A pidgeon among the British F2 cats
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W Christmas 2000 issue
- Frazer-Nash - The marque that failed to take the Cooper straight, by Mattijs Diepraam
V BARC International Trophy (9 May 1953)
Another workshop in the business of creating Cooper lookalikes, Jack Turner's small constructing factory was hired by John Webb - by the way, an entirely different Webb from the the one that was the famous Brands Hatch supremo - to convert his MG Magnette into a single-seater in 1952. The car held a unique engine using a double overhead camshaft designed by none other than Laurence Pomeroy. With the result ever more to Webb's liking when Turner managed to eek even more power out of the engine, Webb ordered the construction of an F2 machine with which he could go Grand Prix racing in 1953. Through his contacts with the son of Lea-Francis' chief designer Turner managed to obtain the same engine that powered the early Connaughts and mated it with his ladder chassis.
In the end there came no such thing as Grand Prix racing, as Webb restricted his appearances to British events (such as the fifth International Trophy at Silverstone, dominantly won by Hawthorn and Ferrari), in which he invariably ran at the back before it broke. Only when Grand Prix driver Jack Fairman took over did the Turner manage some reasonable results, a 6th in a 1954 International Trophy qualifying heat its best.
The year would however see Turner also create the Turner-BMC, a neat little production sportscar that preceded the Austin-Healey Sprite. This car would become Turner's bread and butter for next 11 years, with 800 built and raced with considerable success in club events. By the time Turner closed the doors of his shop his single single-seater project was a thing very well in the past.
Reader's Why by Marc Ceulemans
Jack Turner is a perfect example of the typical post-war British special builder. After coming out of the Armed Forces, he was involved in engineering and began to compete in events with a MG. Then he decided to build his own car, which followed the Cooper's layout (it was the not the only one), a ladder-frame with independent suspension all round by transverse leaf springs. Someone else saw it, like it, and asked to buy a replica and so Turner found himself becoming a constructor (as Mike Oliver's Connaught).
To his workshop came one John H. Webb, who had bought the ex-Reg Parnell MG K3 Magnette which had been fitted with a unique d.o.h.c. head designed by Laurence Pomeroy. Webb was a prominent club racer in the 1950's, and it was to continue racing for many years. He asked Turner to convert the car into a single-seater. By degrees Turner also obtained more power from the engine and Webb was sufficiently impressed to commission an F2 for the 1953 season, for he had in the back of his mind the idea that he might take in a few GPs.
The result was similar to Turner's sports specials with its lozenge-shaped ladder-frame and transverse leaf springing. Its wheelbase was 2.29 m, 11-in Girling drum brakes were fitted all round, and the rolling chassis was completed by cast alloy wheels which Turner made for his own cars and sold to other constructors such as Tojeiro.
One of Turner's sportscars had been sold to Ken Rose, son of Lea-Francis's chief designer, Hugh. Through this connection Turner was able to have Lea Francis' 1767 cc iron block engine recast in aluminium. Enlarged to 1960 cc (76 x 100 mm), which was the same as Connaught's Lea-Francis engine, and with two plugs per cylinder and S.U. fuel injection, Jack Turner said his engine gave 145 bhp at 6600 rpm. This was transmitted via an Armstrong-Siddeley pre-selector gearbox and an ENV differential mounted on the chassis.
It had a lozenge-shaped ladder frame and transverse leaf springing. The engine was an aluminium block 1750 cc Lea-Francis enlarged to 1960 cc with a twin-plug aluminium head by Turner. It also had SU fuel injection adapted from the SU aircraft system and supervised by the works. In this form it gave a claimed 145bhp at 6500 rpm and drove via an Armstrong-Siddeley pre-selector gearbox to an EMV differential mounted on the chassis.
John Webb was some way from being an ace and he confined his activities to minor British F2 events in 1953, where the car was always at the tail end of the field. Thus in the 1953 International Trophy at Silverstone he was classified last but one, far from the winner Mike Hawthorn and his works Ferrari 500/001.
The following year he tried a 2.5-litre Alta engine, but the story was the same. Perhaps the best performance of the car was in the International Trophy at Silverstone, when Jack Fairman drove it to finish sixth in heat 2 and 13th in the final. At least on that occasion it finished, most of its race that year ended with mechanical failure.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of the Turner F2-007 Lea Francis's results:
- 1/5/54 International Trophy: Jack Fairman Turner Lea-Francis FII-007, 6th heat 1, 13th Final
- 19/6/54 Crystal Palace Trophy, 2 heats + final: Jack Fairman Turner Lea-Francis FII-007, 4th heat 1
- 2/8/54 August Trophy Crystal Palace: Jack Fairman Turner Lea-Francis FII-007, 3th heat 2, 8th Final
- 7/8/54 Gold Cup Oulton Park, 160 km: Jack Fairman Turner DNF
- 14/8/54 Redex Trophy Snetterton, 175 km: Jack Fairman Turner, DNF
- 13/08/55 Redex Trophy Snetterton, 109 km, 25 laps, F1: John Webb Turner, DNF
Jack Turner made a number of other Lea-Francis-based engines, and one was used by Kieft at Le Mans in 1955 without success. The British driver Berwyn Baxter retired the Kieft Turner on lap 4. A Kieft 1100 Turner was also seen in the entry list of the Mille Miglia and the 1000 km of Nurburgring in 1956.
Turner also built a water-cooled 4-cylinder dohc 500 cc engine which was fitted into a Kieft F3 but proved disappointing since it gave only about 36 bhp, although the head performed well on a BMC series A engine. In 1954, however, Turner went into production with a little BMC-engined sports car, effectively an Austin-Healey Sprite, nearly 3 years before the Sprite appeared.
With various engines, this stayed in production for 11 years and around 800 were made, with some enjoying a fair degree of competition success in British and American club events. Finally ill-health caused Turner to close his factory and he retired in his native Wales, while his one single-seater is also in Wales.