A Talk with C.M.C. Turner

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THE 1927 J.C.C. “200” at Brooklands was a smoky race. R. F. Oats’ O.M. was flagged in for emitting a smoke-screen so dense it endangered other drivers and just before that a column of black smoke from the Byfleet side of the Track denoted the demise by fire of C. M. C. Turner’s Gwynne.

A chance telephone call some time ago informed me that Mr. Turner was to be found in Kent and thus I was able to discuss his streamlined Gwynne and his motoring career. While still at Cambridge, he built his own car, in 1920/21, using an a/c s.v. vee-twin Blackburne engine driving through a G.W.K. friction transmission, necessitating a rather lofty seat, to a chaindriven back axle. The suspension was ingenious, consisting of model-T Ford front springs mounted in line with the chassis to act as cantilevers, the free ends bearing on sliding shoes which provided additional damping under heavy loadings. Mr. Turner joined the Wolseley Co. while his cyclecar was under construction, so endowed it with a Wolseley body. At the time, of course, Wolseley’s were making “that ghastly Ten” and the Hispano-Suiza-like Fifteen.

Mr. Turner’s first motorcycle was a single-gear Rover which, because it had a bent frame, he fell off every time it rained. This was followed by a New Imperial.

Cars followed—first a 10.4 Citroen tourer, then an Angus-Sanderson tourer with an alarming affinity for shedding a front wheel, and a Wolseley Stellite which, being in bad condition, “was a shocking car.”

The first Gwynne 8 was then acquired, a tourer, with which its owner “was frightfully smitten.” It was used for M.C.C. and other trials, until it deposited its pistons in the sump, scoring the bores. It was replaced with a Gwynne 8 Sports Model, in dark blue, with aluminium top decking, bought in Birmingham. Mr. Turner was an amateur enthusiast when, for the 1926 200-Mile Race, he got Gwynne’s to build him a proper racer. The side-members of a Gwynne 8 were modified to pass beneath the back axle, which was sprung on Gwynne 14 front springs adapted as cantilevers, while the axle casing was east in light alloy. Laystall provided a special crankshaft with cased-in bob-weights on the webs, and a special camshaft, and the block was bored out from 55 mm. to 66 mm., giving a capacity of 1.087 c.c. Carburation was by twin S.U.s, the Skinner brothers coining down to Brooklands to tune them, and a huge fuel tank formed the undershield of the car, petrol feed being by hand pump, supplemented by a wind-driven pump out-rigged above the tail. The 3-speed gearbox was retained but a very fine fabric streamlined body was built for the car by Cordon England, and the radiator and dumb irons were cowled in with alloy sheeting. A modified Rover front axle fitted with Whitehead brakes having special ribbed drums provided retardation suitable for the “road” circuit the J.C.C. had devised for the rice.

At this time Gwynne Cars Ltd. were building only a handful of cars a week. E. Cole was Works Manager, Mr. Willment the Chief Engineer and Mr. Longstaff the Chief Draughtsman. Gear-cutting was done by the Crown Works at Acton and there was a small foundry apart from the main factory at Chiswick Wharf. They built their own bodies. Mr. Turner financed the racing project himself but Gwynne’s were enthusiastic, benchtesting the engine and towing the car to the Track behind their works hack, although its owner drove it on the road once, being rewarded by a jammed clutch spigot in a traffic hold-up on Kingston Bridge.

The engine was tried out in Mr. Turner’s sports Gwynne, and would only do 80 m.p.h. Obviously something drastic must be done! So the c.r. was raised to around 10 to 1 and a change made from petrol to Discol. The Gwynne was then callable of 92 m.p.h. and finished 12th, and 6th in its class, in the 1926 “200,” at 58.91 m.p.h. It was driven in other J.C.C. races, and, for the 1927 “200” the engine was put on the new-fangled Ethyl leaded-fuel. This was too much for it! The six studs securing the block sheared and although it didn’t fly through the bonnet as happened to Duff’s giant Fiat “Mephistopheles” in 1922, it wobbled about, causing the carburetters to spill fuel and start the fatal fire. The chassis was saved, and sold.

By this time Mr. Turner had joined Gwynne Cars, his task being to design a new 14/40 Gwynne. The Gwynne 14 had an aluminium crankcase, magneto ignition, cantilever back springs and a square radiator, being superior to the Gwynne to, with its cast-iron crankcase and coil ignition. Alas, Neville Gwynne perhaps tiring of having all manner of special-bodied Gwynnes built for him, the little concern folded up in 1928. Only about a trio of the last-batch 148 had been made; Mr. Turner wonders if one can possibly have survived? He recalls taking an all-weather model down to Cornwall and having to dismantle the gearbox on Bodmin Moor.

Of Mr. Turner’s personal cars, a handsome 14/40 Sports Sunbeam, which was “very refined” but had only a 3-speed gearbox, cantilever rear springs that were too flexible and an oil-pump which starved the big-ends on l.h. corners, was replaced by a Type 30 Bugatti 2-seater. This was “hardly ever on eight cylinders” although a Benton & Stone Autostat to heat, the mixture them statically greatly improved things. Gwynne’s put on a fixed screen and doors but the hydraulic brakes never worked properly, “pressing the pedal, you merely went faster,” the master cylinder being too large. Then, after a “not very satisfactory ” blown Lea-Francis, Mr. Turner had two “quite unburstable and delightful” Diattos, a very sporting 1925 car with a bad vibration period and a less-handsome 1926 model with bigger crankshaft, which cured this trouble. It was not very fast—about 75—but had very good acceleration and brakes, and coped with a Land’s End Trial. Finding these Italian cars noisy, a “most unsatisfactory” 3-litre Bentley was acquired, followed by a Norton motorcycle and a “simply disgusting” 1932 Aston Martin, “capable of only 75 m.p.h. and with positively dangerous brakes.” A 3-litre Invicta provided “the most stupendous acceleration” at the expense of twisting halfshafts into a resemblance of barley sugar and cracking its differential casing, but three 30/98 Vauxhalls, the last one with Delage front axle, provided good travelling, as did D. H. Cirrus-Moth GB-EBVD in another sphere.

There was also a Triumph Gloria, “charming up to a point,” until it went all wrong, because, pretending to be a sports car it was driven accordingly, which the pistons and timing gears couldn’t stand, while the propeller shaft suffered from whirl. So, on the eve of war, Mr. Turner had that 3rd. 30/98. Today he runs an A40, soon to he replaced by a Mini, and is completing in his home workshop a supercharger he began making in 1928.—W. B.