Model history: Canadian Bill Sadler was one of the first to race a Chevrolet small-block engined sports car in Europe when he campaigned his 'Sadler Mk 2' in Great Britain with considerable success during the 1957 season. He combined his overseas racing efforts with an 'internship' in John Tojeiro's workshop. Upon his return, Sadler used the lessons learned to create a new sports racer around a cutting edge space-frame chassis. Despite his relatively modest means, this 'Mk 3' was capable of challenging the exotic European machinery as well as the American Scarabs.
The promising results of the Sadler sports racers attracted considerable attention and eventually earned Bill Sadler a lucrative sponsorship deal with Comstock Construction. This freed up resources for the development and construction of an altogether more complicated machine. For this new car, dubbed the Mk 5, Sadler also drew inspiration from European designs; more specifically the Coopers with their mid-mounted engines. Instead of the four cylinder engines used by the European cars, Sadler once again relied on the tried and trusted small block Chevrolet V8.
The very first sports racer to have the Chevrolet engine mounted amidships, the Sadler Mk 5 featured a simple but highly effective space-frame chassis. Suspension was conventional with double wishbones all around. Sadler's biggest problem was sourcing a gearbox that suited the revolutionary engine layout and was capable of sustaining the considerable power and torque produced by the big V8. He failed to find an off-the-shelve solution and instead modified a Halibrand quick-change rear end into a two-speed transaxle.
Making the most of the Comstock funding, Bill Sadler built two examples late in 1960 in preparation for the following season. The rolling chassis were clothed in a tightly wrapped aluminium body that combined the short overhangs of the earlier Sadlers with the front-end design of the contemporary Cooper Monacos. The new mid-engined Sadlers were finished in white with two green stripes instead of the familiar single blue stripe to represent the Comstock sponsorship.
Although Sadler was more than capable behind the wheel, the driving duties of the Mk 5s were mostly entrusted to the Comstock backed Canadian talents Peter Ryan, Dan Shaw and Grant Clark. Especially, Ryan took to the mid-engined Sadler very well and was quick straight out of the box. Unfortunately he and Shaw were continuously let down by the new Sadler's poor reliability. At times easily the fastest car on track, the Sadlers sadly only rarely managed to reach the finish. On one such rare occasion, Ryan managed to place second behind Roger Penske in a Maserati at Meadowdale.
The poor results had a detrimental effect on the relationship between Sadler and Comstock, and at the end of 1961 the ties were severed. A disillusioned Bill Sadler left the world of motor sport behind, aged just 29. Judging on the results alone, the Sadler Mk 5 was a failure but it does hold a significant position in history as the first mid-engined sports racer to be powered by the venerable Chevrolet small-block V8. As such it was the 'father' of the new generation machines that would dominate the short-lived USRRC and subsequent Can-Am championships.
The first of two Mk 5 Sadlers built, this is believed to be the sole survivor after a garage fire destroyed the second chassis. In pieces and without a body, it was retrieved from a garage in Toronto in the early 1970s by Canadian enthusiast Jack Boxstrom. He spent the next two decades on a very lengthy restoration. The work was finally completed in 1992 and Brian Redman debuted the restored Sadler during the Mosport Vintage Festival, scoring a victory at last for the mid-engined Sadler.
Boxstrom retained the car for a further two decades, racing it at many of the most prominent historic events in North America, including the Monterey Historics. The only Sadler Mk 5 currently in existence was recently acquired by a British enthusiast, who in the past few years had raced one of the front-engined Sadlers in his trademark spectacular style. We captured the Mk 5 in what may very well be its first European appearance during the 2012 Goodwood Press Day. Accordingly, we expect the blisteringly quick machine to star during at least one of Goodwood's fabulous events later in the year.