WILFRED "WIMPY" NICHOLLS

Wilfred Nicholls

 

Pioneer of the Six Cylinder GMC's and V8 Chevrolets   Wilfred Nicholls started out in the sport of stock car racing as an enthusiast, but also as an engineer. Wilfred or "Wimpy" as he became fondly called, was a hoisting and contracting engineer at Westinghouse Canada in Hamilton, where he and his wife Dorothy also lived.  In 1951 he and Ernie Knight built a six cylinder Chevrolet coupe a 1936 model and flat towed it behind their 1939 Chevrolet coupe tow car to Bridgeport Speedway as #134 and became indoctrinated into the racing business.

 

Wimpy, with Ernie Knight continued to race at Atherton, Ancaster, and competed on opening day at Merrittville Speedway in 1952. As time went on Wimpy, Ernie and friend "Collie" MacDonald not only built and campaigned their 270 cu. in. GMC powered Chevrolet coupes, but were now being noticed by those competitors in flat-head Fords, the most popular early race car. In 1955, Wimpy Nicholls became a very popular car owner and built and campaigned #34 for Ernie Knight #43 for John Bezanson and new comer Bob Davidson #73, all from Hamilton and all driving 270 cu.in. GMC truck engineered Chevrolet coupes.

 

During 1956 and 1957, John Bezanson along with Wimpy Nicholls were now a top contender for the points championship fending off the V8 Fords with their GMC six cylinder coupes with their unmistakable exhaust note. For 1958 the #42 and #43 John Bezanson and Wimpy Nicholls combination pioneered the use of the overhead valve V8 Chevrolet engine. After a year of development, "Wimpy" teamed up with George Winger as driver, along with Norphy Rosetto and Junior High and Jack Munn as owner and constructed a beautiful gold and red Chevrolet coupe #18 with the Panther on the side for 1959.

 

Wimpy Nicholls

 

Wimpy as well as being an engine man, developed a fully adjustable torsion bar suspension. For their efforts, 1959 became their best year to date. Wilfred "Wimpy" Nicholls with the Hamilton Crew,John Bezanson #43 George Winger won the Merrittville points championship with Bob Davidson driving the #73 Chevrolet coupe, also engineered by Wimpy, to a third place in points. With more development into horsepower and suspension, the gold #18 coupe driven by George Winger, repeated as Merrittville Champion for 1960. This race car was so popular that quite often it was seen parked in Drinkwater Motors showroom on Ontario Street, during the week, complete with white walled racing tires.

 

Wimpy Nicholls

 

After 1961 George Winger stepped down as driver, but for 1962 the popular #43 returned, this time with Alex Gunn driving. With Alex at the wheel, this quiet gentleman of a driver, took the points championship at Merrittville Speedway as well as competed strongly at Speedway park in Hamilton- both tracks owned now by Ken Kavanagh and Bill Russell, with partners at Speedway Park- Merrittville founders John Marino and George Cullen. From 1955 to 1963, Wimpy along with his crew that included by now his good friend Fred Wickens, continued on their winning ways with Alex Gunn taking the 1963 Merrittville Speedway points championship. This was a fitting accomplishment for the #43 Parkdale Auto Parts team.

 

For 1964 Alex Gunn in #43 and Wimpy raced again and were very competitive, while long time friend and racer Bob Davidson in his #73 "Ram" raced strongly at Merrittville and Speedway Park. Alex Gunn and Wimpy parted for 1965 and Bob Davidson retired as a driver, so for 1965 and 1966, Wimpy created a new car for Bobby Fisher, a bright red #85 Chevy coupe also sponsored by Parkdale Auto Parts, a graduate from the late model division.

 

For 1967, Wimpy's son Ken wanted to go racing and a new 1957 Chevrolet late model #1 was constructed by Wimpy and the sportsman car was sold to Bill Mepham now renumbered #69 with Pete Smith driving and A-1 Cartage as the sponsor. Wimpy's cars were very popular and this car has to be one of the oldest surviving race cars, in to the early 1970's with Nick Lapcevich as it's new owner and driver, renumbered #75, and sponsored by DOT Radiator in Hamilton.

 

Jack Hollis as well, drove for Wimpy as #93. During this time, Ken Nicholls was learning his trade well and was now a top competitor in the late models. During this period, another tradition was carry on - Barry Davidson, son of Bob, was assisting starter Ted Boucock as corner man and assistant starter. The Nicholls family and Davidson families were still in racing with Ken and Barry fielding late models. During this period Sportsman modified racer Mike Zajac asked Wimpy to construct a new #8 coupe.

 

As many of you know, Mike Zajac was the first driver to capture more than two track championships taking three in 1971, 1973 and 1974. This car was the last sportsman modified built by Wimpy, and maintained by Harvey Hainer Sr., since Ken Nicholls was competing strongly in his #8 late model.

 

In 1975 and 1976, Wimpy Nicholls and family decided to construct a motor home and start traveling with his family. 1955 #73 Ernie Knight    

 

A few years later, Wimpy retired from Westinghouse, but continued to maintain the equipment for Bob Davidson at R. C. Davidson power sweeping. However, in 1991, Wimpy passed away suddenly as a result of a major heart attack. The sport of stock car racing lost a true genius. He was survived by his wife Dorothy who still resides in the small house in Hamilton, and sons Ken, Don, Murray and daughter Cathy.

 

Unfortunately, the sport also lost Ernie Knight and Alex Gunn in 1992 and also John Bezanson in 1997, but the legacy continues.

 

The Nicholls family is still racing a street stock and son Don is presently building the #43 Championship winning Parkdale Auto Parts Chevrolet coupe, named "Miss Cathy" while he continues to campaign the street stock.

 

As you know, the Davidson family tradition continues as well with son Barry as starter at Merrittville, with Ralph and grandson Bobby Jr. fielding the #73 Ram sportsman. Friendships last a lifetime and the Nicholls and Davidsons are proof of it.

  


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