|Turner Sports Cars||Nostalgia Items|
TRI-CITY SPORTS CARS was founded by Dale Edward Smith in 1957. It was located a few miles north of Massillon, Ohio. It was somewhat in the center of a triangle formed by Akron, Canton and Massillon, thus the name Tri-City. The establishment was operated by Dale and his lovely wife, Betty, until Dale's passing in 1986. They were the first and largest importer of Turner Sports Cars. Dale was an entrepreneur and an honest businessman. He truly cared about his customers. He was my employer and my friend!
The early Turner factory records were destroyed, and the records from Tri-City have been disposed of. But from memory, and what cars and records remain, we can determine that Dale imported approximately sixty cars. This is nearly ten per-cent of Turner's total production.
I worked for Dale at Tri-City for nearly five years, from 1959 to 1963. He purchased his first Turner, a white, right hand drive 803, in the Columbus, Ohio area early in 1958. After racing an MG-TD for the two previous years, Dale was really impressed with the performance of the 803. He contacted Jack Turner in Wolverhampton, England to inquire about a dealership. He was thus awarded the exclusive right to import Turners for the entire United States, excluding the state of Florida. He did however, also import some to Florida. Factory records remain for verification of this contract. Dale really did love the little 803 and told me that since fins on rear fenders were such a styling rage with American cars, he suggested to Jack Turner that maybe they could put some fins on the 803 to improve marketability in the United States. Jack complied with this idea, and the 950S was born! Dale was very proud of this! I've been told that this was verified by Jack two years ago. Dale was very adamant about promoting Turners in the U.S. and made arrangements for the cars to appear in several national magazines for road tests and articles. The Turner Climax that appears in the May 1959 issue of Motor Trend magazine, and is described in the May 1959 issue of Foreign Cars Illustrated and Auto Sport magazine, became Dale's second race car. He had a dealer network across the country and brought the cars into ports in New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles and Port Everglades. Some of these cars went straight to his dealers. The concentration of Turners in the northeast U.S. is because most of the cars were sold by Dale directly from Tri-City. Some were converted into race-cars and were active in SCCA club racing in those days. Many were simply driven on the street for pleasure!
Turner sales competition came mainly from the Austin Healy Sprite. However, true performance enthusiasts were willing to pay a little more for a Turner! They were 20% lighter, handled better, and had the Coventry Climax engine as an option. They could blow the doors off a Sprite! Dale had no trouble selling all the Turners he could get!
I made my first trip to Tri-City Sports Cars in 1958 and it was with my best friend, Bill Eckley. He and I had been interested in all kinds of cars since grade school, especially sports cars, and Bill wanted one. He was able to purchase a Triumph TR3 that had been damaged in a fire. He asked me if I thought we could repair it. After looking the car over, I told Bill that the SU carburetors and the hydraulic clutch were the only things that looked much different from American cars. I said we could learn about them as we went along. I had taken training as a mechanic in the military, and since I was laid off from my job, I had some time to spare. I asked him where we were going to get the parts we needed for repairs. He said there was a Triumph dealer by the name of Tri-City Sports Cars in Massillon, about twelve miles south of where we lived in Akron. He said he had already been to see them and they could get everything we needed. (I didn't know it at the time, but some of the happiest days of my life loomed in my near future.)
After getting Bill's car home and a few days of stripping some of the parts from it, we headed for Tri-City to get a few things. We pulled into the driveway, and I took a good look at the surroundings. I was amazed by what I saw. The building was at the intersection of two country roads, Portage St. and High Mill Ave. It sat on the south-east corner, diagonal to the intersection, with the front facing the corner. This made a large triangular shaped grass front lawn where cars were displayed outside. Then the large driveway between the lawn and the building with an entrance from each road. A contemporary showroom with a slanted roof and floor-to-ceiling glass walls on three sides. It had a large wood-burning fireplace and natural wood beamed ceiling. It could easily hold three cars and had an offset area for sales desks. It had chairs for customers and sliding glass doors in the rear where the cars came in. It looked modern and classy, and I thought it was beautiful. Attached to the fourth side of the showroom was the service and parts area. It was a concrete block structure with high ceilings served by four large overhead doors. The first bay contained a custom hydraulic "frame contact" lift made especially for small cars. It had attachable arms so that larger cars could also be lifted. A separate small storage room contained the air compressor. The next room was the parts department. There was an overhead door to the outside but it was never opened. A glass show-case filled with small accessories served as the counter. There was a mezzanine area in the rear for large items. The next area was a single large double size bay served by the last two overhead doors. It had a work bench across the back wall and the restrooms were off to the side, under the mezzanine area of the parts department. Out in the driveway in front of the overhead doors were two pumps for Sohio gasoline. It was a nice service island where customers could drive up to either side of the pumps. Between the east side of the showroom and Portage St. was the side lawn, where cars could also be displayed. (We later took a photograph of six Turners lined up in a row on this lawn with the showroom in the background.) Behind the entire dealership was a six acre open field also owned by Dale. So here we were, at the intersection of two country roads, looking at a sports car dealership, housed in a modern looking building, surrounded mostly by farms. It was very impressive!
