The ace cafe brings bikes, cars and rock ‘n’ roll to the world
ace cafe revs it up and cranks out motorcycles, muscle cars, music culture, fashion and merchandise throughout its storied legacy
Iconic authentic ace cafe brings bikes, cars and rock ‘n’ roll to the world, including america, and to all that love british motor heritage and inspiration.
ACE CAFE REVS IT UP AND CRANKS OUT MOTORCYCLES, MUSCLE CARS, MUSIC CULTURE, FASHION AND MERCHANDISE THROUGHOUT ITS STORIED LEGACY.
The Ace Café, known worldwide, has come to the United States. The Ace, as it is also recognized, is simply the most famous motor-diner on the planet. Since 1938, the Ace Cafe has been the rally place for folks passionate about cuppa tea, chips, eggs, as well as the world-famous gatherings of bikes, cars, & Rock ‘N’ Roll. In those early years, just before the war, nobody could have foreseen that this café on the side of the road would go on to become famous and hold such a place in the hearts of motorbike enthusiasts everywhere.
In 2017, it landed for the first time on American soil.
The Ace Cafe is a story about speed. Since its early days on the outskirts of the North Circular Road – the A406 - surrounding London, where it still stands today, Ace Cafe London has been the beacon for those passionate about motoring, music, and a little mayhem.
A simple roadside café that catered mostly to truckers and lorry drivers, the Ace Café became a meeting place for like-minded motorists to pull off and grab a Full British Breakfast, or to have a chat with the ever-growing number of company of others. The Ace soon caught on with the likes of the younger motorcycle generation, with its proximity to Britain’s fast arterial road system and the fact that it was open 24 hours. This became a huge attraction to youth in post-war London, as these kids were out all night, riding motorcycles and carrying-on. A few stops along the way with their mates at roadside cafes, then racing between those cafes to see who had the fastest bikes and who were the most skillful riders – hence the term “café racer” – and the Ace had become infamous - a sort of clubhouse - for kids that loved the smell of petrol, burning tires, and the allure of fast-moving metal.
In 1939, the Ace added a 10-pump service station, a showroom, repair shop and a spacious ‘washmobile’ washing bay, where you could shampoo your car for just five shillings. It was a motor-lovers dream come true. Petrol, repairs, a washup, some chips, eggs, and a cuppa tea…and of course a burnout on your bike…and you were good to go.
Bombed out during an air-raid on the adjacent railway marshalling yards by the German Lutwaffe in 1940 during World War II, the Ace was badly damaged and was rebuilt in 1948. After re-opening in 1949, at that point, it actually became a facility with home-made food prepared onsite, in a top-notch kitchen, serving the surrounding community in what was now a new and emerging London. It was also the beginning of what can be regarded now as the Ace Cafe ‘Heydays’ – those days when the Ace became notorious and found its greatest popularity and maximum achievement. ‘Them Days’ as the British Ton Up Boys like to call them - those days from 1949 – 1969 when life was still in front of them through their goggles - racing each other and tempting fate, going flat out, bullet-proof and vicious without a care in the world - all at the same time.And with the arrival of the 1950’s, and the Ton Up Boys, girls, and the Rockers, the Ace phenomenon was booming during this post-war time, as more and more youth had motorcycles, and the roads were full of screaming bikes and kids in black leather jackets. The British motorcycle industry was hitting its peak, and then it happened. Rock ‘N’ Roll arrived on the scene. At the time, Rock was not played on the radio in Britain, so the only place these kids could hear the music was on the jukeboxes at transport cafes. The Ace had one of these first jukeboxes, and became the place to meet, hang-out, mend up your bike, and arrange a run to the other roadside cafes.
People from all over came to listen to the jukebox, which was fortified with the 45 rpm records British servicemen would pick up in the US and abroad and bring back to the UK.
