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The Ace Cafe – A Potted History

By Linda Wilsmore

Motorcycles, rock n’ roll and the Ace Cafe…..

 Three simple expressions but they represent perhaps the most powerful fusion, not only in yesterday’s rock n’ roll era, but also in today’sBike Meet 199

The Ace Cafe was built in 1938 as a roadside cafe to cater for traffic using the then new North Circular Road.   In World War II, the building was badly damaged and subsequently rebuilt in 1949.  It was a state-of-the-art cafe and one of the first to use neon signage.   With its proximity to Britain’s new and fast arterial road network, and staying open 24 hours, the cafe soon attracted hoards of young motorcyclists who were bored and searching for their own identity.  They found it at the Ace, together with the ‘devils’ music – rock n’ roll.

The advent of the ‘teenager’ in the early fifties saw the Ace booming, with the arrival of the Ton-Up Boys.  The British motorcycle industry was at its peak, when along came rock n’ roll.  It wasn’t played on radio stations, so the only places it could be heard was at fairgrounds or on Jukeboxes in transport cafes.

Ace Cafe Bookazine Cover Pic“Drop the coin right into the slot”……

From this powerful fusion of motorbikes and rock n’ roll, came the legends of record racing.   Dropping a coin into the slot, then racing to a given point and back before the record finished, turning the North Circular Road into an unofficial race track.

Come the sixties, the Rocker had emerged, and the Ace Cafe became the launching pad for many British rock n’ roll bands, like Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.  Gene Vincent also visited the cafe on one of his tours, and the Beatles are reputed to have been there before they became famous.  The Ace also has racing links, with original patrons, such as Dave Croxford, Dave Degens, and Ray Pickrell, taking their North Circular Road skills onto the racetrack.

The rock n’ roll peak was over by the mid-sixties, made safe by The Beatles and pushed aside by Carnaby Street and the Mod era.  Changes in the social order and growth of the car market, at the expense of the motorbike, and the retirement of the owner, saw the Ace Cafe, by then viewed as a ‘Greasy Spoon’, serve its last egg and chips in 1969.  Following its demise, the building was used as a filling station, bookmakers, vehicle distributors, and tyre depot, but remained largely unaltered.

Driven by his passion for bikes, rock n’ roll and history, in 1993 Mark Wilsmore, with the permission of the owners of the site, set about planning an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the cafes closure, with a mind to reopen the place.  That event in September 1994 attracted 12,000 motorcyclists and rock n’ roll fans from far and wide.Ace Building Archive 11

A film, entitled ‘An Ace Day’ was made, featuring interviews with former patrons of the Ace and today’s riders, to a rock n’ roll soundtrack.   There followed a seven-year labour of love, to obtain planning consent to turn the premises back into a cafe, and eventually purchase the site and building.   Initially, a part of the building was opened at weekends and events were organised with the aid of mobile catering unit for three years. 

In March 1999, potential disaster struck, a hatch on the main North London water supply, exploded in spectacular fashion!   Buried ten feet under the Ace car park, it wreaked havoc, with the resultant flooding submerging the adjacent section of the North Circular Road, which remained closed for almost a week. 

The huge blast had a severe effect on the structure of the building.  Debris and bikes were blown skywards on a wall of high pressure water, shattering window panes, and damaging the roof.  Despite this setback, Mark’s determination to save this legendary icon continued unabated.

Ace Archive x 43The beat goes on…..

The Grand  Reopening took place in September 2001.  The Ace today, is a 21st century fully licensed cafe-restaurant and venue, with its own shop and plenty of reminders on the walls about its colourful history.  Numerous meets are held throughout the year to cater for all enthusiasts, from Ton Up Day through to Hot Rod Night.

The atmosphere is very laid back, you can relax and read the latest magazines, challenge your mates to a game of table football, listen to the Jukebox or simply drool over the amazing array of machinery that turns up.

With room to dance, the cafe’s gig list has featured top Rock n’ Roll artists from the USA, such as Robert Gordon and Linda Gail-Lewis, through to a real rockabilly hoe-down with contemporary bands & DJs.  Many gigs are tribute nights to the late and the great, such as Gene Vincent, Elvis, Johnny Kidd, Eddie Cochran etc.Ace Archive x 8

The bikes and the music may have changed, but the spirit remains the same.  Inspired by rich heritage and traditions, the Ace Cafe still embodies the same values as it did when it was first home to the Ton-Up-Boys (and girls) and Rockers. What could be found on a Triton when going for the ton in the 50’s and 60’s is emulated today on modern sports bikes and streetfighters.

Special celebrations, parties and small conferences can be catered for, and if you fancy tying the knot somewhere different, you can even get married at the Ace! 


Ace Archive x 7Check website for full list of events:


Open 7 days a week.   Monday to Friday 7am – 11pm. 