As we were getting out of the car, Bill said the man who ran Tri-City was a pretty nice guy and he even offered to help Bill find some used parts for the TR3, to help save some money. The big items Bill needed were a front apron, hood and interior. These would be expensive, and used parts would be a big help. (Dale later located a complete interior for him.) Bill headed for the parts department and I looked all around before heading to the showroom to check out the cars inside. I saw Bill talking to someone at the parts counter and there was a mechanic working on a car in the service department. I looked at everything in the showroom, including the two cars that were there. Strange looking little roadsters that I had never seen or heard of. I wondered why Bill hadn't mentioned seeing these cars when he was here before. Well, as it turned out, I was taking my very first look at a Turner! It seems strange now, but I wasn't particularly impressed by those cars. Compared to Bill's Triumph, they seemed small and they had less than half the displacement. (I would be much more impressed by Turners a little later on!)
A few minutes later Bill came walking into the showroom with the man who had been helping him at the parts counter. He was a tall, heavy-set man with a chubby face and glasses. He had a pleasant look on his face, and when Bill told him that I was the friend who was helping him work on the TR3, the man walked right up to me, put out his hand, and said, "Hello, my name's Dale Smith." (During the next few years I would hear him say those same words many times. He would boldly walk up to people and introduce himself that way. I thought it was a neat way to break the ice with a stranger.) I asked briefly about the Turners and he told us the story of how he became the importer and that he could get them with the Coventry Climax engine. He said he sold Turners to his dealers and from Tri-City as well. I told him that we had never seen a Coventry Climax engine. He then lifted the hood on a Turner Climax, and told us all about them. We chatted for a few more minutes and then left. On the way home, I told Bill that I thought Dale must really love those Turners, judging by the way he was going on and on about them. He agreed with me, and we were right! Dale did love those Turners!
Over the next few months we made several trips to Tri-City for parts as we were working steadily on the TR3. Dale was able to get us everything we wanted and I didn't give those trips much thought, other than being impressed with the looks of the building. Dale was always friendly and helpful when we were there and he introduced us to his mechanic. His name was Lyman Ensign. He was a stocky built, older man and also very friendly. He gave us plenty of well needed advice.
The fall and winter months rolled around and work on the TR3 wasn't too feasible. Then in February, my parents moved our family to a new home in the little town of Manchester. It was south of Akron and only about five miles from Tri-City. I could drive a few miles north to Bill's house, or a few miles south to Tri-City. What a convenient stroke of luck!
I was still laid off from my factory job when we moved into the new house. Spring was "just around the corner" and since Tri-City was so close to home now, I began to go there two or three times a week just for "something to do". Dale and Lyman were friendly and it was an interesting place to hang out. I was watching Lyman work and he was showing me all sorts of things about the cars that came in for service and repairs. I learned all about SU carburetors from him. Dale also had a Turner Climax race-car that was very interesting. (This would be the car that changed my impression of Turners!)
In addition to being the importer for Turner, Dale was also a dealer for Alfa Romeo, Borgward, Deutche Bonnet, Panhard, Gogomobile, Skoda and Triumph. Later he would drop some of those and take on Studebaker, Sunbeam and Fiat. There were so many interesting cars at Tri-City that I couldn't keep myself from going down there every few days.
During my conversations with Dale, he figured out that I was laid off from a regular job. I guess it wasn't too hard, since I was there on a regular basis during the week. One day he came right out and asked me about it. I told him I was laid off from a factory job and that young guys my age were having trouble finding work due to the economy at the time. My unemployment compensation checks were due to expire in a few weeks and I was getting worried about the situation. He just seemed curious so I didn't really think much about the conversation.
