Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Edward Turner

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Edward Turner (January 24, 1901 – April 15, 1973) was a famous British motorcycle designer. He was born in Camberwell in the London Borough of Southwark, London, on the day King Edward VII was proclaimed King.

  • 1927 Edward Turner built his first bike, using his second design, a 350 cc OHC single. The Motor Cycle published a photograph of Edward Turner's patented engine, mounted in his motorcycle called the Turner Special. The Special was registered for road use with the London County Council as YP 9286. It used Webb forks, and a three-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox.
  • 1928 Living at various addresses in Peckham and East Dulwich, and running Chepstow Motors, a Peckham motorcycle shop with a Velocette agency, Edward Turner conceived the Square Four engine. At this time he was looking for work, showing drawings of his engine design to motorcycle manufacturers. The engine was essentially a pair of 'across frame' OHC parallel twins joined by their geared central flywheels, with a one-piece four-cylinder block (or Monobloc) and single head.
  • The idea for the engine was rejected by BSA, but adopted by Ariel. Thus it became the Ariel Square Four, and not the BSA Square Four. Edward Turner was then invited by Jack Sangster to join Ariel.
  • Edward Turner, now 28, married Edith Webley.
  • 1936 Triumph sold their motorcycle company to Ariel owner Jack Sangster who changed the name to Triumph Engineering Co. Sangster made Edward Turner, now 35, General Manager and Chief Designer.
  • 1963 Edward Turner retired as Chief Executive of the Automotive Division (which included motorcycles) in 1963, but retained his BSA Directorship. He was apparently by this time unhappy about the direction the company was taking. Bert Hopwood had hopes of being appointed Turner's successor, but the job went to BSA's Harry Sturgeon.
  • BSA management now took over Triumph policy completely. Sturgeon decided to streamline motorcycle operations after McKinsey, an international business consultant, recommended treating the two companies as one.
  • 1966 saw Edward Turner worked on a large-displacement, four-cylinder engine design which was not built.
  • 1967, Edward Turner, at 66, retired from the BSA Board and Harry Sturgeon took his place. Unlike Turner, Sturgeon was convinced Triumph had to be involved in racing, and John Hartle won the 1967 Isle of Man TT production event on a Bonneville, just before Harry Sturgeon suddenly died, and was replaced by Lionel Jofeh.


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