I never really knew either of my grandfathers, as they both died when I was very young. I’ve heard stories of course, but it wasn’t until this week that I realised the scope of some of them!
My maternal grandfather, Les Turner, was an engineer and I knew he was very talented. He built a number of guitars (two of which I own, that was the primary reason I learned to play) but among other things I had heard stories that back in the 1960s he had built and raced a dragster. I always assumed it was just a little hobby, but after speaking with my older sister and doing a little research I discovered that it was more than that – he took his racing very seriously, and was very successful – winning a number of events and setting new records. It seems he was a skilled engineer in his workshop, and a fearless and competitive racer on the track so I guess being an action geek runs in the family!
This is a photograph of him from 1966, next to his 1500cc Ford Slingshot which set the following records at Elvington:
International standing-start records at Elvington in 1967 in Class F:
1/4 mile in 11.06 sec. // 500m in 12.53 sec. // Kilo in 20.2 sec. // Mile in 29.62 sec.
He raced and tweaked it over several years, constantly trying to squeeze every last drop of power from it, and apparently getting a lot of respect from other builders and racers with one report stating it was “one of the best turned out cars of that era with green frame and alloy panels”.
The workmanship and build quality was so good in fact that though the car was broken up in the 1970s, the engine block was reused in another car which raced until the mid 1980s and the chassis was reused and raced well into the 1990s (and apparently is now in a collection in Denmark)
The following is an except I found on a site about classic british drag racing:
Jon Sewell purchased the car in the late 1970’s and was so impressed by Turner’s superb block work with its billet steel crank and rods, flywheel and sintered clutch in a Lotus alloy bellhousing, and an Lotus alloy diff. — that Jon realized this could be a terrific National Hot Rod motor, and it went into his #222 hot rod which he took the the Spedeworth wars racing against the likes of George Polley.
The Turner rail had been one of two dragsters being stored for a friend as a favour in Jon’s “garage”, until 1979 when Jon moved out. At this point his friend took away the blower [above] and cylinder head. The chassis, temporarily stored in Addlestone, Surrey, was bought by some enthusiasts who had a car but no trailer — so they pushed it by hand all five miles Woking
Jon says the dragster “was a work of art, even the bellhousing and diff were polished”. As for the engine, he bored it out to 1600cc and fitted the necessary cross-flow head and flat top pistons. “It was so oversquare it would rev as high as you wanted but had no torque.”
Here’s a shot of it in action:
Finally, here’s a photo of him riding his 750cc Triumph drag bike in 1969:
So nice to know that being an action geek is in my blood
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