It was a warm March day the following week and once again I found myself at Tri-City. About noon, Dale said "Would you like to come to my house and meet my wife?" I said "Sure." So off we went, like a bat-out-of-hell, in the Turner Climax race-car! Dale lived on Portage St. less than half a mile west of Tri-City, so it only took about twenty seconds to get there. He wound that thing up as tight as it would go in every gear. We must have been going a hundred miles an hour by the time we got there! When we pulled into his driveway I was holding my breath, and he had a huge grin on his face! I was now duly impressed by Turners!
In addition to the cars he had at the building, I was amazed to see five more new Turners stored in his garage. We went inside and he introduced me to his wife, Betty. She was, and still is, a beautiful woman. I also met their little daughter, Dale Elaine. (A few years later they would have another daughter, Suzie.) Betty served us lunch and we headed back to the building. This time I wasn't surprised by the hundred mile an hour ride!
A little later, as I was getting ready to go home, Dale said "How would you like a job?" I said "What do you mean by that?" He said "Working for me as a mechanic. I know you need a job and I'd like to hire you." I was flabbergasted, but I didn't hesitate when I said "Yes!" So now I had a new job, and I was one happy young man!
I could hardly wait to get home and telephone Bill to tell him the good news. "Hey Bill, guess where I got a job! Tri-City! Dale hired me to be a mechanic and he wants me to start tomorrow!" I said it all so quickly, Bill just said "No kidding?" I told him how it happened and now we would be able to finish the TR3 more easily.
I didn't have any tools of my own, so I borrowed some money from my grandmother, went to the local "army surplus" store and bought some new, but inexpensive wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers. Then I went to Sears and bought a set of three-eights drive sockets which included a breaker bar, ratchet and two extensions. I guess Dale was happy with what I had because he never questioned me about my tools. The next Christmas he bought me a half-inch drive socket set and tool box as a gift. Of course I acquired many more tools over the next few years.
Things went smoothly and I was learning a lot from Lyman and from the shop manuals I took home to read in the evening. Looking through the parts manuals was also helpful. We did everything at Tri-City, from oil changes to engine and transmission overhauls. I really learned a lot in a short period of time.
April rolled around and one day Dale said, "We need to start making preparations to go racing." Well, I can tell you, I was ready any time he was! He said he wanted to build a trailer for the race-car. Driving it, or using the tow-bar, to and from the tracks was a real hassle because they were between two hundred and four hundred miles away. We ran at Dunkirk, Watkins Glen, Waterford Hills, Indianapolis, Cumberland, Elkins and later on, Mid-Ohio. Plus, we did some autocrosses, hill-climbs and other speed events.
Dale bought two torsion-bar axle sets and all the material necessary for the trailer. We laid it out and had it welded together by a local shop. He wanted to make it a tandem axle, double-deck trailer so he could also use it to pick up two new cars at a time from the dock. We soon realized that the double deck idea wouldn't be safe, so we used only one axle and kept the other as a spare.
During the first week of May, Lyman and I worked on the race-car in our spare time between customers. The car was a very dark red color that we called maroon. It was our favorite Turner color. We sold more maroon cars than any other color. This was Dale's second Turner race-car and it's the same car that appeared in Motor Trend magazine.
So, off we went to Cumberland, Md. Bill and I and another friend, Eugene Wesley, in my 1957 Ford. Dale, Betty and Lyman bringing the race-car. Dale told me we couldn't run in a "production" class because the Turner Climax was not yet homologated by the SCCA. We would have to run in G-Modified, which was really for pure-bred-race-cars. The Turner ran flawlessly, but was well back in the field, being outclassed by the true race-cars. It didn't seem to bother Dale, so we all had a very enjoyable time. One of our customers, Al Vogan, ran his TR3 but cooked the motor when his fan belt broke.
Bill finished working on his TR3 and it had a nice blue paint job. He was driving it every day and sometimes came to Tri-City to visit. I serviced it for him and replaced the connecting rod bearings which brought the oil pressure back up to normal.
