The Turnham Rotary


Peter Turnbulls story...

Some time in 1971 I sold the low-line clubman to Trevor Fidler less the ford motor and gearbox with the proviso that I fit a Mazda 12a rotary motor and gear box to the chassis. At the time we had not heard of anyone using a rotary motor in a racing car.


The motor was left stock but we changed the carby so the secondary choke worked manually. This car was a rocket ship. Had to replace rear radius rods with heavier units. The car was then fitted with 10 inch x 13 inch Mawer wheels and Dunlop slicks. Slick tyres were only new at this time.


To say this car was an embarrassment to more sophisticated cars is an understatement. At this stage any car which could lap Baskerville Raceway under 60 seconds was pretty good. Trevor achieved this with no trouble at all. Just a note on Trevor.


Trevor is an extremely good driver who usually raced for Arthur Lord in a variety of cars from a Vauxhall Cresta to an E type Jaguar and a Falcon GT. This was the first time he ever spent his own money. (A wise man) At over 70yrs he is still competing and harassing the young blokes in a Mitsubishi Mirage ex works car.


The rotary passed through a variety of owners who modified it but no one drove it like Fidler. The car is sitting in a shed in Launceston awaiting restoration.

Trevor Fidler & Steve Chopping

Trevor Fidlers story...

In 1971 I bought a rotary engine and gearbox with the idea of putting it in a Healy Sprite or MG Midget, but cutting a long story short, I bought Peter Turnbull’s Turnham Ford.


Peter fitted the rotary into the Turnham and the Rotary Turnham was born. Being standard it was of course very reliable, but having the rotary engine fitted it wasn’t eligible to run as a clubman, so it ran as a Group A Sports Car. I fitted disc brakes to the front soon after acquiring the car, and eventually bought a set of Mawer 10” rims and fitted Dunlop slicks that were available at the time. The scrutineers of the day (Ray Long being one at Baskerville and Eddie O’Sullivan at Symmons Plains ) didn’t approve of the oil cooler being at the front of the car, so I had to refit it at the rear as well as putting in a stronger roll bar.


With a few refinements the Rotary Turnham eventually managed exactly 60 seconds around Baskerville and 64.1 seconds around Symmons Plains in 1973.


1972 Tasmanian Hillclimb Champion ( Sports Cars )

Gary Nicholls bought the car in 1974-75 and he sold it eventually to Peter Aylett. At present the car is owned by George Chandler and it has been in his workshop for maybe 20 years.

Some of the Group A cars that were competing in those times were:
Peter Turnbull — Turnham Climax
Allan Ling’s — Lotus 23B FVA driven by Bruce Gowans
Geoff McHugh’s — Traco Renmax
Steve Roomes — Elfin 350
Max Thompson — Elfin 400
Bob Wright — Tasma Repco


Click on photos to see larger image...

Turnham under contruction
Almost complete
Simpson & Fidler
Driver of the Day Award
Mick Stockell
Baskerville - 3rd on grid
Moments in the Turnham Rotary History
Baskerville – 65secs in top gear - 1972
Symmons Plains – 64.1secs – Nov 1973
Baskerville – 60secs – Feb 1973
Tasmanian Hill Climb Champion (Sports Cars) 1972
and outright Sports Car record – 36secs - Flowerdale