|Turner Sports Cars||Articles|
JUST ABOUT EVERY DAY THE MAIL BRINGS A READER REQUEST for our recommendation on a production sports car that can be raced as well as driven on the streets. The answer is not as simple as it seems, if everything is taken into consideration. Most important is that the budding novice wants a car in which he can develop properly as a driver. He is generally inexperienced in terms of preparation and maintenance; a productionrace car requires plenty if it is to be reliable and competitive. There is a certain segment of Elglish sports cars that meet these requirements well the Elva Courier, the Morgan 4/4 Mk IV, and the Lotus 7 are cars that - in our opinion - leave something to be desired in the way of everday transportation (though the Morgan is far the best of the group in this respect) but have very race-car-like handling characteristics, excellent performance potential, and are relatively easy to prepare and maintain. The Turner Mk II is one we've difinitely added to the list, based on our test of a unit loaned to us by Jim Fouch's Sterling Automotive, the Western distributor for Turner Cars, Ltd.
What makes the Turner a desirable piece of merchandise ? After all, it has little insulation and an MGTC seems over-weatherproofed by comparison. The fiberglass body is thick and strong, but it transmits noise like a loose load of lumber. The ride is not one that would satisfy those with tender bottoms, nor those with sea-sick tendencies. With a list price of $3250 it's not exactly hot in the economy sports car market, either. Yet it will fulfill the basic transportation requirements and do so with good performance and fuel mileage. To really appreciate the attributes of the Turner, you have to take it one place - to a race track. We did and found it an eye-opening surprise.
Powered by Ford's strong 122E four-banger, and using the full-synchromesh, close-ration gearbox that comes with it, the Turner has a big head start in potential. With five main bearings, light casting, an eight-port head, a relatively short stroke, good combution-chamber configuration, and a lot of development background to draw on, there are leterally no handicaps to work around in preparing the engine. The valve gear, etc., is simple and light. Add to this the list of options recognized by SCCA when they placed it in Class D (a stiff class for the novice to crack, but one inwhich the car should be a real contender) and you can visualize that something close to 140 horses would be obtainable under full prodification. For example, two 40DCOE Webers and a specialintake manifold are legal. A tuned exhaust system is standard. The hot factory cam has a wild 50-85-86-50 timing. There is relatively littly extra that need be done to the engine to obtain maximum output. An oil cooler is also allowed to handle the increased heat it will produce.
With two optional gear sets for the transmission offered and recognized, there should be littly problems finding exactly the right cogs. There are five final-drive ratios and an optional limited-slip as well. The ratios run from 3.78 to 5.12 to 1. Again, there's enough spread here to gear you properly for any course.
There's little the chassis needs to be race-ready. An eptional anti-sway bar is offered. We didn't feel it was required. Presently, only a four-inch rim width is listed for the 13-inch wheels. This may handicap the car a bit from the standpoint of tire stability, and lack of optional rim widths is about the only item of value we can see missing from the SCCA list. 'Tis not a critical item, however, as the light weight of the car makes it easy on the rubber.
Braking is well taken care of by 9.5-inch discs on the front end and 8.0-inch drums in the rear. A harder lining material might be required for racing durability (and Mintex can supply this), but we saw no signs of weakness in stopping power after several hot laps with the standard setup.
It takes more than one lap to become aware of the Mk II Turner's potential as a production racer, or even a gymkhana or slalom machine. With the engine in stock form it's not a whole lot facter than a good stock Sprite (our test car badly needed a tune-up, but there wasn't time) but everything else is ready to go to work. Once you build up a head of steam, it's easy to retain it due to excellent adhesion, stability and braking. It's an extremely easy car to drive fast, transmitting a good, honest feel to the driver, and slightly understeering. You can change lines in the middle of a "hung-out" corner and all you'll lose is velocity. You canshistly intoa turn atwhat would normally be considered some 15 mph "over your head", yet the Turner is forgiving enough to enable you to get thru with just a little extra work. This feature, some may say, is not particularly desirable in developing a good driver, but it's been our experience that very few pilots have trouble making the transition out of such equipment into more potent machines, and note that did so have ever been what you'd call rough or inefficient drivers. Handling attributes of the Turner make it easy for one to concentrate on going fast smoothly; something hard to learn when you're trying to compensate for excessive roll or "body-walk" or similar spooky traits not uncommon in the vast majority of production sports cars.
That about sums our impressions of the Turner. It's not so keen for the street (the top on our test car consistently blew off at 72 mph) but quite an impressive dual-purpose machine. Very limited funds are required to bring it to peak potential and its uncomplicated ruggedness make it a cinch to maintain. As many a wit has seen fit to quip, "Then Bank of America is sponsoring more race cars than Cunningham, Mecom, Paravano, and all other combined ever thought of." So join the ranks. Again, remember that our performance figures are slower than you'll get from a Turner with a fresh tune-up, probably two seconds slower in the Quarter-Mile. You may evenfind it quite enjoyable for street transportation ... if your're the rugged outdoors type. - Jerry Titus