Our new Triumphs came through the distributor in Detroit, and once in a while Dale would hire Bill to fly up there and drive a new one back. It was less expensive, and quicker, than having them shipped by truck. One day Bill was visiting and Dale sent us to Canton to pick up something for him. We were driving a new Triumph TR-10 sedan. On the way back we had lunch at a new hamburger stand that had just opened. Hamburgers were only fifteen cents and French-fries were ten cents. Very cheap prices! When we got back, we told Dale about the place, and how cheap the food was. He asked what the name of the place was, and I said "I think it was called "McDonalds", or something like that". Little did we know what was to come!
We went to several more races that summer and I got the urge to buy a sports car. My Ford was paid for and I could now afford to make payments again. Dale seemed happy that I would no longer be driving a domestic car. He said he would get me anything I wanted at dealer cost, except a Turner Climax which were a little harder to get. I really wanted an Alfa Veloce Spyder, but at $4300 they were out of my budget. So I ordered a red TR3 with wire wheels for $2600. Dale made arrangements for me to fly to Detroit to pick it up, and also attend Triumph Mechanic School. After graduation I picked out the car I wanted at the distributor and drove it back home myself. I thought I was in heaven! Later, I bought a used hard-top and then I would be all set for winter.
Fall was drawing near and one morning Dale came in and said that he had been talking to Jack Turner on the telephone. (It was one of many calls Dale made to Turner over the years.) Jack told Dale that he was restyling the 950S and it would have a completely new body. He said he would be sending pictures to us. When they arrived we were very excited! A wide mouthed grille, curved windshield, doors that were hinged toward the front of the car with regular pull handles. The rear was smoothly contoured and the tail-lights fit the styling perfectly. Also a better soft-top, and hard-tops would be an option. It was the "Mark I" and it looked absolutely beautiful! I was very impressed!
Dale had already ordered some cars and I could hardly wait for them to arrive. A few weeks later, two of the cars arrived at the port. Dale had them shipped by truck and when they arrived, we couldn't believe our eyes. The cars had the new rear styling features, but the front half was still the 950S! Dale didn't really seem to mind, but I was very disappointed! I just couldn't believe it! I named them the "Half & Half" Turners. They were really hybrids. I suppose Turner didn't want to waste any of his old 950S body parts, so he blended the two styles together for those two cars. We didn't have any trouble selling the "Half & Half" cars, so it turned out well, I suppose. (We would later re-acquire one of those cars.)
All the cars that came in after the two "Half & Half" cars were regular Mark I Turners. I was very impressed by the new styling. (I think they are absolutely beautiful little cars.) As strange as it seems now, we always referred to the 950S cars as "old style" Turners and the Mark I cars as "new style" Turners. I don't recall using any other terminology, other than "Climax" when referring to engines. We had gotten some "stage one" Climax cars and some "stage three" cars. We never did know if there were any stage "two" cars.
Sometime over the winter, Lyman had to quit working because of health problems. That left just me as a mechanic, with Dale handling the sales and business part, and Betty doing the office and secretarial work. I was able to keep up as we were now able to get most of our service parts delivered to the door by Jordan Foreign Auto Parts. It was a great help and cut down on the time we had been spending chasing after parts.
In January, Dale told me that Turner was building three special cars for the 1960 Sebring race. They were called "Sebring Turners". They would be white Mark I cars with hardtops, and a three inch wide, blue stripe down the center, front to rear. They would have the Alexander cross-flow aluminum head, close ratio transmission, limited-slip differential, thirteen inch wire wheels and front disc brakes. They may also have had the extra upper trailing arm on the left rear side just like the Climax cars had.
Dale managed to sell all three cars before they arrived, so I didn't think too much about them other than wondering about their performance with all the special equipment. We had never heard of the Alexander heads. Around the beginning of March, we got two of the cars. I believe that the other one was picked up at the dock by the customer. Two surprises were in store for me! The first one was that the Alexander heads weren't on the engines! They were boxed up as a kit from the Alexander factory and I had to install them on the cars. The second surprise was that we were going to trailer one of the cars to Florida and deliver it to the customer at the track! Wow! I was really excited, now!