Many of the people that visited the Ace in those days would go on to start dance clubs and their own bands. British kids found that the Ace was one of the only places they could go, to listen to American records by the likes of Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane, and others, where they could put a coin into a slot and listen over and over, memorizing the words and melodies, and learning the guitar chord changes of their favorite records. Some of these individuals gained success and considerable reputations while doing it. Legend has it that one such group of kids turned out to include John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison - three leather motorcycle jacket-wearing Teddy Boys with slicked-back hair and a penchant for playing guitars in a skiffle band - who would go on to change the entire world. At the time, these lads were known to be in a band called the Quarrymen, which morphed into Johnny & the Moondogs, then the Silver Beetles, and, finally, the Beatles. Beatlemania would soon become an intense fan frenzy in the UK, the USA, and the world, as the lads’ popularity grew, and their music and fashion took over everything. Everywhere.
From this amazingly powerful fusion of youth, Rock ‘N’ Roll, and motorcycles…a curious pastime known as ‘record racing’ emerged. Basically, a ‘music and motorcycles’ dare was born during these late nights at the cafes. A lad would ‘drop a coin into the slot’, jump on his bike, and race to a certain point and get back in time before the record finished. To do this, you had to do 100 mph, aka the term ‘Doing The Ton’, and for that feat, you were deemed a Ton Up Boy. And there was nothing cooler than being one.
The original Ace Cafe was built in 1938 on the outskirts of London. After the bomb during World War II, the Ace was rebuilt from the ground up, where the building still stands today. In the 50’s, the Ace attracted young motorcyclists from all parts of London looking for a place to call their own, meet friends and talk bikes. They also discovered American Rock ‘N’ Roll on the Ace’s jukebox, one of the very first in England. By the 1960’s, this combination produced the movement of Mods & Rockers, a generation of American Muscle Car and Hot Rod lovers, and the Ace Cafe became legendary.
The Ace even had a leading role as the backdrop in the famous “The Leather Boys” film – the 1963 Sidney Furie movie which starred Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell, and Dudley Sutton, as well as many of the Ace Cafe’s actual patrons as extras. While shooting the scenes for the movie, Director Furie wanted to achieve realism, so he would take advice from the young local riders at the Ace, getting their thoughts on what t-shirts, black leather motorcycle jackets, jeans, and boots to wear.
“The Leather Boys” would go on to become one of the 60’s greatest British films, and would further cement the Ace’s place in British motorcycle history, and enhance its massive consumer and commercial appeal, with a direct connection to a number of industries including motorsports, music, fashion, and pop culture.
The Ace Cafe in London closed in 1969, due to the social order changes amongst the classes, the growth of the automobile market outpacing the motorbike industry, and the expansion of the motorway network of roads. Although serving up its last egg and chips, the Ace was not forgotten, and twenty-five years later in 1994, the first Ace Cafe Reunion was organized on the very grounds the Ace stood on for so many years. To everyone’s surprise and delight, over eight thousand bikers attended that reunion event, which set into motion an idea that perhaps the Ace might return to live another day. Meetings were held to determine if the former Ace Café location might be available, and when it was determined that it was available, plans to restore it to its former glory were put into play, and the Ace reopened in 2001. It’s grown in popularity ever since.
In 2011, a new Ace Cafe /Ace Corner would open in Lahti, Finland. In 2013, the Ace Cafe would celebrate its 75th Anniversary. In 2015, two new Ace Cafes would open – one in Luzern, Switzerland, and one in Beijing, China. In 2017, Ace Cafe in Orlando, Florida and Barcelona, Spain would open. In 2021, Ace Café Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia would open.
Worldwide accolades abounded, as original Ton Up Boys, casual diners, and celebrities all agreed that the Ace is “absolutely iconic and authentic. A rare, legacy brand with a bona fide place in British motor history, and there’s simply no other place like it.
Journalists far and wide also had the same opinion – “The Ace Cafe is the single-most important marque in the worldwide Cafe Racer movement today. It's the poster child for the true spirit of racers, builders and DIYers, and continues to be the mecca for everything motors.”
“Picture a hundred cafe racers thundering into the lot, while the aromas from sizzling griddles abound, and an old friend’s handshake and a slap on the back of the leathers welcomes you home for a great meal with family & friends. That’s Ace.
”These sentiments can be heard from most everyone who has had the good fortune of visiting the Ace Cafe, no matter which Ace Cafe in whatever city they may be visiting.
