"SADLER'S AUTO ELECTRIC"
Through the years many area businesses
have helped support not only many racers with sponsorship
but also by advertising at Merrittville Speedway's weekly
races. While many businesses contributed greatly to the
sport of auto racing, during the 1950's none probably more
than Sadler's Auto Electric. For many of you long time fans,
you'll remember Sadler's Auto Electric, which was located at
73 Ontario Street in St. Catharines near St. Paul Street.
Sadler's became known for probably being the best electrical
and engine shop in St. Catharines.
A young Bill Sadler was already
interested in cars, but while on his honeymoon in England in
1953, as guests of the Lucas electric people, the Sadlers
became hooked on sports car racing. Young Bill and his wife
Anne were given an MG TD as a wedding gift by his father. He
immediately switched engines to a Singer, a lesson in how
not to build a car. Having learned in 1954 he acquired an
engine from a Jowett Javelin, set it in a tube frame along
with its suspension and transmission. This car became the
Sadler Mark 1 and raced at Watkins Glen without much
success, so a year later the Sadler's body was discarded for
a fibreglass one and the engine from a Triumph
Again that didn't last long, so in 1956
Sadler purchased a new Corvette engine. A total revamping of
the Sadler racer, now Corvette powered became the Sadler
Mark 11. Sadler and his wife took the Mark 11 to England and
raced with much success. They then returned to Canada and
raced again at Watkins Glen. This time taking a class title.
The Mark 11 attracted much attention and a Mr. Earl
Nisonger, one of the world's largest parts distributers
financed the building of the Sadler Mark 111 in 1957. The
front engined Sadler Mark 111 was powered by a 327 cu.in.
fuel injected Corvette engined mounted in a space frame
weighing only 83 lbs.
Now I suppose you're asking why are Bill Sadlers'
sports car exploits important to area stock car racing? In
1957 Bill Sadler brought his highly powered Sadler Mark 111
to Merrittville Speedway. I can remember seeing his bright
red bus transporting the bright red sports car to the
infield of the track. That evening there was an exhibition
race on the oval which gave those race fans in attendance an
eye opener to sports car racing. During that exhibition,
turn 4 became turn 1, as the Sadler Mark 111 raced clockwise
around Merrittville's oval. Bill Sadler went on to further
his sports car exploits and during the 1960's he converted
his Sadler car to a rear engined racer. In 1964 he built the
Sadler Mark V and had renown modified engine builder Doug
Duncan build his powerplant. From 1958 to 1961 Sadler
designed and built about 30 cars to special order, at a
price of about $9,000.00 each.
After years of total racing involvement he cut loose
and retired to further his education in the electronics
field. Having attended Indiana Tri-State College achieving a
Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Masters from M.I.T.
in electrical engineering. His interest became those of the
aerospace electronics industry working for General Dynamics
and Sperry. The young Sadler is only part of our racing
history. Sadler's Auto Electric also became home to some of
the racing scenes innovative mechanics.
Car owners such as Ray Stevens worked at
Sadler's, Jack McKinney who worked on Jeno Begolo's stock
cars was a mechanic at Sadler's and Dan Chish who
apprenticed under McKinney also worked at Sadler's and with
Ivan Little on his cars during the 1960's and early 1970's.
Dan would later buy MacDonald's Auto Electric in the 1970's
where he continues to operate the business in St. Catharines
today, keeping an active interest in auto racing. While
Merrittville Speedway has continued into it's 46th year,
Sadler's Auto Electric has since closed, but it's a reminder
of how area businesses fostered growth and contributed to
history of racing in the Niagara area.
A couple of years ago, Bill Sadler was
inducted in to the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame as a
car builder. When asked about whether he would be interested
in taking up his interests in auto racing again, Bill Sadler
replied, "Yes, I really think I would like to do it again,
but strictly for the fun of it." I think the racers of today
could take a lesson from Bill Sadler- Do it well, but do it
for the fun of it. The sport of auto racing in the St.
Catharines area, can lay claim to two race car fabricators
who contributed to our sports heritage. From 1953 to 1965
the Sadler race cars, were high powered low weight racing
specials and from the mid 1970's to our present day,
Bicknell Racing Products has put our area on the map as a
builder of quality race cars and components.
Many businesses in the Niagara District
area continue to support our sport of auto racing. I think
if Bill Sadler could see how the sport has advanced, he
would be proud to be included as part of Merrittville
Speedway's heritage. Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh