Alexander Turner What?s a Turner?

8 February 2008
, The Telegraph
Alexander Turner What?s a Turner?
The little Turner is now a rarity in Australia with only five believed to be left worldwide.

It's been on a honeymoon with its first owner, dropped children off at playgroup and ventured out on many shopping trips with the third and present owner.

But perhaps it's been most at home on the track, where it has spent a lot of time working out its lightweight body and quick engine. And while the car may have had just three owners in the past, there's a waiting list for the future.

“I think my two daughters will fight over it ... and my wife, it'll be easier just to get buried in it and save the arguments,” owner Bob Rees jokes. Mind you, that would seem fitting for Rees, who has formed a very special relationship with the car over the years.

It started when he worked in the pit crew for the original owner, an ex-RAF pilot who emigrated to Australia to work for Qantas and decided to bring his little toy with him.

After Rees worked on the car in the 1970s, the original owner sold it to Rees' best friend, who continued to give it a good workout on the track and was responsible for the wider wheel arches and wheels. But when it came time for the second owner to relocate in 1978, the Turner needed a new home and it couldn't have turned out better, because Rees was in search of a new race car.

Being British himself was part of the attraction to the car, but Rees says it wasn't always a model he planned on owning.

“I only ever really knew of one that raced, and it was very successful in England in the 1960s,” he says. “It was the only Turner I'd ever even seen in England. It wasn't a car I set my heart on as a young kid or anything like that, but something (I've become) attached to now.”

Rees is particularly fond of the car's individual looks, and the fact he doesn't blend in on the road. And, as his best friend has since passed away, Rees feels it's a connection.

“It's different ... not an MG, a Midget or Sprite,” he says. “It's got that little goofy look. Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill car — there's a bit of exclusiveness about it and it goes hard.”

While it may have its own unique character, Rees says it is very similar to the Sprite and also uses a lot of Morris and Mini parts. It has similar suspension to the Sprite but features a more sophisticated rear suspension. It's powered by a 1000cc Morris engine with an Alexander Crossflow head, hence the Alexander in the title.

Rees says it is similar to the way Peter Brock had a line of Commodores. There were only about 100 of the Alexander-tuned versions released.

The Turners were built right through to 1966, and the later models came with a Ford 1500cc Cortina motor. About 670 models were built.

But today, it's believed there are only 15 Turners in Australia and Rees says as far as he knows, his is the only Alexander Turner model, one of just five left in the world.

Over time, he has worked on what he refers to as his “four-wheel motorbike,” rebuilding the engine, rubbing it back and having it resprayed by a friend. He's also had the interior updated.

“It's a progressive restoration, I do a bit there a bit here,” he says.

Rees has raced the car, taking part in sprints, hill climbs and drag meets and he plans on returning to the track next year.

Weighing just 500kg, and with a fibreglass body, Rees says it has a big advantage in this environment with good power-to-weight ratio. And, it is “an extremely good-handling car.”

While it has served as everyday transport in the past, he now takes his car out a couple of times a month because it's on club number plates. His wife also enjoys getting behind the wheel and taking it for a spin.

While Rees's future aspirations for the car include hitting the track again, he also hopes he'll be able to afford to put it back on full registration and use it on a more regular basis. When he does take it out, there's no lack of attention.

“Everybody looks at you a bit strange, especially out here in the country because it's not a thing you see a lot,” he says.

“Most people walk up to it and ask if it's an MG — they don't know the difference. They look at the badge and ask, `What's a Turner'?”

In 1960, the Turners sold for about pound stg. 700, which was more expensive than the “Bugeye” Sprites of the day. Rees bought his model for $1000, when it was 18-years old.

Today, he predicts it would fetch about $20,000 if it were put up for sale.




1960 Alexander Turner

Value when new: pound stg. 700

Value now: about $20,000

Verdict: Small, light, quick and nimble, and a real blast from the past.