1994 Reunion creator, organizer and eventual new founding partner Mark Wilsmore, now Managing Director of the Ace, was a former mounted policemen with the London Police and avid motorcyclist. He took the Ace to new heights and speeds when he undertook that first reunion back in 1994. Wilsmore would become the well-known face of the Ace, having appeared in and on every news channel, ink publication, television interview, TV show, radio broadcast, and streaming outlet the world over, as he and his partners mounted the effort to reinstate the Ace to its original glory on its own original hallowed grounds. The Ace Cafe would go on to receive many historical recognitions and awards for being a such a long-standing member of the British motorbike community. To that end, and most recently, the Ace Café became the 115th location in the UK to receive the coveted “Red Wheel” plaque, awarded in recognition of Ace’s legacy in the development of transport, for its unique history, and for being an iconic gathering place for youth in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. This inspiration continues to inspire riders both young and old, still today. Many of the original Ton Up Boys, once youngsters in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, are present at the Ace, even today, dressed in their uniform leather jackets, white socks, buffs, and goggles, interacting with all the riders they inspired, telling stories about getting pinched by the law back in the day, what British motorbikes they rode while doing it, and retelling the yarns of the fantastic rides and unbelievable carpark moments of yesteryear. These Days versus Them Days. These days it’s a pint. Them days it was a cuppa tea.
If you ask these original Ton Up Boys, now in their 70’s & 80’s, why they come to the Ace Café every day, they basically all say the same thing – “It’s our home, our heritage, our family. The Ace is basically the same as it was back in them days.” It’s what they do now, because it’s what they did then. They ride out, gather up, grab a cuppa, see some old mates and carry on.
The Ace Cafe reclaimed its motor-centric lifestyle experience. Steeped in rich tradition, the Ace has become so popular that in September 2014, the annual Ace Cafe Reunion Weekend (now in its 28th year), attracted more than 200,000 people from 42 countries, all ending up on the shores of Brighton Beach. And it had grown ever since.
Independently acclaimed as the “World’s Coolest Motorcycle Event”, the Ace Cafe Reunion Weekend is typically a three-day event, normally the first weekend in September, over a Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule. Events taking place on Friday at the Ace see riders coming from all over Europe – the “Continental Ride”, a ride-in to the Ace with some riders coming from overseas and, either shipping, or renting, bikes in Europe to be a part of the ride to the Ace. Events at the Ace on this day include bikes of every make and model, live music, special guests, ride-outs, and a party atmosphere. This part of the Reunion is a sight to behold, as thousands of bikers, having already arrived at the Ace, are now parked and camped all over North Circular Road. There’s nary a square of foot space that is not occupied by a motorbike, sleeping bag or tent as far as the eye can see. Saturday brings the big “Café Racer London Ride Out”, a blessing of the bikes by the 59 Club Chairman and Father, live rock ‘n roll, DJ’s, a bike show judging and awards ceremony that all last until 1am. Sunday then brings on the big “Brighton Burn Up”, starting at Ace and heading to the sea, taking over Madeira Drive in Brighton Beach, the ever-popular Brighton seafront, which is has been doing since 1996. All the assembled riders at the Ace are waived-off by the Mayor of Brent as the ride begins, as the thousands of bikers present all want to ride through the Ace Cafe carpark (also known as the parking lot), or at least ride by it, in order to ‘officially’ lay claim to the fact that they were a part of the Brighton Burn Up from the Ace, as the ride gets underway.
The ride to Brighton also harkens the famous Mods & Rockers Punch Up of 1964, which also happened in Brighton. Mods and Rockers were two conflicting British youth subcultures that emerged in the late ‘50’s and mid ‘60’s. The Mod subculture was centered around fashion and musical taste, and their clothing and appearance was all about it. Many wore suits. They also rode motorscooters and listened to modern jazz, soul, freakbeat and blues-rooted bands like the Small Faces, Yardbirds and most famously, The Who, who were curiously bringing forth a new version of rock ‘n’ roll at the time, but weren’t embraced by the rock scene yet. The Rockers subculture rode motorbikes, slicked back their hair into a pompadour, wore black leather jackets and motorcycle boots, and were heavily influenced by Marlon Brando in the film ‘The Wild One’. Rockers also listened to rock ‘n roll, rockabilly, and rhythm and blues, by artists like Bo Diddley, Billy Fury, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. The ‘Punch Up’ was a ‘rumble’ of sorts, seeing many Mods and Rockers jailed after the seaside riots, violence and general hooliganism.
