Melvin “Jerry” Bickel, the legendary race car builder from Troy, Missouri, passed away on April 5, 2023. He was 75.
Born October 18, 1947, Bickel grew up in the Florissant area and found a love for drag racing. He began working at Troy Motors and then Marquiz Motors for several years. Bickel wanted something he could call his own, and he started Jerry Bickel Race Cars, which has provided some of the best chassis and products to many elite racers for more than 40 years.
Bickel was a predominant figure in the racing community, and a pioneering power in growing doorslammer drag racing. From notching countless wins and championships to setting world records, Bickel notably built Jim Yates’ McDonald’s Pro Stock chassis. He was also Yates’ crew chief during his championship years.
Bickel’s influence can be felt in Pro Stock, Pro Mod, Top Sportsman, Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings and more. Even today, his name is on current PDRA Pro Nitrous champion Jim Halsey’s Camaros, as well as the cars of 2021 NHRA Pro Mod World Champion Jose Gonzalez, among dozens of other record-setting and championship-winning race cars.
Many have shared their support for the late race car builder. Multi-time NHRA and IHRA World Champion Rickie Smith wrote, “This is tough. I met Jerry Bickel somewhere around 1984 and we became friends. We won four Pro Stock championships in a row; the rest is history. Even though we are only a few years apart, Jerry was like a father figure to me.”
When Bickel wasn’t working in his shop or at a drag strip, he loved scuba diving, flying helicopters and boating.
Bickel was the beloved husband of Jennifer Bickel, son of the late Melvin and Birdie Bickel, father to Katherine Elizabeth (Marty) Randolph and Matthew Bickel, and a grandfather of two. Memorials may be made in Jerry’s name to PALS Animal Shelter.
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