Ace Cafe

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A BSA rider at an Ace Cafe reunion in 2007
The Ace Cafe, as it looked in 2004
Interior of the cafe, 2008

The Ace Cafe is a former transport cafe in Stonebridge, north west London, England which has been extensively redeveloped becoming a functions and entertainment venue. It is historically a notable venue in motorcycle culture which originally operated from 1938 until 1969, then re-opened on the original site in 1997.


Ace Cafe opened in 1938 to accommodate traffic on the new North Circular Road. Because the cafe was open 24 hours a day, it started to attract motorcyclists. It became popular with the Ton Up Boys in the 1950s and the Rockers in the 1960s and was where the motorcycling priest Bill Shergold came to invite them to the 59 Club.[1]

The cafe was rebuilt in 1949 after being destroyed in a World War II air raid on the nearby Willesden railway marshalling yard. Events in the post-war environment made the Ace a success – the emergence of the teenager, increase in traffic, and the British motorcycle industry at its peak. Many young people started to meet at the cafe with their motorcycles and listen to rock'n'roll. Many bands and motorcycle enthusiast groups formed there.

The cafe closed in 1969, shortly after the opening of the Scratchwood Services at what was then the southern end of the M1 motorway. The ground floor of the building became a tyre sales and fitting shop.[2] The first floor was occupied by a vehicle delivery company.

Rocker revival and refurbishment

With increasing popularity of the Rocker revival and discussions with original 59 Club members,[1] the first Ace Cafe reunion was organised by Mark Wilsmore and held in 1994.[2]

It attracted as many as 12,000 visitors[citation needed] and the cafe was reopened in 1997, with complete refurbishment completed by 2001. Rockers and motorcyclists from all over the world go to the Ace to attend themed meetings, share stories and see the legend. It is no longer open 24-hours but the cafe now has an extensive calendar of events for both motorbike and car owners.

It also hosts live music and DJs, and is approved for weddings and civil partnerships.[3]

Film and media

Original 1960s customised Lewis Leathers motorcycle jacket with Ace Cafe details

The Ace Cafe was immortalised as a location of the 1964 film The Leather Boys, Sidney J. Furie's notable British gay interest 'kitchen sink' drama, starring Rita Tushingham.[4]

In the past it has been used for the Channel 5 TV programme Fifth Gear in the seasons 10 to 13 (September 2006 until March 2008), and for ITV programme Used Car Roadshow. It has also featured in the BBC television series By Any Means with Charley Boorman; mentioned as a favourite for Ewan McGregor by his wife in the documentary, Long Way Down; and the 2008 film Freebird.

In Episode 6 of Top Gear (series 3) Jeremy Clarkson interviewed clients about their love of customising the Citroën Saxo.

Ace Cafe also featured in an edition of Car SOS – Season 1, Episode 9, presented by Tim Shaw, filmed during 2012 and shown in the UK on at least one TV channel – National Geographic. The episode depicted the secret restoration of a decaying Ford Zodiac Mk1, which was then unveiled and presented to the unsupecting owner in the car park, close to the building entrance.[5][6]

Motoring TV presenters Edd China and Mike Brewer filmed at Ace Cafe on a Hot Rod night in early 2014 during a sequence to sell a Chevrolet Camaro, part of Wheeler Dealers series 11.[7][8]


The Ace Cafe won Brent Council's "Best Bar None" award for local bars in 2009.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Rev William Shergold: biker priest, The Times, 23 May 2009 Archived 24 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 2.0 2.1 Motor Cycle News 23 March 1994, p.48 Ace Cafe to open for rocker bash. "Famous rockers' haunt, the Ace Cafe, is to "re-open" 25 years after its closure for an anniversary meeting...Triumph fan Mark Wilsmore has arranged for an exhibition and all-day party at the site in September. The cafe closed in 1969 and now houses a tyre depot on London's North Circular Road". Accessed and added 2014-10-05
  3. The Ace Cafe on Brent council local authority website. Retrieved 2013-12-24
  4. Raymond Murray, Images in the dark: an encyclopedia of gay and lesbian film and video, TLA Publications, 1994, ISBN 1-880707-01-2, p.414
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  7. Discovery TV stills showing purchase and refurbishment of Camaro Retrieved 2014-04-23
  8. Amateur video of Wheeler Dealer presenters at Ace Cafe Camaro sale Retrieved 2014-04-23
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External links

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