|Turner Sports Cars||Events - USA Reunion 2011|
Mid Ohio Race Course
June 24,25,26 2011
Photos and Information courtesy of John S. Ruth, custodian of Turner Mk III Sport # 63/592
As I write this, almost 1 year since I formed my plan to hold a USA Turner Reunion, I am sitting in the garden courtyard of a bed and breakfast located on Put In Bay Island, enjoying a glass of locally made Catawba wine and the pleasant summer evening with my wife. The 2011 Turner Reunion has just ended a mere 2 days ago, and a sense of satisfaction that it all came together and relief that all the planning worked out with the Turner gang enjoying the heck out of themselves gave great comfort. During the Reunion, I met a lot of nice people and their Turners; each one had a story to tell and in their own way honoured Mr. Jack Turner and his mighty little sport car company.
The location was the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course, hosted by the SVRA (Sports car Vintage racers Association). The Mansfield, Ohio circuit is a joy to race on and to hold our Reunion at, the circuit is steeped in a rich SCCA history. The SVRA staff and their leader for the weekend, Mr. Ray Snowdon, pulled out the stops to host our little gang (literally, since more than half of the Turners were forced to pull out due to recent race shunts and lack of time to get the cars mended). I had a nice grassy section that had two large oak trees offering shade, reserved as the Turner paddock - complete with the large HQ tent, which provided some protection on the second day, due to the weather being rather English like, i.e. misty and rainy, coming down sideways at times!
On this early summer afternoon the first of the group came together, strangers at first, with a common interest, Turners. My dad, Ken and I arrived early on Thursday to set up the paddock, assemble the tent, and put out the Turner banner, which signaled our presence to the racers and spectators alike. I had good old 63/592 standing in front of the Turner banner to show the others the way to our weekend "home".
As some may recall, I had some unexpected work to complete on 592, given that its drivers side tire/wire wheel assembly decided to part company with the car, taking the drum brake with it! I urgently sourced the new replacement (read - hard to obtain) Riley 1.5 backing plate and all related brake components. The time table that all this activity happened in was a mere two and a half weeks prior to our Reunion! Never the less, I quickly became an expert at sourcing the rear Turner brake and hub components. I must admit that figuring out all the original sources on our Turners is a bit like unraveling a mystery, but with the help of worldwide Turner enthusiasts and the always helpful Russel Filby (Turner Register extraordinaire); I pieced it all together quickly. After my work to get 592 rolling and stopping again, I thought it best to fit 592 with its factory optioned hardtop, as I planned on some long distance motoring on the country roads of Ohio.
The first to arrive in the Turner paddock was Mr. Dave Lewis and his nice wife Barb, they greeted us with their very original maroon 950S # 30/237. Dave likes to drive this little gem, and I am very pleased to say that he has it properly turned out like a fine sporting car should be. Rest assured, he does not have the car treated like some trailer queen, he drivers it in New England ralleys and on street, just like it was meant to be used. Jay Domuex and pal Wally Hicks arrived next with Steve Agins' old Mk III #65/624 - I was very confused at first to see the car's interior (which sported a rear cranked shift handle) , Jay pointed out that the Mk III had been outfitted by Agins with a FORD Sierra gearbox and 1600 cross flow engine. Jay's Mk III is very clean and while sporting a few non-factory bits, has the proper spirit that makes a fine sport car a joy to drive and watch being driven, a real treat to have at our Reunion. The group of us six chatted and basically got to know each and our Turners a bit.
