A Casual Affair: Retro Toyota Gathering

With so many events to cover on the Speedhunters calendar, a well organised meet is a welcome break in pace. The day before Ford Fair, I made my way across the M4 in the UK towards Ace Cafe near Wembley for the second annual Retro Toyota Gathering. Ace Cafe which originally opened in the late 1930s became a hub for motorcycle enthusiasts after the war and today remains one of the most important automotive sites in the UK. The history of the venue is pretty much unrivalled.

The event was organised by Chay from the Corolla Brotherhood, along with help from Sweet Oblivion, Eight-Six.co.uk & OISHI. The purpose of the event wasn’t just to bring some retro ‘yotas together, it was also to raise funds for the FSID, a charity devoted to the study of infant death. A noble cause indeed.

From around 11AM, cars began pulling into the car park at Ace …

… which was reserved for retro Toyotas only. That meant the rest of us had to park outside on the street, where I was joined by this rather fetching Blister kitted S14.

Within the boundaries of Ace, the cars continued rolling in – the vast majority being either ’86s or MKI MR2s.

Ace is pretty much the perfect location for a meet in London – you can’t beat being able to enjoy a chilled drink with these parked just outside the door.

I’ve always been a long time lover of the ’86 so it was great to spend some time admiring some of the UK’s best.

This purple 16 valve example was a personal highlight.

I think all but one of the ’86 cars present – more on that one later – were running the 4A-GE in various stages of tune.

As it turned out, some non-Toyotas had made their way inside, but I’m sort of glad that this Colt did.

I’ve never seen a Sapporo Turbo before in the metal before. Actually, if I’m honest I sort of forgot that they even existed but wow!

It was a stunning example of one and I hope the owner is proud. For those of you in the know, are they that rare or have they just been forgotten about?

Sorry, I got distracted there so back to the Toyotas!

If this is the car I think it is – and I’m pretty certain it is, although I’ll have to check with Dino to confirm – then I never thought I’d see the day it was in the UK. (EDIT TO ADD – Just checked and confirmed that it’s the Newera Imports AE86)

You should check out Dino’s feature from 2009 for a full run down on what is, in my opinion, the greatest street ’86 ever built. I LOVE this car.

Organiser Chay’s N2 kitted ’86 featured in Mike’s ‘Eighty Six 86s‘ story on 86 day a little time ago.

Another car I haven’t seen in a very long time – curse you recession – is the Celica Supra.

The humble MKI MR2 was well represented. The AW11 is a car I never really got to know as they were pretty rare in these parts when I was growing up. The second generation was a lot more popular but was commonly referred to as a ‘widow maker’ in our year round winter conditions.

This white over black example obviously draws on its relationship with the AE86, and rather successfully too.

Ah, the international sign language of an automotive conversation.

The last time I seen a Corolla DX, D-Mac was drifting it around a karting track in County Tipperary nearly ten years ago. Mind you, his wasn’t this clean.

As time rolled on, the cars stopped arriving but the atmosphere began really chill out.

With such a small venue and a collection of cars that focused on quality over quantity, there aren’t really any better ways to spend an afternoon.

I particularly love the less is more approach enjoyed by many AE86 owners, a perfect case of K.I.S.S.

Although going over the top sometimes has its benefits too.

It’s interesting to see that most of the UK AE86 owners seem to prefer the Japanese import models and styles over their own native ‘GT Coupe’ version.  I’ve enjoyed many a conversation discussing how polarized the AE86 community in Ireland & the UK is by the JDM Versus UK debate.

Personally, I can appreciate the merits of both arguments but would lean towards the Japanese way of doing things – if only for the fact that I think it’s a more creative and individual approach.

This 4A-GZE AW11 looked very clean sitting on black Watanabe wheels.

With soaring temperatures (by UK standards) it was time retreat into the shade, enjoy a bite to eat and admire the view.

Packing up to leave and I happened to catch this KP Starlet saunter past Ace Cafe, its owner oblivious to the gathering nearby. It was a bittersweet moment – on one hand the car is still on the road doing as Toyota intended, but on the other you know that someone else could be taking much better care of it. Hell, I just happen to know a few guys …

Paddy McGrath



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Cracking shots there. I had a great day. The star of the show was the Newera 86. i was very surprise to see it parked there when i pulled up! had no idea it was in the UK.


It was a brilliant day, Although I was anticipating a bit more coverage on Ian's F20C AE86. It's a prime example of how a good conversion can be done and look like it's a factory default. 


