"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

 

Sadler

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

 

 


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