On following morning, the rest of the gang arrived, Alasdair Young with his rolling Mk III chassis # 66/660 (a nice piece to have in the paddock, since it gave all a look under the skin of a Mk III). Alasdair is from Michigan which is the state I also come from, and to think, I thought I owned the only Turner in Michigan! Alasdair mentioned that #66/660 was the last Turner put into kit form, and is now in a state of rolling restoration. Just days prior to the Reunion, I had received an email from Alasdair asking if his roller would be allowed to attend, and of course I wanted him to join in the fun. I suspect that Alasdair was taken with all the activity of the Turner gang, and he even attempted on a few occasions to fire up the old girl, employing Wally Hicks as mechanical mastermind to get the plugs firing, though in the end the petrol was simply too old to ignite the FORD 1500 GT engine. Bob Baldwin drove with his wife Cheryl from New York to Ohio with his very sharp steel bodied 803, which is one of three steel cars that Turners made to mock up the fiberglass molds. After Turners were finished with the molds, the steel bodies were fitted onto chassis and sold off to the US. I was rather taken by the unique design details of this roadster - such as the two piece front wings and factory louvered bonnet and lots of other details that could prove the basis for another article. In hind sight, I think that Cheryl must have a lot of patience and understanding to drive some 10 hours in a 803 packed with all their luggage and of course the pilot, Bob! Later in the afternoon, Tom and Kathy Woodley, custodians of # 65/635 a Mk III Sprint joined our little reunion without their Turner; they were great company and shared some interesting stories of their long standing Turner ownership. Tom regaled the audience during the Turner presentations of tales when he and Kathy used a Turner for daily transport when they were first married, and of dealing with the Tri-City dealership (which is approx. 30 miles from the Mid Ohio circuit). All in all a great group that shared tales and common enthusiasm for Mr. Turner's fine sport cars and each other.
The Turner gang assembled and strolled around the cars that were positioned in front of the Turner Sport Car banner that marked our paddock. I must say that a lot of spectators passed by, some curious about the sporty little gems that lay before them, others smiled and told tales of loving the cars when they were new, and raced them on circuit or drove them like a scalded dog on the street, humbling much larger cars in tight, twisty country by-lanes. Not a one went away without a smile, and I like to think, some envy for us lucky devils that have one of the greatest small sport cars! Most of the day was spent semi-sheltered under the HQ tent from the rain and breezes, though spirits were high and we plugged on with enjoying ourselves immensely. The first of the "official" Turner Reunion activities, the historical presentations, took place in the early afternoon, located in the splendid Mid Ohio Tower. Mid Ohio allowed our Turner group the use of the top floor media room, this gave a grand view of the circuit and the racers qualifying for the next day's races. There were a few unexpected events prior to the presentations; two of our presenters had to back out due to issues outside their control, so this left Mr. Art Brow and myself to shore up the presentation schedule! Art Brow is a WWII veteran and longtime road racer, and of course he raced a Turner, an early light blue and red interior 950S at Put In Bay and other Ohio based circuits in the late 50s. Mr. Brow was very successful with his Turner 950S on road circuits and also entered the occasional drag race in the sport car, talk about an enthusiast. I was to step in and present a time line history of Turner Sports Cars Ltd. This sounds dry, like a school lesson, though it was anything but, as Mr. Ken Robbins, who worked for Turners created the presentation. The detail he added into the timeline was astounding, having many unseen pictures for the US audience. The audience was thrilled with the history presentation, and had many questions and stories to share bounded by general enthusiasm. I extend a hearty thank you to Mr. Robbins, since he helped save the presentation portion of our day.
Later in the afternoon, when the racing was just about over for the day, the skies cleared with bright sunshine taking over. Smiles all around the Turner paddock, as the time had come for the Turner group picture. With the help of my photographer, we eventually had the Turners positioned. One story to mention was that of racer Jim Southwood and his gorgeous Mk II #62/508. The Mk II had a spot of bother with its Sprite gearbox locking in gear rendering the Turner inoperable. Jim's mechanic determined the best solution was to remove the offending gearbox (this was minutes prior to the group picture!). While I was busy at positioning and repositioning the Turners for the group picture, I saw Jim riding up; he stopped by the HQ tent, asked for a 5 minute delay, which I was happy to provide. Jim went off and had the Mk II's gearbox wired in place so he could bring #508 over for the pictures. To make room for Jim's Mk II, I had moved 592 out of the line-up, though was honoured when the guys told me to park the Turner in the foreground, seeing that I headed up the Reunion, what a nice gesture. Afterwards Jim stayed on and chatted, and then he towed 508 back to his paddock spot to get on with the repairs for the big race on Saturday. To close out the evening, Wally, Jay, my Dad and I went for a bite to eat and talk Turners - we had a very enjoyable dinner, then to rest.