I gotta say, The Ace Cafe and it's surrounding scenery is quintessentially British. It's the perfect setting for these time-tested vintage tuner cars. More of this, please... And, a big CHEERS to our Transatlantic cousins! Great rides, everyone.


PLEASE take me back to when these cars were new, 2012 sucks!


@JeremyJezWelton Don't worry, I'm not forgetting that :-)


i would love to see more coverage of the white/black AW11 on the gold work equips it looks so beastly.


Thanks for coming and covering the gathering Paddy. Great words and photos as ever. Shame I just missed you as I arrived! We raised £150 in the end for FSID so thanks to everyone and thanks for mentioning the cause in the write up. Catch you soon man! James.


I don't think we particularly prefer imports, it's just there's hardly any UK cars left in the UK!


@TylerS13 Look closely those aren't work equips


Ahhhhhh please give us a wallpaper of that Celica Supra! You truly never see these cars anymore!


panda mr2 looks amazing, jesus...


panda mr2 looks amazing, jesus...


Thanks for the great coverage Paddy, sorry I didn't get to talk to you.. was quite a busy day! Thanks to everyone that came out, I hope they had a great time. Also, that S14A is an ex RYO demo car from Japan thats been further fettled with here in the UK, owned by a friend of mine.


Good to see a bunch of older cars getting together but kinda disapointing to not see much pre 80's toyota at a retro meet


I spy an S2000 engine.


you went the the Ace Cafe, and you dont have a single picture of a Cafe Racer!?  I know this is a car site, and not a bike site.... but they're synonymous with each other.


Didn't even realise you were there Paddy! Was a great chilled day and has inspired me to bin off my stupid s14 WIP project in favour of making my Charmant awesome!


 @Ae86xye  @TylerS13 


 @Ae86xye  @TylerS13 ;) My secret is out. They are replicas made by Axis Tyler. If you're interested in the car there is a project thread over on Retro Rides: 


 @Gepi And I think it has itb's, but not sure my eyes may be a little blurred.


Sad to see Miguel's Newera AE86 no longer in Japan but at the same time it will be exciting to see what he is building to replace it!!


And not one cressida was seen that day...


 @SVT_Bryan Motorcycles terrify me. I'm sure all it takes is for me just to look at one and I'll instantly be killed.
(I'm just kidding, I think Jonathan may have done a piece in the past - although I can't seem to find it - which touched on Ace's two wheeled history.)


No problem Chay, I'm sure there'll be another time in the future!


 @SlappysCarBlog Actually, I wonder how the GT86 will fair over time. It's certainly exciting to think how it will evolve ...


 @PaddyMcGrathSHYea i guess, but i just love the old cars, since i'm old too... lol


@JSFAST @Speedhunters some really nice toyotas there ;)


@NurilAnwari followback aku ril


So the only classic Toyotas in existence are Hatchis and AW11 eh? And the 3rd pic on this "classic Toyota meet" was a Nissan eh?
Are you sure this wasn't a 4ag meetup?


Nice! I think this is the most MK1 MR2 coverage I've seen on Speedhunters so far! Seems like there's many more pristine examples in the UK than there are still remaining in the U.S.


 @FossMan  Your MR2 looks fantastic! Very inspiring. I really, really need to restore the body of mine. Done everything else, just need to make it look clean and then drive it!!


@SebastianBlix It was organised by the Corolla Brotherhood blog.. So yes, the majority of cars we're ae86s.. All were welcome though. It was listed on the Ace Cafe website as a retro Japanese meet and all retro cars were welcome


awesome cars in this post, please post more AW11's in the future :)


The last pic, that's what you see in my place. Lots of classic JDM not maintained properly.


I'm really feeling the MK1 MR2 love. They look great!
Especially with the factory boot spoiler deleted. If you really need downforce boys, fit a GT-style wing or something. Not that it's any of my business... just my 10 pence worth...


Sapporo's are pretty rare in most countries, forgotten about years ago. I own a low mile, original paint one here in the states and to be honest have never seen a second one in the flesh!   There was never a turbo version here, just a carbed 2.6 with a live rear axle. The rest of the world got IRS and a turbo, same driveline as a Starion. 
My car can be seen here.....


Wow, really cool car man!


I think that the Celica Supra is one of the most under rated japanese cars. Really love the slim body with a huge power/name.