A rallying point for good times, good people, good motors, good fashion, & good Rock ‘N’ Roll, Ace Cafe is a motor-destination complete with a restaurant, bar, events space, live music, and retail all at once.
Today, the Ace greets everybody with the same warm welcome the Ace is known for, enjoying nothing more than sharing great times with friends & family over a great meal and a cuppa tea & coffee.
Motorhead-inspired fashion and merchandise has also become another compelling means of serving the motoring community. Ace Cafe’s iconic, distinctive style and look offers a range of exciting clothing and apparel that totally engages the motor community with t-shirts, jackets, pins, patches, caps, and now, with the addition of a brand-new collaboration between Ace Café London and the venerable Ton-Up Clothing brand (owned by the Scotland-based V-Twin Brands company, who have been the ‘Official Clothing Provider for Ace Café London’s Superior-Quality Premium Clothing’ Lines for the past decade), a new collection of t-shirts that become available in Summer 2022. Ton-Up Clothing has also just introduced a new, black café racer motorcycle leather jacket promotion, in association with Lewis Leathers, on the notorious Star Lightning jacket.
When it came time to find the absolute best jacket for the Ton-Up Clothing brand café racer leather jacket release, the choice was clear - the most celebrated café racer leather motorcycle jacket in history was undoubtedly a Lewis Leathers Star Lightning.
More than a meeting place or cafe, the Ace is a community of people — enthusiasts, racers, riders, drivers, free thinkers, DIY builders & music lovers from all over the world. Dads, Moms, Sons, Daughters, Uncles, Aunties...all are welcome at The Ace!
British, simple, honest, speed-inspired, cultural landmark, DIY enthusiast, custom, greasy, speedway, drag-racing, knee down, revolution, pin up, ton-up, Rock ‘N’ Roll, cool, burn-up, burn-out, rev up, Billy Fury, mods, rockers, hard-working, classless, original, authentic, inclusive, organic, evolving, and speed thrills. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. With a deep-seated passion for everything motor-related & rock n’ roll, the Ace stands alone.
Whether at Ace Cafe London, located at North Circular Road, Stonebridge, London, NW10 7UD, phone +44 (0) 20 8961 1000, with café hours open Monday – Sunday 8am – 10:30pm, online @ london.acecafe.com.
Whether at Ace Cafe Orlando, located at 100 West Livingston Street, Orlando Florida 32801, phone 407.996.6686, with café hours open Monday – Friday 11am, Saturday – Sunday 10am, online @ acecafeusa.com.
Whether at Ace Cafe Luzern, located at Sonnmatthof 2, 6023 Rothenburg, phone +41 41 530 00 44, with café hours open Tuesday – Friday 11am, Saturday – Sunday 10am, Monday’s CLOSED, online @ acecafeluzern.ch.
Other Ace Cafes can be found at Ace Café Beijing, at Ace Café Malaysia, and at Ace Café Finland.
Bike meets, Car shows, Live music, or just a great meal, remember one thing — There’s no place like Ace!
British Designed Motorcycle Clothing Made for the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiast, Café Racer, Ton-Up Boy, or Anyone Who Just Loves Cool Clothing
Genuine, Authentic, British and Made to Last.
“Yeah, they make right cool clothes. I wear them because I want to. The quality is absolutely 100%. I wear them all the time, spot-on.”
We Just Don’t Understand
IT’S CLASSICALLY BRITISH, SHOULDN’T IT BE born in THE U.K.?
Obviously, it should.
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ace cafe london giveaway
Ton-Up Clothing is holding a giveaway to the Ace Cafe London Reunion in London in Sep 2022. there will be a mega 3-day rally. stay tuned
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