The name Al O’Connor first appeared in a drag racing publication when he put an ad in Drag Racing & Hot Rod Magazine in 1966 asking for a four barrel Carter carb for a Buick V8. He would have been a teenager back then and was already modifying cars. Al got a ’59 Dodge which he gave a flame paint job and fitted a 354 Hemi, but he couldn’t wait to get to Santa Pod and ended up loosing his licence for six months after getting busted for street racing. After that Al decided to do all his racing at the Drags and got himself a ’58 Ford Zephyr. He kept the straight six and added triple carbs, fitted a 4-speed box and gave it a flame paint job and the name “Rocky II” (Rocky I was his son). Al ran it in D/Modified during 1970 clocking mid 15s. The following year Al gave “Rocky II” a roof chop and fitted black perspex windows then in 1972 the straight six went in Al’s tow-car and a 383 Chrysler was slotted into “Rocky II” along with a straight tube front axle and Jag rear. It was now a Street Altered and the times came down to low 13s.
At the end of 1973 the Gleadow bros’ Chevy powered Ford Pop “Motor Psycho” came up for sale. Al snapped it up and spent the winter turning it into “Al’s Gasser” which he debuted at Santa Pod’s Easter Springnationals in 1974. It was an instant crowd favourite with gleaming black paint, sign writing on the doors and of course flames on the front. At the Gasser’s second meeting Al took the win in Super Street beating Dave Lee Travis in “Tender Trap” and by the end of the year had run an 11.45/119m.p.h. and another win at the Fireworks Meet.
1975 started with a Super Street win at the Springnationals followed by many more Eliminator wins and Al got the Revell Crowd Pleaser Award at the end of the year.
During 1976 Al ran in Middle Comp Altered and had some exciting duels with the Jag/Mini van “Stripteaser” both cars pulling huge wheelstands off the line and running 10sec ETs, then in 1977 & ’78 Al was running in Top Modified and the Gasser clocked up many Eliminator wins but at the 1978 August Supernationals in the Top Modified final against Dave Stone, “Al’s Gasser” got out of shape at the three-quarter mark, rolled and crashed. Al was rushed to hospital with head injuries which turned out to be not serious while Ronnie Picardo and Roz Prior started off a blanket collection towards a rebuild of the Gasser which raised £1561 such was the popularity of both car and driver.
A new “Al’s Gasser” hit the strips in 1979 with a state of the art Pro Stock chassis built by Allan Herridge and the engine and box out the old car and Al continued his winning ways in Top Modified and then moved onto Super Gas in 1985.
In November 1987 “Al’s Gasser” was loaded into a container to be shipped to the USA to be joined by Al and Leslie Digby who toured the American race circuit with the car during 1988.
They returned to the UK in 1989 full of new ideas learnt in the States and Al took the BDRA and John Everitt Jewellers Super Gas Championship that year.
Al and the Gasser continued to race in Super Gas at selected meets in the 90s and into the 2000s and now also races with the Outlaw Anglias.