I suddenly had a lot of work to do, and a short time to do it in. I had to get busy because there was more to installing the Alexander head than just bolting it to the engine after removing the BMC head. The tops of the cylinder bores had to be fly-cut for valve clearance because the Alexander's valve configuration was different. The kit included a tool and a written procedure for this. The tool was really a modified intake or exhaust valve that provided a cutting notch. The tool was inserted into the head like a valve would be. With the head fastened to the engine, the tool was used to cut the relief. This step was repeated until all reliefs were cut, one at a time. A time consuming procedure! I then hand-lapped all the valves to their seats and installed the head. I also had to fabricate a new fuel line and throttle cable because the carburetors were now on the other side of the engine. The carburetors also had to be retuned for the new head. I don't recall how the customer got the other Sebring car, but the one we were taking to Florida was ready. Dale, Bill and I would be making the trip. We were all set to go!
A few days before we were ready to leave, we almost had a tragedy! Dale was driving a new Panhard sedan and was involved in an accident that sent him crashing off the road and breaking some ribs. He was in a lot of pain and was unable to make the trip. He was very disappointed, but just couldn't go. He put his faith in Bill and I , and Betty had all the necessary paperwork ready for us. We were going to deliver the car to a man by the name of Fred Woodhead from Houston, Texas at his motel in Sebring. I don't exactly recall now, but he may have been one of Dale's Turner dealers.
On a Monday afternoon in March, I loaded the Turner on the trailer, said farewell to Dale and Betty and headed for Bill's house. We planned to drive all night and all the next day. Bill's parents however, talked us into staying the night at Bill's house and getting a fresh start early the next morning. There was no interstate highway system in those days so the whole trip would be made mostly on two-lane State Highways, except a small portion on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It took two and a half days to get to Sebring. It seemed like forever!
We finally arrived, and found the town to be very pretty. It had a town center and a beautiful lake. We stopped and Bill snapped a photo of me with the car on the trailer and the lake in the background. We looked around and then headed for our motel. We were very surprised to find that the fellows running one of the other Sebring Turners were also staying in our motel. Their names were Bill Kravas and Jay Grantham. Not long ago I found out that they were running car 60-301. Unfortunately I don't recall the number of the car we took to Sebring. It was either 60-300 or 60-302. Kravas and Grantham were friendly and we had a good time with them.
Bill and I located Fred Woodhead and delivered the car to him. He was also running a Formula Junior car. I had never driven one, and when I inquired about a little test drive in the pits, Woodhead refused. Oh well, he wasn't a very friendly person anyway!
We had track credentials, so we were able to spend the days before the race watching some practice sessions and garage activity. Two other friends from Ohio, Al Miller and Bill Mallion, were running Miller's maroon Turner 950S. We spent some time with them and also Kravas and Grantham. There may have been another Turner, a maroon Mark I, but I don't recall the owner.
In the evenings after practice, many of the entrants would drive their race-cars into Sebring. They paraded around the town center and all around the other streets, too. Many of them were pure-bred race-cars and really not suitable to be driven on the street. It was something new to us and a unique a sight to see Open exhaust systems and the smell of Castrol-R in the air. We loved every minute of it!! Oh yes, I forgot, we looked at all the girls, too!
Bill and I were at the track bright and early on race day to watch the preparations going on in the pits. A lot of beautiful race-cars and a few famous drivers walking around. We were able to see Stirling Moss and check out the factory prepared, British Racing Green, "Sebring Sprite" that he would be driving. It looked almost like a regular Sprite from the outside, but the engine, suspension and brakes were not standard Sprite. With Sterling driving this car, we knew that the Turners were in for a tough time. I think there was another factory Sprite also. We also saw some Fiat Abarths, DB coupes and some other cars that appeared to be well prepared. Let me tell you, those Abarths were screamers!!
The Turners participated in a four hour race for the small displacement cars. It was held before the twelve hour race. I think the field consisted of about twenty cars. Three or four of the Turners were staged close to each other. They had a Le-Mans start and they all got away rather evenly. After a while, Bill and I went down to the last turn where the cars come back to the start-finish line. We could see Moss passing cars on the outside while driving with one hand and scratching his nose with the other!! He was really the class of the field! It took him and the other leaders less than an hour to lap the best running Turner. We had heard that one of the Sebring Turners had broken a valve spring or blown a head gasket during practice and hasty repairs were made. I think he was running gingerly all day. Miller and Mallion had some troubles and were in and out of the pits for repairs a couple of times. I can't recall the exact finishing order, but Moss was first or second. Two of the Sebring Turners were mid-pack, around tenth or twelfth, one of which was Kravas and Grantham. The Woodhead entry was possible the other mid-pack car. I don't know for sure and I can't recall whether he drove the car himself or had someone else as a driver. I don't know where the maroon Mark I, the Miller-Mallion car or the other Sebring Turner finished. It would be interesting to see an old race program. Also, the results were probably published in Competition Press. Of course if anyone has old copies of these publications, they may show just how badly my memory has faded! Oh well, that's how I remember it.
