|Turner Sports Cars||Articles|
"How does it go? How does it handle?" are the questions most frequently asked about a car like the Alexander Turner, and my answer to both, in this instance, is "very well indeed," Whether held "flat" on the Motorway or thrown around on open country lanes, using only the lower gears, this car gives the impression that it has been made with the enthusiastic driver very much in mind. It is also extremely practical, providing adequate protection against the elements and considerable space for luggage. In addition the test car had a very efficient heater/demister unit.
The sports Turner has been on the market for some time now, and has gained itself an enviable competition record. The new model incorporates the Alexander crossflow cylinder head, larger (8 x 1½ inch), two leading shoe brakes, restyled bodywork and numerous detail improvements. The result is a 948 cc car with the performance of the 1½-litre MGA, together with better handling and greater luggage capacity, which is available in kit form for only £645. Alternatively it can be had, ready to go, for £895 - this figure including purchase tax.
The basis of the car is a cross-braced twin-tube chassis, with double wishbone-type front suspension and a live rear axle. This rear axle is located by trailing links and a Panhard rod, and sprung by laminated torsion bars. Rack and pinion steering gear is used.
In standard form the Alexander-Turner is fitted with the BMC "A" series gearbox, as used in the A35, but the test car had close ratio gears (with first gear higher than second in the standard box) and 4.875:1 final drive gears. Externally it is far more attractive than earlier models, due largely to modified frontal treatment and the fitting of a shallow grille. The glass-fibre bodywork is well finished and on the test car was cellulosed deep red.
The engine cover, with over-centre hinges at its leading edge, is secured by two carriage bolts, and the boot lid by a conventional looking handle. Most of the under-bonnet items requiring attention are accessible with the exception of the dip-stick, which is hidden away between the cylinder head and the inlet manifold.
The doors on the test car had both dropped badly, and were difficult to open from outside; modified hinges are to be used on future models. In addition, the doors do not really open wide enough, and getting in and out with the hood up is thus not particularly easy. To add to the difficulty, metal door catches protrude from the rear door pillar, with consequent risk to clothing, especially pockets.
By contrast the interior is extremely well trimmed and the seats are reasonably comfortable, although no means of adjustment is provided. On long journeys rather more support for the small of the back would be welcomed. The carpets and trim are extremely serviceable, and the large door pockets and small cubby-hole on the passenger side accept a useful amount of light luggage.
The boot is large for a car of this type, though irregular in shape, but on the test car was not completely waterproof. Furthermore, water from the boot-lid dripped into the interior when the lid was opened. A coat carried in the boot afterwards smelt of petrol, due presumably to leaks from the filler cap, situated at the rear of the compartment.
The windscreen and hood - similar to those of the Austin Healey Sprite - blend well with the general lines of the car, and the hood can be erected or removed very quickly. The sidescreens are a push fit in the doors and can be inserted or taken out without leaving the driving seat. Weather protection is extremely good, the interior of the car remaining waterproof and virually draughtproof throughout the test period.
As far as instrumentation is concerned, the enthusiastic driver is well catered for in the Alexander-Turner, being provided with matching tachometer and speedometer, an ammeter, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel gauges. Lights, wipers, turn-indicators, and horn are operated by poisitive toggle switches.
The gearchange is superb, but the handbrake is rather inaccessible on the far side of the transmission tunnel. The pedals, offset to the right, are rather too close together and although it is quite easy to "heel-and-toe" it is also possible to do this inadvertently. The foot dipswitch is placed rather high and could with advantage be replaced by a hand switch.
Performance and roadholding are both extremely good, as the above specification would suggest. Due to the high bottom gear the car feels a littly sluggish "off the mark" but once under way it rushes up to over 40 mph in first, 60 in second and 80 in third, acceleration being well maintained up the speed range. On the London to Birmingham Motorway it ran for several miles at over 90 mph and the absolute maximum was in the region of 95 mph. The 8 x 1½ inch brakes seemed quite adequate under all conditions, and fully complementary to the car's performance.
For competition use the close ratio gears should prove ideal; the non-syncromesh first gear can be engaged very easily on really acute bends, and the high third is extremely useful on the faster type of corner. Through the test, water temperature remained at approximately 70°C and oil pressure at about 50 lbs psi, dropping to 30 on the Motorway, even though an oil cooler was fitted. Oil consumption was in the region of a pint per 200 miles, and the overall fuel consumption worked out at 28 mpg.
From all aspects the handling of the Alexander Turner seemed better than that of previous Turners I have tried. The 5.20 x 15 Pirelli Extraflex tyres provided extremely good adhesion on both dry and wet surfaces and the well-located live rear axle behaved extremely well except on bumpy corners, where the tail tended to hopout occasionally. Roll was scarcely apparent, and even when the tail began to slide only a little opposite lock was needed to correct it. These handling characteristics have been obtained at some expense in the form of a rather firm ride and a feeling that the car was somewhat over-tyred. Experiments are to be made with 13 inch wheels in the near future.
As might be expected, the Alexander Turner is as its best on a fine day, with the hood down, and is considerably nosier with hood and sidescreens in position, a feature which makes it a little tiring to drive for long periods. The exhaust note is definitely sporting, but not excessively so. Improved sound insulation would make the car more suitable for long distance touring.
Faults of this nature are often found on early examples of a new model, however, and should not be beyond the scope of most owners, even if they are not rectified at the works. The Alexander Turner provides a very good, safe basis for enjoyable motoring at any time of the year and is equally at home in city streets or on the race track. It can, in fact, be summed up as a civilised competition car, and such represents a better compormise than the majority of current production sports cars. Bought in component form it would seem to be exceptionally good value for money.