race cars to win the coveted Riddler Award in 1964.
From the beginning of the 1967 season Al produced another of his unusual AA/C cars. This time a 1923 T- roadster body mounted on a Logghe chassis with his blown 392 cubic inch Chrysler on gas for power. Al debuted this car at the 1967 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California and promptly took home the class winner trophy along with the Best Appearing Car Award. He later drove this car to runner-up in the Super Eliminator class at the 1967 NHRA Springnationals in Bristol, Tennessee and the 1968 NHRA World Finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He added Super Eliminator class wins at both the 1968 in 1969 NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. For his appearance at the 1968 NHRA Winternationals Al added a full driver canopy that enhance the cars appearance. In 1970 Al switch classes to AA/GD and dropped his blown Chrysler into a full-bodied Logghe chassis and managed to race to the runner-up slot at the 1970 NHRA Summernationals in York, Pennsylvania.
With the upcoming demise of AA/GD class the nitro burning funny cars were able to produce a much greater income. In 1971 Al teamed up with Tom Prock, as the driver, and moved into the funny car ranks with a Vega body mounted on a Loghee chassis. Along with his changing car classes Al changed his powerplant to a supercharged injected late-model Ramchargers 426 Chrysler Hemi on nitro; that was billed as the “Motown Shaker”. Al and Tom competed at as many NHRA major events as time permitted, but the mainstay of the day was match racing and they competed in his many as three races per week.
Over the next few years the Motown Shaker handle appeared on a series of funny cars that Al campaigned. The 1972 Motown Shaker still featured a Loghee chassis with a new Vega body. But this time with a Keith Black 426 Chrysler for power and a new driver Butch Mass with Al substituting for Butch on occasion. In 1973 the Vega received a new paint scheme and Al returned to the driver seat full time. The 1973 NHRA Gatornationals was a good news bad news event for Al. The good news was he qualified well into the show and won the Best Appearing Car Award for the event. The bad news was the car was completed destroyed in a semifinal event fire. The 1974 Motown Shaker was simply an update of the 1973 car. The 1975 car had the Vega body replaced with a Mustang body. As a part of the regular match racing schedule Al was also one of the featured cars of the Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Funny Cars Tour.
In 1977 Al replaced the Mustang body by returning to the General Motors stable installing a Corvette body which lasted through 1980 when he replaced it with a Firebird Trans Am body. With the addition of more NHRA national events and fewer match race dates available, in 1982 Al sold the race operation to a fellow in Sweden and retired from active racing.
While he may have been retired from drag racing Al never stopped working in a shop. He still builds some of the most beautiful bodies and parts available. In 2002, Ed Golden bought the Probe AA/FD dragster and took it to Al for an update. In 2003, when NHRA introduced the cackle fast program at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky Ed offered the driver seat to Al; which he immediately jumped into. Today many of the restored cackle cars have made the journey to Al shop before going to the paint shop.