An outstanding open-wheel race car driver and a leader both on and off the race track, Bill Schindler (March 6, 1909 – September 20, 1952) had all the talent in the world when it came to driving Midgets, “Big Cars” (Sprint Cars) and Championship Cars. And he didn’t let the fact that he lost his left leg from above the knee as a result of a 1936 racing accident slow him down.
Raised in the Middletown, New York, area, Schindler was orphaned as a teenager but prior to this he had developed an interest in mechanical things by hanging around in his father’s shop. Through this experience he raced Motorcycles on a track laid out in a farmer’s field and then in 1931 he began racing a stock-engined “Big Car” in “outlaw” events.
Schindler had two “outlaw” victories – at the half-mile dirt Watertown (N.Y.) Speedway in 1931 and at Deer Park (N.Y.) Speedway in 1932 – and competed in the East’s first Midget race on June 10, 1934, on the one-fifth-mile cinder track at Olympic Park in Irvington, New Jersey. From there he quickly blossomed into one of the finest Midget drivers in history.
In March 1936, Schindler raced in an American Automobile Association-sanctioned 250-mile Stock Car race on the old 4.1-mile Beach-Road Course at Daytona Beach, Florida, but this was only a diversion as he was committed to the Midgets and he raced them everywhere.
However, he also continued to race “Big Cars” and on September 25, 1936, at the Minneola (Long Island) Fairgrounds “Bronco Bill” tangled with the outside fence and his left leg was mangled so badly that it had to be amputated above the knee.
Although fitted with an artificial leg, Schindler he never wore it while racing and during the winter of 1936-1937 he won the New England Indoor Midget Championship. In 1937, he also began driving the hot Offy Midgets that were owned by Mike Caruso, and he won the 1940 AAA Bronx (N.Y.) Coliseum Indoor Midget Championship in a Motorcycle-engined ride.
To keep the AAA from taking control of Eastern Midget racing, though, the Eastern Midget Racing Alliance was formed in 1937 and Schindler was chosen to head the group. Then, when the American Racing Driver’s Club was formed in 1939 to represent the drivers and car owners in their dealings with the track owners and promoters, Schindler served as the ARDC’s president during its first six years. He was also a four-time (1940, 1945-1946 & 1948) ARDC Champion and the runner-up in 1941 and 1947.
The Midgets were so popular before and after World War II that Schindler – who had moved to Freeport, Long Island – raced every night of the week. During the war he was a machinist in a Brooklyn war plant and spent time with fellow amputees. Then when racing re-turned he won 53 features in 1947 and another 53 in 1948 in Caruso’s black No. 2 Offy Midget.
In the late 1940s Schindler returned to Sprint Cars and he drove the repainted-red and re-numbered (from No. 1 to No. 18) “Baby” of the late Ted Horn – a fellow EMPA Hall of Famer – to an AAA victory on September 24, 1949, at the half-mile dirt Allentown (Pa.) Fairgrounds.
From 1950-1952, Schindler – who liked to race in black, red or white Western-style satin shirts – competed in 31 AAA National Championship races, won two poles and scored his only victory on August 16, 1952, while driving H.A. Chapman’s No. 7 in the 100-lapper on the one-mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. In three straight Indianapolis 500s he was 26th in Lou Rassey’s orange and black No. 67 (1950), 13th in Chapman’s yellow and blue No. 10 (1951) and 14th in Chapman’s black and pink No. 7 (1952).
Unfortunately, Bill Schindler’s stellar career ended tragically at Allentown when another car’s broken rear-wheel and axle hit the red Earl Beal No. 2 Sprint Car that he was driving with such a force that it was sent flipping over the backstretch fence and he was killed instantly.