                                    Saturday 7am – 11pm (2am on specials)

                                    Sunday 7am – 10.30pm


Ace Cafe London

Ace Corner

North Circular Road


London NW10 7UD


Tel: 020 8961 1000


Mystery of the Traub Motorcycle

By Matt Williams

In 1967, a plumber doing renovations of an apartment building

outside Chicago tore down a brick wall and found what would prove

to be a baffling mystery to vintage motorcycle enthusiasts – a one-of-

a-kind motorcycle bearing 1917 plates and the name “Traub”.

The building’s elderly owner admitted that his son had stolen

the bike before going off to WWI, never to return. But where the bike

came from and who made it remains an unknown to this day

3Currently residing in the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, the Traub is considered by many to not only be the rarest motorcycle in their collection, but in the world.

The Traub was sold to Torillo Tacchi, a bicycle shop owner in Chicago after its discovery who later sold it to Bud Ekins – famous as Steve McQueen’s stuntman – while Ekins was on set of the Blues Brothers movie in the late 1970s. The Traub was later sold to collector and restorer, Richard Morris, who then sold it to Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1990. It has been on permanent display in the museum collection ever since. Don’t think this unique motorcycle is merely a museum piece though. Walksler rides the Traub fairly regularly. When asked about the engine components, he enthusiastically replied, “Everything inside the engine is just magnificent. The pistons are handmade, and have gap-less cast iron rings, the engineering and machining being simply years ahead of their time.” 

“When comparing other top motorcycle makes and models of the era, the Traub has no equal. Comprised of a sand-cast, hand-built, 80 cubic-inch “side valve” engine, the machine has the ability to reach speeds in excess of 85 mph with ease,” says Walksler.2

Aside from its few off-the-shelf components, the Traub has many unique handmade features. The three-speed transmission is thought to be one of the first of its kind and the rear brake, a dual-acting system that employs a single cam that is responsible for pushing an internal set of shoes, while pulling an external set, has never been seen on any other American motorcycle.

4“For a machine to have such advanced features, unparalleled by other motorcycles of the same era, is truly outstanding,” said Walksler. “It’s my opinion that The Traub was an attempt at a new breed of motorcycle. But how on earth could a machine have been produced in such great form, with capabilities that far exceed that of any comparable machine, without the knowledge of the rest of the motorcycle industry during that time.” 

The hunt for the Traub’s elusive origin hasn’t stopped. “While we may never know why the machine was placed behind that wall, we do hope to one day find out more about its history and the genius that created it,” said Walksler. 1

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The Salerno’s Panhead

A gift from your ancestors, a loan from your descendents

Story and photos by Marilyn Stemp

IMGP8887In the Steel City of Pittsburgh, PA, loyalty runs as deep as the three rivers that course through the heart of its downtown. Fierce devotion is evident in the endurance of the city’s cultural heritage, the honoring of its industrial past, an all-encompassing ardor for local sports teams, and—most essentially—enduring family ties that persist through the generations.

A Pittsburgher by birth, I’ve known plenty of people who embrace this fierceness for their Western PA hometown, but seldom have I met a family that exhibits it with more heart than the Salernos. This story is as much about the family as it is about their 1948 Panhead, a motorcycle that has been handed down from father to son to son to son—yes, four times, so far.

The original owner, Ernie Salerno, Sr., passed the bike on to his son, Ernie, Jr., in 1961. Ernie, Jr. rode the bike for years, to work at the Mackintosh-Hemphill steel mill and all over the local area for fun. He gave the Panhead to his son, Mark, Sr. in 1985, who passed it on to its current rider, Mark, Jr. in 2006.

IMGP8880The Pan’s presence in the Salerno family was a crap shoot—literally. See, as the story is told, back in 1948 Ernie Sr. won $800 in a crap game. “He took his winnings down to North Side Harley and bought the bike,” said Mark, Sr. “He splurged and got the tour package extra. That consisted of the Hollywood bars with two spotlights on either side of the headlight.”

That accessory kit, along with every other bit on the Panhead that rolled out of North Side H-D with Ernie Sr. that day, is still on the bike. This bike’s patina is as authentic as its owners and there’s only one real way to achieve such a finish: the passage of time in respectful hands. Motorcycling is simply what this family does; Mark Sr.’s brother Ernie (of course) has been ridding and wrenching for decades, too, and the family photo albums show various uncles and cousins in jodhpurs and leather helmets, ready to ride.

“When I was a kid, my dad and I rode the bike every nice Sunday to my grandfather’s house,” said Mark Jr. “I was 17 when my dad first let me take the bike on my own, though he let me kick it over when I was around 12.”

