Turner Sports Car Company, Ltd. was founded by British racing driver John H. “Jack” Turner, and existed to produce affordable lightweight sports cars for use on the street and on the race track. In postwar Britain, there was plenty of demand for just such cars.
Turner produced his sports cars with a conventional ladder frame, carrying an engine in the front that powered the rear wheels. On the basic chassis, Turner cars used fiberglass bodywork and components sourced from various British production cars.
Like many small upstart automakers, Turner was denied wholesale access to engines, transmissions, and other components, and so had to purchase them from established dealers. This, and the experimental nature of Turner’s enterprise, led to a wide variety of engines and other components being used on his cars.
In 1958, Turner updated his existing 803 Sports model to the new BMC A-Series 948 cc engine. This was the same racing-derived engine that was being installed in the Austin-Healey Sprite at the time, and the Turner 950 Sport, as the new model was called, would compete directly with the small Healey.
The basic engine in the 950 was the stock BMC A-Series unit rated at 43 hp. There was also an upgraded 948 cc engine with greater compression that was rated up to 60 hp, and buyers could opt for either of two more exotic overhead cam Coventry Climax 1098 cc engines at 75 or 90 hp. The transmission was a basic British four-speed manual driving a solid rear axle. Brakes were four-wheel drums, but front discs were available as an option. About 170 examples of the Turner 950 were made.
The front suspension utilized stamped steel A-arms and coil springs, plus rack and pinion steering, all very similar to the Sprite. At the rear, torsion bars and trailing arms carried the axle assembly, but a coil spring option was available.The 950 body that had been inherited from the Turner 803 was retired in 1959 and a new, more modern-looking body came into use. This car was known as the Turner Sports Mk I. Where the older Turner had a semicircular grille shape with the flat edge along the bottom, the new car had a wide grille and generally more refined lines. Engine power was still the 948 cc BMC A-Series engine, but the Turner-Climax variants were also available in 1098 cc and 1216 cc. Some mechanical changes were made, including increased availability of disc front brakes, but the bulk of the car remained the same. About 150 Turner Sports Mk I cars were built.
1960 saw the advent of the Turner Sports Mk II. The changes to the bodywork were minimal, but Turner began to offer the 997 cc Ford 105E and 1340 cc Ford 109E engines. The Ford 997 cc engine came with 39 hp, but these were very tunable motors that could be upgraded significantly. The 109E could be bumped up over 100 hp. These cars could be ordered with front suspension and steering gear sourced from a Triumph Herald, and by the end of 1960 the Triumph suspension was standard. The Mk II was the most popular Turner, with about 300 examples made between 1960 and 1963.
The final model of the Turner Sports car was the Mk III, which debuted in 1963 and made use of the 1500 cc Ford Kent engine as well as the 1650 cc Cosworth engine. The BMC A-series was still available, but was fitted only to two cars because of the greater power and durability of the Kent engine. The Turner Sports Mk III was produced in its 1963 configuration for several years, with about 100 cars made.
Jack Turner stopped his small operation in 1966, apparently due to ill health. Today, of the approximately 700 cars made between the advent of the 950 and the end of the Mk III, perhaps 275 still exist. The Turner Sports is eminently collectible and respectable in the world of small displacement sports car racing. As a rare car, though, and as with all fiberglass-bodied vintage sports cars, condition of the bodywork is critical when making a selection. While just about any flaws can be fixed, the repair work will come at a price. Because of the selection of standard mass-produced engines, mechanical parts for the Turner are easy to come by, and the cars may be fairly retrofitted with the best possible parts.