Motorcycles of all ages, eras and purposes featured at Shannons Autumn Timed Online Auction, but a classic British race bike with competition history was the top seller.
While the consignment list for the 13-20 April timed online auction included everything from a trio of Vespa scooters to classic Harley-Davidson tourers and a Honda Z50 mini bike, most of the pre-auction interest was on a selection of British competition motorcycles, some of which were being offered with no reserve.
These consignments included a C1950 Norton ES2, C1933 Rudge 500 TT replica and a pair of highly-collectable AJS 7R racers. Top of this group was a 1954 Norton Manx 500; one of three bikes from the estate of Fred O’Farrell.
1954 Manx Norton
Described as having racing history both locally and in the UK, the genuine J11 M2-spec frame Manx was sold new in the UK in long-stroke form, then given a Ray Petty short-stroke conversion before it came to Australia.
Once here, it was brought up to 1961 spec, then spent many years in Mt Gambier. Raced in period, including a fourth place at Bathurst by Rob Assink, the Manx changed hands locally several times, before ending up in Warrnambool, where it was given a tidy up.
Of note in the pre-auction information is that the Norton’s 498cc single had never been apart until its conrod was sent to Summerfields for a new big-end bearing. Used sparingly since, it was run up and down the local road by the vendor to keep it fresh until around six years ago.
Consigned with paperwork and notes on its history, this genuine Manx Norton was predicted to sell in the $50,000 - $60,000 range, but fell just short of that at $48,000.
Of the two AJS 7Rs in the timed online auction, one was a genuine 1949 example with local racing history and almost five decades’ family ownership. Against a $55,000 high estimate, this unit failed to meet its reserve and was passed in. The other 7R, a C1948 example had its original motor replaced with a Velocette 350 single and was valued accordingly, with a low estimate of only $16,000. This unit sold for just $9,100.
1926 Rex-Acme Sports
Of the other classic British bikes in this auction, perhaps the rarest was a 1926 Rex-Acme Sports single.
With a reputation as one of the UK’s most innovative manufacturers, Rex first produced motorcycles in 1900, before becoming Rex-Acme in 1921 following a merger. Subsequent models established the marque in racing, enhanced by the arrival of rider/engineer Wal Handley, who became Rex-Acme’s Works Manager and won multiple TT events on the bikes he developed.
The flow-on effect of this was a sportier range for the consumer, including models like the 350 Sports single. When Handley won the Lightweight TT in 1927, an even sportier Model TT8 followed.
Following Handley’s departure, Rex-Acme seemed to lose its nerve, settling for more sedate commuter machines, but still offering customers plenty of options, with no less than 17 different models to choose from in 1929 alone. When the Great Depression hit, Rex-Acme suffered, but still managed to continue production until 1933.
The 1926 Rex-Acme 350 Sports consigned for the Shannons auction featured a 348cc Blackburne OHV engine with Amal carburettor, a three-speed Burman gearbox, Webb forks and drum brakes at each end.
The auction bike’s early history is a mystery, but it was known to be a rare unit even when it was purchased by the vendor in country Victoria. Fully restored, the bike retains its original fuel and oil tanks, but replacement rims and mudguards were fitted. The bright blue paint with gold and black coachlines is authentic to the original, too.
Offered with no reserve, this stunning Rex-Acme 350 Sports sold within estimate for $19,800.
C1933 Rudge 500 TT Replica
A similarly strong result was achieved by a C1933 Rudge 500 TT Replica.
Introduced in 1931, the TT Replica was born from Rudge’s success in the 1930 Isle of Man TT and was originally offered in both 350cc and 500cc form. That success came at the hands of Tyrell Smith in the Junior TT and Wal Handley in the Senior TT.
The impact of the Great Depression meant Rudge was unable to fully capitalise on this success, with high-priced Works Replica racers simply out of the reach of most buyers of the time. Nevertheless, the TT continued to be produced and, for 1933, featured a simpler ‘semi-radial’ version of the four-valve radial head introduced for the race bikes in 1930.
At the end of 1935, Rudge went bust, and while new owners EMI continued motorcycle production at a small level, it ended for good in 1939.
The C1933 500 TT Replica consigned for the Shannons auction was from the collection of Fred O’Farrell and had been raced by him regularly at Amaroo Park and Oran Park. While unproven, it’s believed this bike was raced at the Isle of Man TT before it came to Australia.
With a bronze head engine that was set up to run on methanol, the Rudge had spent almost a decade on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Nabiac, so hadn’t run for some time before being consigned for the auction.
One of few racing Rudges with confirmed local competition history, this rarity was reflected in it selling for $18,750 – above its $18,000 high estimate.
For results on other lots from this auction, go to: shannons.com.au