Ace Cafe – Classics – July 2011

Theme at the famous Ace Cafe for the second Tuesday of the month is simply “classics”. This is the gathering that is frequently mentioned in “Classic Cars” magazine, and allegedly attended by them, though I don’t think any of them were in attendance this month. Encouraged by a combination of  Chris Hendrie’s photos of an eclectic mix of interesting cars when he attended last month, and the prospect of a dry summer’s evening, I decided to pop along for the July meeting, to see what turned up. I arrived at 6pm on the dot, and already the car park area was more than half full, and with a steady stream of cars arriving and departing during the evening, many of which had to park up on the road, there was plenty to interest me until the light faded 3.5 hours later. Among the highlights were these:


There were a couple of the long-running 105 Series Spiders on display. It was the perfect evening for a car like this, and both departed with the roof still firmly down.

This 1975 model V8 had been upgraded to Vantage spec, meaning that it is endowed with 425 bhp. The car turned out to be part of a Classic Car Club fleet, and the guy who brought it admitted that he works for the club rather than owning the car. I was amazed when he said that many of their fleet cover as much as 20,000 miles a year, so they tend to be constantly changing the cars they have, as well as being expert in maintenance activities such as changing the clutches!

A genuine V8 Vantage arrived not long afterwards.
A Series 2 A110 Westminster, a very stately barge that competed with Ford’s Zephyr and Zodiac. Many of these met their end on the banger racing circuit, but a few have survived, such as this car.

A Frog-eyed Sprite.

Spotting one E21 model 3 series is a rare occurrence these days, but to get 2 in the same evening is very unusual. The white car is a 316 automatic, and the owner said he has had it for precisely 3 weeks. A previous owner had clearly spent a lot of money restoring it, as the body and interior were in a splendid state. It still seems some minor mechanical attention, and then its new owner can enjoy what he said is far from a fast car (90 bhp and an automatic gearbox is not a recipe for speed even when cars were lighter than they are now), and plenty of admiring glances.

The 3 Series would never have happened, of course, were it not for this, the BMW-Isetta, which kept the company alive in the 1950s. This car made a totally unique noise when it was started up and puttered down the road.  
Any GSA is rare, but this one is particularly so, as it had the semi-automatic gearbox that never sold in significant quantities in the UK.

The supremely elegant Coupe version of the Sovereign.

A nicely presented example of the SP250 “Dart” sports car that Daimler intended to compete with the “E” Type Jaguar until the merger of the two companies meant that this became an in-house battle.
Two rare family saloons arrived in convoy: the 1200 model that was sold from 1970 to 1974 and the Sunny 120Y that replaced the 1200. Both types are all but extinct these days, even though they sold well when new, and indeed it was precisely cars like these which established the Japanese so strongly in western European markets.

A 1972 Dart Swinger

Although a Coupe model featured in the German Consul/Granada range from launch, it was only late in the model’s life when this version reached the UK, and only in upmarket Ghia spec. Few were bought in the UK, so this is a rare car now.

Also rare is the V8 Pilot, Ford’s large car offering from the late 1940s. This car appeared very large when compared to the vehicles parked up around it.
The Pilot was supercedes by the Consul/Zephyr range. Two examples of the Mark IV series of these cars were on show. The brown one is a Zodiac, and the mink blue car is a Zephyr 6. These cars were massive, with a big front overhang, and relatively stubby tail. Roomy inside, but the emphasis was definitely on metal for your money and not driving finesse. Something that Ford changed with the Granada that succeeded this range.  
A 1970 model Mustang Grande Convertible.
One of the nicest sounding cars of the evening was this, a G10 model Ginetta. It turned out that originally, it was actually a G11, which was the name used for the MGB engined 4 cylinder cars,  but in a project that started 20 years ago and is still not complete, the owner has gradually been upgrading it to a G10. It now sports a 289 Cubic inch Cobra engine, which is why it sounded so good, though the cooling system can’t really cope with this change, the driver ruefully admitted.

