7. May 2009 03:16
In recent years the Ace Café(http://www.ace-cafe-london.com/) in North West London has become a mecca for all kinds of mechanical shenanigans. A transport café was established on the site in the 1930’s, was bombed in the Second World War and then rebuilt in the late forties. It became notorious in the 1950’s as a rocker/biker meeting place but suffered a decline through the following decade closing as a café in 1969.
I can remember passing by the site as a child in the 1970’s when it was a petrol station and the two lane street outside [I]was[/I] the North Circular, passing under the arched brick railway bridges one of which still carries its fading Ferodo advertising.
By the 90’s it had become a tyre shop, though the building itself was mostly unaltered. But one man, Mark Wilsmore, had big ideas. Initial anniversary events at the site were hugely successful and by the end of 1997 regular monthly meets had started, using the small end room where the stage is now situated as a tea station – boil the kettle and make it yourself!
It took several more years for works to start on retuning the whole building to its original purpose. Again I was fortunate to watch this transformation since I worked close by and drove past almost every day, stopping occasionally to chat to Mark about the progress. I remember the fitting of the original style windows as a major landmark that really brought the building alive. It has not been completely restored to its precise original format but the layout is essentially the same and the external bricks and mortar are soaked in history.
There are now monthly meetings there for every style and kind of vehicle imaginable and in some ways its original transport café roots have also returned, the car park often featuring various works vans and the like during a normal weekday. But it is on event days and nights that it shines, last night’s Hot Rod Spring Riot for example, when the buzz must be similar to that in its original heyday.