Forty years ago, swarms of motorcyclists roamed along London's North Circular Road in nightly 'burn ups'. They were the ton-up boys . . . the coffee-bar cowboys . . . the Ace boys — so called because their pit-stop was the Ace Cafe at Stonebridge Park.
This is their story as told by the boys who raced, and the policemen who chased, woven against a background of contemporary reports of escapades, accidents . . . and deaths.
'They were the good old days — the golden years,' recalls one of the boys. 'If anyone asks me, what were they like, I'd say, well, watch one of those Western films like Dodge Citywhen Wyatt Earp went and cleaned it up. That's exactly like it was.'
The Ace Cafe Then and Now opens with the first beginnings of bike racing in the London area — at High Beech — in 1928 and continues with the pre-war history of the North Circular as one of Britain's new 'arterial' roads, and the establishment of the Ace 'road-house' at Stonebridge Park in 1939.
Then, Barry 'Noddy' Cheese, one of the Ace's original 'ton-up' boys, paints a graphic picture for us of the excitement of life at the cafe in the 1950-1960s, his account being set against the cold facts of the increasing death toll amongst young motorcycle riders.
The controversial Dixon of Dock Green TV episode is covered as is the making of the classic film The Leather Boys and the book goes on to describe events leading up to the closure and subsequent isolation of the Ace with the construction of the new bypass in the 1990s.
The story is brought up to date with the resurrection of the cafe's fortunes under Mark Wilsmore and the fantastic re-opening celebrations in September 2001. It's all here . . . in The Ace Cafe Then and Now.