Holy TT relic

As hoards of TT fans make the mass exodus off the Isle of Man after this year’s races, a 250cc Rex-Acme affords the opportunity to step back to the 1923 Lightweight TT.

Words and photographs: RachaEl Clegg Archive photographs: Mortons

SOME things need to be seen in their proper context, so with the mighty Lightweight Rex-Acme being on the Island, it would be wrong not to photograph it on the Isle of Man TT course.

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This is a marque, after all, whose greatness was built on its performance over the 373/4 miles of Mountain Course. So important to Rex-Acme was the Isle of Man TT in fact, that the company eventually incorporated the Manx legs into its tank logos.

And clearly, perched on a lay-by at Black Dub on the TT course, the Rex is at its spiritual home: the machine’s deep purple tank and umpteen hand levers glisten in the sun as riders crane their necks to catch a glimpse – even while travelling at breakneck speed.

But little do they know that 96 years ago – almost to the day – this very machine raced through Black Dub to third place in the 1923 Lightweight TT. It would be one of many of Rex’s TT achievements throughout the 1920s, but more of that later…

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The machine now belongs to Rupert Murden, who rode the 250cc Rex-Acme in the 2007 Centenary TT.

Geoff Davison pushes off his Levis, to signal the start of the 1923 Lightweight TT.

Back in the machine’s 1923 heyday, however, it was Rex factory rider Dan Hall in the saddle, finishing third on the podium after a dramatic race against Wal Handley, Alec Bennett and Geoff Davison. It was a race peppered with 12 breakdowns, several crashes, gusts of wind and threats of rain, not to mention major alterations to the course near Ramsey Hairpin.

Motor Cycling’s race report, published onJune 13, 1923, described the Rex-Acme as it set off down Glencrutchery Road, the piece reads: “Totley’s OHV New Imperial is remarkable, and rather faster than Horton’s, while Hall’s Rex-Acme is still more rapid, and quite as noisy.”

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Since the Lightweight race was still in progress when the Sidecar TT started, it led to some ‘interesting’ situations! Here, Stead’s Cotton follows Weatherell’s Weatherell Special outfit at Governor’s Bridge.

Meanwhile, according to the magazine, “Le Vack (New Imperial) shoots away like a cork from a bottle.”

The 1923 Lightweight race was initially led by drama-prone Handley with Hall in fourth place. Motor Cycling reported: “The race is far faster than was the case last year, for the redoubtable Handley has thrice broken the 1922 record, improving his time each round…”

Meanwhile, despite not setting off ‘like a cork from a bottle’ the Rex-Acme proved to be a reliable endurance machine, as the report describes: “Hall’s Rex Acme, another Blackburne-engined machine, is plugging away, steadily maintaining fourth position with railway regularity.”

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Read more and view more images in the August 2019 issue of TCM – on sale now!

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