A Series 1 XJ6 4.2.

There were several examples of the Vignale bodied Interceptor at the event. All lovely.

There was also an example of the ill-fated Jensen-Healey sports car.
Late arrival was this Gamma Coupe. Very nice.

There was an original Seven, and an Elan Sprint

There were a trio of W113 “Pagoda” cars, two of which were the short lived and hence very rare 250SL models.

From the W111/112 generation were some nice examples, too, with a 250S, a 280SE and a lovely 250 Convertible.
From the “Neue Klasse” was this 280 CE Coupe, an elegant and once very expensive car.
Several MGs arrived, as these are indeed one of the more numerous classics on our roads still. This is the rare MGB GT V8 car, only sold for a year or so in this form before the rubber-bumpered models came along.

There was a regular MGB Roadster and a Midget as well.
Far from pristine, but evoking a lot of memories was this Marina 1.3 Super de Luxe, in the very period hue of Limeflower, with Limeflower vinyl seats.

A rather nice R8S from the mid 1960s. Yet another car in absolutely immaculate condition.

An early 1950s RM saloon.

A nice 1969 model Silver Shadow

A late model SD1 Vitesse.

A 1964 model 850 Sport, which the owner was proudly showing off. A three cylinder, two stroke engine with three carburettors of just 850cc powers this car. There is a separate oil injection system, so he said you simply fill the oil reservoir every 750 miles and the system handles the mixing itself, which was not usual practice for two stroke cars. The radiator is mounted behind the engine, so he said once the bonnet is off, it is very easy to get the entire engine out, should the need arise. No wonder these cars were popular and successful in the forests and on the rally stages.

The driver of this one arrived wearing ear-plugs, and it was not hard to see why. These 120R based racers were quite successful in motor sport in the mid 1970s.

Among the Triumph sports cars were a rather nice Stag and a couple of TR6s.

More unusual was this 1300, Triumph’s first front wheel drive car, and one of the original “premium” specced small cars.
This Princess 1100 was a nice example of the application of the coach-builder’s art to the popular ADO16  range.

The Allegro version was never viewed with the same enthusiasm when new, though these cars have gathered something of a cult following more recently. This car looked quite tidy when I took the pictures, but then I saw the other side and was glad that I did not need shots from there as it looked far tattier!  
This pair of PA Crestas made a fine sight indeed. The pink car arrived fairly early in the evening and generated a lot of interest. When the blue one arrived, it just so happened that there was a space right next to it, so the duo could be parked alongside each other. You really could have eaten your lunch from the engine bay of the blue car, it was absolutely pristine.

A later arrival, and an even rarer sight was this FB model VX4/.90. This was the sporting version of the Victor, and was a rival to the Cortina GT and MG Magnette when new. Rust claimed most of them a very long time ago, but this one was in nice condition.
I first saw Silver Bullet, a one-off creation, at Race Retro earlier in the year, but this time it was not raining, and I got to talk to the owner. The car had languished in Vauxhall’s Heritage Collection for many years until he was able to buy it, along with the Cavalier-based Silver Aero. He did say he had hoped to bring that along as well, but his friend who was going to drive it had pulled out at the last minute. Silver Bullet is largely original, and so some of the interior parts are starting to look a little worn, but as everything is unique, he agonises constantly on whether to preserve originality or to keep the car pristine.
It really was the night for rare Vauxhalls, as not one but two of the first generation Astra GTEs made an appearance. This model only had a production life of 15 months, and was intended as a response to the Golf GTi and Escort XR3i. The red car looked absolutely immaculate.
A couple of Beetles: a 1200 from the early 1960s  and a late model 1303 Cabrio.

A late arrival was this 16/60, the plush version of the BMC Farina saloon range which sold strongly in the 1960s.

This was definitely a far better way to spend my evening than sitting in the nearby hotel room. I will ensure that whenever I am available to attend subsequent second Tuesday of the month gatherings, that I do indeed do so.
2011-07-14 11:00:43

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