Jack Turner established Turner Sports Cars Ltd. near Wolverhampton, England in 1949. Shortly thereafter he was joined by John Webb who served as co-director of the company and aided in the handling of finances. Webb stayed with the company until 1960.
In the mid-1950's, the company relocated to Pendeford Airport where they stayed until the companies demise in 1966. The Turner automobiles were small, economical, sports cars that were sold mostly to the US and Europe. To help keep the cost low in Europe, many cars were sold as kits to evade the purchase tax.
Though mainly built for the road, the Turner cars were often seen at the racing circuit doing battle against Lotus's, MG's, and Triumphs.
Beginning in 1951 Turner created a small number of racing machines built atop a 96-inch wheelbase and outfitted by a variety of engines, including Ford Zephyr, MG, Lea-Francis, and Vauxhall.
Turner used the slogan 'Easy to drive - easy to look at - easy to keep.' During their production lifespan, there were around 685 examples produced of Turner automobiles, including the early Specials and one-off creations. It is believed that as many as 260 exist in modern times.
One of the earliest creations was the 803, named after its Austin A30 engine which had an 803 cc displacement. The transmission and suspension were also courtesy of the Austin Company. The rack-and-pinion steering was from the Morris Minor. The chassis was a simple ladder frame construction covered with an open fiberglass or steel body. There was seating for two. The live rear axle with telescopic dampers, torsion bars, Panhard rod, and trailing arms provided excellent handling and superior performance. Top speed was in the neighborhood of 80 mph. In total, about 50 examples were produced.
With the addition of the 948cc BMC engine from the Austin A35, the vehicle was given the name 950. The larger engine improved the cars performance and kept it competitive in the racing circuit. In 1957 Turner began offering the Coventry Climax engine as optional equipment on all the Turner vehicles.
The 950 had the same basic body as the 803, and constructed of Glass Reinforced Plastic. The front had an grille similar to an MGA. In 1958 the 950 was given some minor styling changes as its rear end was given large fins.
The 948cc Austin A35 four-cylinder engine in the 950 Sports Series II produced around 43 horsepower. It was given a four-speed manual gearbox and sent the power to the rear wheels. A modified version of the 950, dubbed the SPR60, was given a tuned engine which produced 60 horsepower. Along with the more powerful engine, the front brakes were enlarged, the compression was boosted up to 9.5:1, and the wheels were available in disc or Dunlop wire setups. On the interior, leather was standard. The leather covered dash housed a speedometer that read up to 120 mph. The tachometer measured up to 8,000 RPMs.
The base price for a 950 was around $2250 while the SPR60 would set the buyer back a couple hundred extra dollars, at $2635. There were 161 examples created with the BMC A 948cc engine and 5 produced with he Climax FWA engine.
In 1959 the chassis and body of the Turner was redesigned and given the name MK1. The standard engine was the 948 cc Austin engine, however, a variety of engine and mechanical component including the Coventry Climax FWA and 1216cc FWE (feather weight) engines were available.
The tuning firm and Turner dealer, Alexander, offered aftermarket items such as disc brakes, alloy cross-flow headers, modified camshafts, and more
In 1961 a one-off Turner GT was created by Ken MacKenzie and Mike Parkes. Parkes, a Ferrari works driver, did not have as big of a role in its creation, but he did provide valuable assistance and experience.
Though the MKI continued the tradition of lightweight performance at an economical price, they did suffer from growing pains. After nearly 150 examples had been created, Turner introduced the MKII, which addressed many of its predecessor's shortcomings.
The MKII had minor styling improvements and updated interior trim but the big news was the engine and suspension changes. In 1961 Turner began offering the Ford 105E 997cc and 109E 1340 cc engines. By 1963 the Ford Cortina 1500cc could be had. Also optional was a Triumph Herald steering and front suspension. During its production lifespan, about 300 examples were produced.
In 1961 Turner announced a 2+2GT version and built them to order; all were offered with the Ford Cortina 1500 cc engine. In total about 9 or 10 examples were produced.
In the close of 1963, Turner introduced the third iteration of its MK cars, the MKIII. The standard engine was the Ford 1500cc engine. This would be the final model produced by the Turner Company. Production of the MK3 continued until 1966 with about 100 examples being produced.
Jack Turner, like so many other small firms, was finding it difficult to run a business, raise capital, produce a quality and competitive product, and develop new prototypes. He suffered a period of ill health which accelerated the demise of the company. By 1966 the factory was forced to close its doors, cease production, and liquidate its assets. Even to the end Jack Turner continued to seek new ways of improving his product and remain in competition. His final project never made it passed the prototype stage. it was a coupe with a rear-mounted Hillman Imp engine. In total around 700 Turner cars were produced with around 260 in existence today.
The Turner cars have always enjoyed success on the racing circuit and excelled in competition and motor sports. In 1958 and 1959 they captured a team prize in the UK. In 1960 they won a Class Championship win in the Autosport Championship. In 1958 a Turner car won the Sam Collier Memorial Trophy race held in the US. They won three SCCA D-Production National Races in 1966. In modern times, as was true during the 1950's and 1960's, the Turner cars continue to capture individual club racing success and a number of F-Production National Championships. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2007