IMGP8871Since the ‘80s when the Panhead came to Mark Sr., family friend Jack Tepke has helped keep it in running condition. And though Mark Jr. and Mark Sr. admit that there were times through the years when the bike sat unridden, even then it didn’t go untended. The top end was freshened up in 1988 because the base gaskets were leaking badly. Carb issues developed in 1998 that went undiagnosed for about eight years. But even though the motorcycle wasn’t ridden daily then, there was no question in Mark Sr.’s mind that when the time came, the Panhead was headed for Mark Jr.’s garage. So in 2006, when Mark Jr. called his Dad to say he’d ordered a Night Train, Mark Sr.’s response was predictable. “He said ‘Come and get the Pan—and get it running,’” said Mark Jr. with a grin.

News travels quickly in tight families so it wasn’t long before Ernie, Jr. called Mark, too. Explained Mark Jr., “He said, ‘Don’t just let the Pan sit around. Get it running!’”

So with the sanction of both his father and his grandfather, Mark Jr. set out to get the Panhead back on the road. A sheetmetal journeyman, Mark Jr. has been riding dirt bikes since he was 11 and gained his mechanical aptitude the right way: by tinkering on hand-me-down bikes till he got them running. The ’06 Night Train is fine, he says, but he prefers the old iron. “They’re so easy,” he says, about working on older machines. In testament to that, Mark Jr. also has a ’76 Shovelhead he’s currently rebuilding

As for the Panhead, the bike was all-original when he finally got it in his possession—and for the most part, it still is, allowing for a few small mechanical updates for safety.

IMGP8873“The float was deteriorated so I put in a brass one and cleaned the Linkert carb,” he said. “I cleaned the points and plugs and put new fluids in the bike, and that was it—the bike fired up and ran great.” Obviously they built those 74 cu. in. FLs tough back in the day.

The engine cases have never been split and the Pan retains the 6-volt charging system with the original wiring. “I have the original chain and cigar exhaust boxed up,” said Mark Jr. He added a set of new Metzeler tires and installed the Paughco exhaust for the sake of practicality.

As satisfying as it was to get the family Panhead back on the road, the best was yet to come. “I’d had it running for about a week when my aunt had a family picnic,” said Mark Jr. When he rolled into the picnic on the Panhead, though Ernie Jr. was ailing, he was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get back in the saddle of his old friend “He was revving it to the moon and I thought it was gonna pop,” said Mark Jr. “The picture of my grandfather on the Pan says it all.”

Just like all of the men who have ridden, do ride, or will ride this motorcycle, the Salerno Panhead is a solid member of the family and it’s as stridently connected as any flesh and blood member. The current owner, Mark Jr., might say that while the Pan is a gift from his ancestors, he respects it as a loan from his descendents. And it’s likely to outlast him, too, considering its past; forged in iron, steeped in steel.

IMGP8895 IMGP8902

An Engineering Look at Panheads


by Margie Siegal


Panheads, Harley-Davidson’s second iteration of its overhead valve V-twin, were the children of the postwar boom in motorcycling, with classic styling that still defines the cruiser look.


The Panhead story starts in the war years of the 1940’s. Harley-Davidson’s contribution to America’s World War II effort included more than 88,000 motorcycles for the Allies. The Company invested over a million dollars in tooling and factory improvements during the war, and bought as much government surplus equipment as it could afford afterwards.


All this new tooling put Harley in an excellent position to upgrade the product. In addition, aluminum, which had been scarce, was now readily available in excellent alloys developed during the war for aircraft applications. Although it was logical to take advantage of the possibilities of this newly affordable material, Harley management, always cautious, did not want to design a completely new motorcycle. So their approach was to freshen up the OHV the Company was then building, nicknamed Knucklehead by riders.


Harley had built 61- and 74-cubic inch Knuckleheads in limited quantities through the war for police and some military applications. As the war wound down, Knuckle production increased, and it became easier for defense industry workers to get their hands on a new bike. After Japan surrendered, Harley ramped up the production of Knuckleheads while working on a new improved postwar bike.


The Panhead was introduced in the 1948 model year. It featured aluminum heads, internal oil passages, a larger oil pump, and hydraulic valve lifters. From the beginning of Knucklehead production, Harley had chased top end leaks. The Panhead engine improved oil tightness by bolting covers over the rockers and valves. These covers looked like baking pans, hence the nickname. The new Panhead came in 61-inch and 74-inch versions, and in several states of tune.


Panheads evolved at a deliberate pace. Although Harley sold a lot of Panheads during the ‘40s—4354 “E” 61 inchers and 8405 “F” 74′s in 1948, for example—Harley did not intend to blow the budget on fancy innovations its customers might not accept. The 1948 Panhead had a rigid frame similar to the predecessor Knucklehead, hand shift, the same springer front end, similar tanks, wheels and fenders.


