PHOTO: In this photo from more than 15 years ago, young Brianna Bogner sits next to her grandpa Bert Bogner in his 1978 El Camino, which he used to drag race prior to his death in 2019. Brianna passed away in 2007 from a rare form of brain cancer.
The late Bert Bogner’s 1978 El Camino on display near Sonny’s Super Foods
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Bert Bogner passed away four years ago, on Sept. 12, 2019, at the age 70, which was one week after celebrating his 49th anniversary with his wife Barb.
Bert grew up in Oral and spent his entire life there, after a couple years in Denver where he attended vocational school, which is also where he met his wife while working nights at the Russell Stover’s Candy Factory. He and Barb raised twin boys, Eric and Jason.
Bert had a 42 year career with Fall River Feedyard and was well-known throughout Fall River County for his hard work ethic, generosity and willingness to help his neighbors without being asked.
Later in life, some health issues gave him a new perspective to pursue his love of drag racing, which his family whole-heartedly encouraged.
He had a 1968 Camaro that he raced in places like Douglas, Wyo., Julesburg, Colo., Kearney, Neb., as well as closer to home in Sturgis and also Pierre.
His son Eric said that at some point, his dad had the desire to retire the Camaro from racing and restore it, which prompted him to purchase a different drag racing car – a 1978 El Camino – which he nicknamed Sneaky Snake.
“It was named after one of my dad’s favorite songs by Tom. T. Hall, about a snake who would sneak up on you and steal a sip of your root beer,” Eric recalled. “I remember us being in the truck with him as a kid digging ditches and whenever that song would come on the radio, we would have to wait to get out until the song was done playing.”
With his El Camino “Sneaky Snake,” Bert won numerous awards at the Oahe Speedway near Pierre, and was a two-time Season Points Winner in the Street Trophy Class of their weekly competitions.
Eric said his family would often accompany his dad to Pierre to watch him race, where his four grandchildren were his biggest fans.
In 2007, tragedy struck the Bogner family when Eric’s daughter Brianna became very ill. After several misdiagnoses over a period of about three months, it was ultimately determined by some doctors in Denver, Colo., that Brianna suffered from Diffuse Myelocytic Leptomeningeal Melanoma, an extremely rare and aggressive cancer in the lining of the brain.
Six weeks after her diagnosis, Brianna passed away on Christmas morning, Dec. 25, 2007, less than two weeks before her ninth birthday.
To honor Brianna’s memory, and the healthcare workers who helped comfort her during her battle, her dad Eric established and self-funded the Brianna Bogner Memorial Scholarship in 2012, through the Hot Springs High School Alumni Association.
Each May, a graduating senior from Hot Springs High School is awarded this $250 scholarship based on their desire to pursue a degree in the healthcare field.
It has long-since been a desire by Eric to increase the amount of the annual scholarship. Eric and his immediate family continue to fund the scholarship and want to ensure that the scholarship balance lasts long after they too are gone from this earth.
Eric inherited his dad Bert’s El Camino “Sneaky Snake,” and after contemplating keeping it himself as an important sentimental item from his dad, he decided it would best be utilized with someone else behind the wheel and keeping the car’s racing legacy alive on the track, with all of the proceeds from its sale benefitting Brianna’s Memorial Scholarship.
Eric recently began working with Bradeen Auctioneers of Custer, who agreed to work with the Bogner family on setting up an online auction of the El Camino, which will take place beginning this Friday, Oct. 20.
According to the auction post available at bradeenauction.com, online bidding opens Oct. 20, 2023, and begins to close at 5 p.m., Oct. 27, 2023. The 1978 El Camino Street/Trophy Bracket race car has a clean title. The odometer reads 414 miles since engine rebuild by D&M Speed Shop. The 350 engine has an Edelbrock top end kit rated at 420 hp. Aluminum radiator, Holley Street Avenger 4, BBL CARB. Transmission auto TH350 with B&M racing shifter. Stock rear end and gearing with spool locker. The car is street legal except for non-compliant exhaust. Body and paint restoration completed around 2005. It does need some interior work: seat upholstery and window/door weather stripping. Runs well, no mechanical issues. DOT approved drag race tires on aluminum center line wheels.
During the online auction, the car will be located for viewing at 837 Jensen Highway in Hot Springs, next to Sonny’s Super Foods in the former Bison Motors/Chadron Motors building between Sonny’s Super Foods and Dairy Queen.
“Please take time to inspect this vintage car and support a most worthy cause,” the Bradeen Auction post reads. “Bert had a passion for drag racing, and the way this El Camino runs is a testimony to that. Please help support this family and this scholarship. All proceeds benefit the scholarship.”