Bill and I watched the Formula Junior race and some of the twelve hour race and then headed for the motel. The next morning we said farewell to Kravas and Grantham and headed for home. We had a few bags of oranges that we had picked from the trees in someone's grove beside the road. Luckily, we didn't get caught! We were eating them all the way home.
Dale's ribs were healing up and he was feeling better when we arrived home. He seemed pleased that the Sebring cars finished mid-pack. He was happy when I told him how neat it looked to see the Turners staged together and leaving the grid at the same time. Four or five Turners in a twenty car field was impressive to me. I'm absolutely positive they were well noticed!
It was back to work as usual after Sebring. We had plenty of work in the shop and I was busy. Many exciting and happy things would be happening that summer. One evening while at a local drive-in restaurant, I met a beautiful girl. The luckiest day of my life! Her name is Sandy, and two weeks later we were "going steady." We've been married for forty-one years now, and she has never once complained about being the wife of a dedicated "motor-head". And Dale soon got a new maroon Mark I Climax race-car!
Dale took on the dealership for Gogomobile. We sold a few before he dropped them and Skoda. It was almost impossible to get parts. Dale also had Panhard, DB and Borgward. They were better cars. We were selling Turners and Triumphs steadily and the trade-in cars were moving right out. One customer came in looking for a Fiat Abarth "Double-bubble" coupe. Dale talked him into a DB coupe instead. Later we sold two DB roadsters. Dale had connections with the distributors of most imported cars and he was able to obtain a new Porsche and a new Peerless for two of his customers.
Some of our Turner customers began having problems with torsion bar breakage. In those days everyone drove their cars summer and winter alike. It was the only car most of them had. I think the pot-holed roads in the winter and constant use of the cars contributed to some of the breakage. Leaf spring breakage on American cars was not uncommon either. However, I feel that the factory bars on Turners were just a little too brittle. One or two of the four bars would break and then the car would drop down and the other bars would take a slight twist. This always occurred on one side of the car at a time. The twisted bars were then useless and all four would have to be replaced. They were very difficult to remove from their pockets because of rust and corrosion. It wasn't practical to persuade them out with heat because of the rubber bushings. Soon we began having serious problems getting replacements from the factory. We wanted to keep some on hand because customer's cars would be out of commission with broken bars and we wanted to get them back on the road as soon as we could.
Dale checked around and was able to locate a local company that could supply us with replacement bars. The local bars were a little different than the factory bars because stock dimensioned steel in the U.S. was different than in England. Our local sets contained three bars which equaled the same thickness as Turner's four bars. Also, the new bars were slightly less brittle. The ride-height adjusting screw had to be turned down a little more on the side of the car with the new bars, which actually gave them a little more twist than the factory bars. I recall that one or two customers wanted both sides replaced at the same time, and others only wanted the broken side replaced. (My present car has a three bar system on one side and an original four bar on the other. I probably changed it for a customer long before I would be the owner). We thought about coil-over conversion, but the breakage problem was not extreme enough to warrant such a serious modification. As far as we knew, the only thing available were "Mickey-Mouse" springs that clamped onto the shocks.
Dale obtained the needed material and we fabricated a roll-bar for the new race-car. I removed the muffler and replaced it with a straight-pipe. The car had only a few miles on it and we were ready to head for Waterford Hills or Dunkirk. (I don't remember which.) We decided that I would drive the car as far as possible, to give the engine some break-in miles. Dale, Betty and Dale Elaine followed me in the tow car. After about fifty miles, the noise from the straight-pipe was killing my left ear. I put my hand over it and rested my elbow on top of the door. About five minutes later, Dale flashed his lights and motioned for me to pull over. They walked up to the Turner and Betty asked me if I was getting sleepy. I said "No, why do you ask?" She said it looked like I was getting tired and propping my head up with my arm to stay awake. When I told them about the exhaust noise hurting my ear, we all had a good laugh. We put the car on the trailer for the rest of the trip.