Saturday was the big day, and it was a historic day as well, since never in the history of Turners has there been two Reunions on each side of the Atlantic, this was remedied on June 25 2011. In the UK, the Turner gang held their annual Reunion in Crickhowell, South Wales and the US gang descended upon Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Mansfield, Ohio. What a fantastic celebration of Mr. Turner and his sport car company! Saturday came up sunny and upon checking my email, I noticed Russel Filby the Turner Register in England, sent me a picture of the Turner UK Reunion. My enthusiasm was buoyed even more as we went for a nice breakfast, meeting up with Mr. Keith Burnett, a very charming Englishman and fast Turner racer in period and in historics. Afterwards we made our way to the Mid Ohio circuit and woke our Turners up and the air was filled with burbling, snarky engines bringing the paddock alive again with activity. Dave Lewis and I talked the night prior of holding a road ralley round Ohio's twisty new England like country roads, and on the Saturday, we were determined to do just that, get the Turners out and run them, like Mr. Turner intended. Dave found a map, and we decided on a route to a beautiful nation forest area that had everything from rolling, green farm land, to waterfalls, damp forested groves, and wooden covered bridges. Boy what a thrill to take a Turner on these roads, warm summer wind blowing about, fantastic sport cars hunching down to get more bit onto the rear tires, and smiles, miles wide across the Turner drivers and passengers. Three Turners took part in the first Turner Road Ralley, #s 30/237, 63/592, and 65/624 - we had a great adventure on the country lanes, and took a group picture by one of the lovely covered bridges. I must say that the land beside the covered bridge was a bit dodgy, being very steep in the area that offered the best picture opportunity, of course Jay and 624 was positioned in this steep dropping area, Dave and I being much too cautious with our cars! As an aside, Jays Mk III had an electrical cut off switch positioned under the passenger seat, and every time Wally Hicks would lean towards the cars centerline, the Turners ignition would cut out! Dave and I found this bit amusing, as did Jay I suspect, since Wally had to sit in the bucket seat like he was on eggs for fear of cutting out the engine electrics! Perhaps a rerouting of the cutoff switch is in order prior to the 2012 Road Ralley! Jay and I had a running joke, as I mentioned to him that 592s turn indicator switch was not self-cancelling, and I often left the bloody thing on for miles ( as Jay witnessed during the ralley ) Since Jay followed behind me most of the ralley, I suspect he often anticipated making a turn when we ended up going straight. Needless to say, we all loved the ralley, and it is to become part of all future Turner Reunions. Activities after the ralley, focused on the big race of the day, the St. George Trophy Sprint race. Due to the attrition of our Turner racers prior to the Reunion, we only had two racers left. Sharon Adelman in her white and blue striped Mk III #65/628 and Jim Southwood in his red Mk II #62/508.
After Mr. Turner passed, this last March, I wanted to do something honorary in his memory, so I asked the SVRA if I would be allowed to take #63/592 on a special one lap tour of the race circuit just prior to the official pace lap of the St. George Trophy Sprint race. What a unique experience to take this fine original Mk III onto the circuit, leading our two Turner racers ( who were in positions one and two ) with the rest of the 30 English car grid behind.
I think Jack Turner would have enjoyed the sight of his cars leading the charge. In honour of Mr. Brow, I arranged to have him start the race; he was stationed in Mid Ohio's starter's tower, and dropped the green flag. Having Art start the race, certainly was a good omen for the Turners. The race was fast paced, a very quick Lotus 7, driven by ex-SCCA champion Craig Chima pulled out a lead, along with the MGA of Bill Treffert, and our Turner Mk III racer, Sharon Adelman held onto a solid third. The finishing order stayed in this order, so we have Sharon as our first recipient of the Jack Turner Cup. Jim Southwood, made a great race of it, and he deserves all Turner enthusiasts praise for his perseverance on and off track to get his Mk II to all the Reunion events. Thank you Sharon and Jim for carrying the Turner banner on track for all us to cheer! The icing on the cake was when the SVRA allowed me to present the race winners with medals and the special awards for the MG and Turner racers on the official Mid Ohio Winners Circle, what a great day for all involved. To close a fine 2011 Turner USA Reunion, we had a nice cocktail party celebrating Mr. Jack Turner and his little band of dedicated enthusiasts that showed up on that summer's weekend. We tasted some good wines from Michigan , Virginia, and New York and snacked on Virginia peanuts and cheese and crackers, and of course congratulated each other for making this historic Reunion a memorable one that will be started all over again next June.
The following Turner cars were in attendance: