On the road again: cool classics around Hackney

The author and his 1960 Ford Thames 300E. The Dagenham-built workhorse is used several times a week and does 40mpg
Gambordella and Church with a 1969 Reliant Scimitar in their Hackney workshop. The car has a non-rusting fibreglass body and V6 Ford engine
Gambordella and Church with a 1969 Reliant Scimitar in their Hackney workshop. The car has a non-rusting fibreglass body and V6 Ford engine

By Steve Vaudrey 

HAS THE hipster trend led to a revival in the popularity of old cars in Hackney? They usually cost a lot to buy and care for, although not in all cases, but they are more likely to turn heads than today’s cars. They can be an on-the-road extension of the desire to look stylish.

Classic-car expert Paul Gambordella says: “Hackney people want stand out from the crowd. They want to drive something different.”

He has opened the Hackney Classic Car Workshop, near London Fields, with Carol Church, who thinks that locals are choosing a classic as part of going green. She comments: “Think of all the carbon that is produced every time you scrap a car and buy a new one.”

Esqulant and his 1978 Ford Capri sports saloon

Near by at Westgate Motors, Bill Waldron who, with his staff, has been looking after local classics for years, says demand is increasing. The revealing calendars at the premises, classics in their own way, would probably be also in demand from car enthusiasts, who are usually male.

One Hackney classic-car fan, Drew Esqulant, designs and has manufactured classic motorcycle jackets and T-shirts in a workshop in London Fields, and does artwork for motorbikes and helmets.

His 1978 Capri has a secret: a 3.5-litre Rover V8 has replaced the original 2-litre, four-cylinder Ford engine, making it a mini muscle car. Capris have a lively club — motto Keeping the Capri Legend Alive.

A 1954 Citroën Traction Avant, pictured at top, a right-hand-drive, 4-cylinder 1,911cc Light 15 built in the long-closed Slough Citroën factory and fitted with leather seats and a wooden dashboard for the UK market, is used daily by its owner, landscape-architect Gerry Couper, who lives in Homerton, Hackney E9 6EH.

The ultimate practical oldie, a 1958 Morris Minor 1000. One of 1.6 million built from 1948 to 1971, this “Moggy” is based in Victoria Park Road

The carbon footprint depends on the mileage the vehicle does. More than 2 tonnes of carbon are produced to make the seemingly super-ecological Honda Insight Hybrid. To get that carbon back in per-mile savings if you replaced a Morris Minor with the Honda could take more than 20 years.

* The writer is a long-time Hackney resident and helpless car fan. All photographs by Stephen Vaudrey, apart from that of the Saab.

* The Hackney Classic Car Workshop is at 373 Helmsley Place, Hackney E8 3SB (0207 254 7388); Westgate Motors, 14 Westgate Street, Hackney E8 3RN (0207 241 1233). 

* Magazine: Classic Car Weekly 

* Websites: CitroënFord vanScimitar. Auto-eco discussion; Ford and Dagenham

Saab 96, right, housed in a garage near Mare Street. The 96, which the maker fitted with with a Ford 1,498cc V4 and a freewheel gearbox, was a rally success for the failed Swedish manufacturer

* Emboldened words usually indicate hyperlinks for more information. Go to it, men.

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One thought on “On the road again: cool classics around Hackney

  1. I’m always amazed at the classics I stumble upon in Hackney and around Dalston. Last time I went I went for a casual drive I saw LOADS, including a rare Austin 3-litre being driven near Clapton Pond.

    I know of at least 50 pre-1990 cars of interest. I’ve put many on my flickr photostream (uk_senator).

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