We went to several more races that summer and the Turner always performed flawlessly. We never had mechanical problems. Bill and I, and our girl-friends, would travel to the races in our TR3s, and Dale, Betty and Dale Elaine would bring the race-car on the trailer. It was a very enjoyable time and we were able to meet some people who later became famous. Roger Penske, Briggs Cunningham, Denise McCluggage and Skip Barber are a few that come to mind.
The rest of the summer was spent working on customer's cars which was something that I really enjoyed. Tune-ups, valve jobs, starters, generators, clutch replacements, brake work, transmission and engine overhauls and everything in between. I loved nearly every minute of it. I learned as I went along. Every time I turned around there was some kind of car in the shop that I had never worked on before. And every once in a while, some of the local farmers would bring in their car, truck or tractor for a repair of some type. It was a challenge sometimes, but I was having the time of my life!
Fall rolled around and I decided it was time for me to take another step in my life. I bought Sandy a ring and we became engaged. We were making wedding plans and I thought now is the time to ask Dale for a raise. He only took a moment to think, then increased my salary by twenty per-cent. Sandy worked in the office at the telephone company and so our future was looking bright.
Dale was affiliated with Fergus Fine Cars who was the Borgward importer in New York City. They also sold some Turners for Dale. (Fergus would later take over importing Turners when Dale became a Fiat dealer.) Dale had ordered a new Borgward Isabella and just about the time it was ready to be shipped, Fergus notified him that they were going to hold a Borgward Mechanic School at their dealership. Dale made arrangements for me to fly to New York, attend the school, and then drive the Borgward home. Just like when I picked up my TR3 in Detroit. But this was different, this was New York City! The Big Apple! What a trip!
Sandy and I got married the following January. We rented a house about a quarter of a mile from Tri-City from Dale's mother. The rent was low but it meant that Sandy had to drive fifteen miles to down-town Akron to work, and it was winter. We sold the TR3 and bought a new Corvair Monza which was a little more practical. I was still worried about her, so after a few months we moved to Akron where she could catch the bus to work.
One morning Dale came in and said he was thinking about making some changes. When I asked what they were, he told me that we were going to become a Studebaker dealer. Well, I nearly fell over! I was trying to picture a Turner and a Studebaker next to each other in the showroom. I told him that if we could sell Skodas and Gogomobiles, I guess we could surely sell Studebakers. We both had a good laugh on that one!
Turners and Triumphs were still selling pretty well and we sold a few Panhards and a couple of Borgwards. I was surprised at how well the Studebakers were doing and soon Dale sent me to South Bend to attend Studebaker Mechanic School. It was interesting, but I was glad to get back to working on Turners and Triumphs. And besides that, Dale had been letting me take the Climax race-car home from work every once in a while. He didn't seem to mind if I flogged it as much as he did! And I did flog it!!
We sold a Mark I Climax car to Bill Mallion who was a local sports car dealer. He was a racer, and he tweaked that Climax to get the most performance he could. It was a D-Production car and it screamed! He let me drive it once at Barberton Speedway. He won a race at Cumberland in 1961, beating some very stiff competition. He always made a good showing for Turners. We also ran Dale's car several times that summer.
The next year was 1962 and Dale sold the race-car that spring. We were concentrating mostly on Studebaker sales. Some of Dale's Turner dealers had fallen by the way-side and he wasn't importing as many as before. He gave up everything except Turner, Triumph and Studebaker. I had plenty of service work with what was left. A little later, Dale re-acquired one of the "Half & Half" Turners and made it into a race-car. It was painted gold in the front and red in the back with a scalloped design between the two colors. I didn't particularly care for the looks of it, but Dale thought it was nice. We only raced it a few times that summer. Once was at Mid-Ohio.
When the Studebaker Company started to fold, Dale gave his Turner business to Fergus Fine Cars. They then became an importer. Dale then took on Fiat and became a very successful dealer, winning several sales awards.
I loved working for Dale, but was starting to think about the future, and a career that included a retirement plan. In 1963 I resigned from Tri-City and took up a career in law enforcement. Dale and I remained good friends until his passing in 1986. Our families are still good friends, and with the recollections of Dale's lovely wife, Betty, I was able to write this story.