In keeping with Harley’s philosophy of fixing one thing at a time, telescopic forks turned up in 1949, a foot shift and hand clutch in 1952 and a stronger bottom end in 1955. The 61-inch version of the Pan was dropped at the end of 1952 as a cost cutting measure.


Chrome, however was a sure thing, and Harley made a full selection of chrome accessories available, allowing new owners to doll up the ‘bus like Saturday Night. 1948 Panheads could be ordered with a chrome air cleaner cover, fender tips, and exhaust pipe covers, among other parts.


There are still a lot of Panheads out there, at varying prices depending on the condition and originality of the motor and other parts. A Panhead is a strong but simple motorcycle, and one in good condition can still be ridden on a daily basis if the maintenance—especially the frequent oil changes a Panhead needs—is carefully kept up. You can take it to a show or a rally under its own power and display your classic with pride.

Indian’s Take Center Stage in Daytona

Story by Mark Stanley, Photos by Marilyn Stemp

IMG_8569-2The First Annual Daytona All-Indian Motorcycle Bike show took place on Friday March 14th, at the Corbin Saddles location on Florida Highway 1, during the height of Bike Week festivities. It was proudly sponsored by Indian Motorcycles, and hosted by Mike Corbin and the team at Corbin Saddles.

Dozens of Indian motorcycles were entered, from the earliest antiques, up through the classics and on to the most modern Indians.
Spectators were able to view the entire panorama of Indian motorcycle history, with bikes on display from all the eras of Indian, including some very historic machines, such as a one-off Indian prototype from the 50′s, and Daytona-winning Scouts.

Over $5,000 in trophies and prizes were awarded to participants, and included generous gift certificates for both Corbin and Indian Motorcycle merchandise. The winners of the Judges Choice Awards also received a special trophy from Corbin and Jack Daniels: an engraved Jack Daniels whiskey barrel lid.

Ron Price took home Best In Show, Judges Choice trophy, for his U.S. Air Force Themed 2014 Vintage, painted by Holy City Designs.IMG_8554-2
Susan Freeman won People’s Choice Best In Show trophy with her immaculate black and white 2000 Chief.
Best Antique Indian trophy went to well-known vintage Indian racer Doc Batsleer,  who won for his untouched, unrestored 1915 Indian Big Twin.
Over twenty other trophies were also awarded, in a wide variety of classes, and truly many more bikes deserved trophies for their incredible paint, leather work, or just their gorgeous patina.

We are already looking forward to next year, when we plan for the Second Annual show to be even bigger and better!
Corbin Saddles and Indian Motorcycle hope to see you there!

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Motorcycle Cannonball Run III Update

Further details of the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Run, have been announced by the event’s promoter, Lonnie Isam, Jr. Scheduled for 17 days in September, the coast-to-coast run on antique motorcycles has its roster full and the route set. You can’t ride in the event but you can follow along, as we will.

1070The continent-wide event is not a race but a timed test of rider endurance and the roadworthiness of the machines. Riders will navigate non-Interstate roads across 10 states. According to a press release, “the endurance ride for pre-1937 motorcycles gets underway in Daytona Beach, Florida on Friday, September 5 with 115 entries from 32 states, 11 countries and 3 continents as well as the island of Japan. The historic run will indeed be watched by the world as motorcycles of all marques tackle a demanding route across America.”  A day of rest, repairs, and some festivities in the hospitable town of Junction City, Kansas is planned on September 12.

The lineup of antique bikes slated to run includes some lesser-known marques such a 1923 Ner-a-car, a Sokol 1000, and a Sunbeam m9. The field is dominated by 67 Harley-Davidsons, followed by 19 Indians, 16 Hendersons, 6 BMWs, 2 Moto Guzzis, 2 Moto Freras, as well as 1 each Rudge, BSA Sloper, and Brough Superior. In past Runs, the Hendersons were the ones to watch.

Five museums stops are on the route.

Coker Tire Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee

• Cyclemos Motorcycle Museum in Red Boiling Spring, Tennessee

• Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado

• Legends Motorcycle Museum in Springville, Utah

• LeMay Museum in Tacoma, Washington

1068While organizers and MCR Course Master John Classen are still working out final details of some stops, there will be several opportunities for the public to meet the Motorcycle Cannonball riders during one of the 19-hosted events as they make their way along their arduous journey. After a total of some 3,944 miles, the ride concludes Sunday, September 21 in Tacoma, Washington.



Flying event colors for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run is a great way to support this remarkable event. Official commemorative t-shirts, caps and lapel pins are now available at the National Motorcycle Museum Store and website, or call (319) 462-3925 to order yours. These are the only official Cannonball apparel items.

Complete information about the Motorcycle Cannonball Run, including route details and promoted events, is available at Contact: Felicia Morgan, Director of Communications,, (916) 307-3606 mobile.