The Catacombs of Shoreditch
Nestled in a quiet Shoreditch side street in East London lies a most intriguing destination not on any tourist guide. Proceeding on foot from the Old Street tube station, bustling development and modern architecture soon give way to rows of low flats, older townhouses, shops, a church. Laughing school children and jovial conversations filtering out of a corner coffee shop are the white noise of a neighborhood going about an ordinary afternoon - just as the day before it, and surely the next.
Do pay attention or you might miss it. Walking past the driveway of Classic Car Club London, there are no overt clues of the automotive goodness housed within: no huge billboard with garish colours, no bright red supercar parked conspicuously at the curb. Instead, you're greeted by a neat row of inviting classic vehicles. At the end of the short driveway, two simple roundels flank an entrance to what appears to be a car park.
Peering around the entrance, I am greeted by Bib, the rotund Michelin representative. Rock music echoes softly around the cavern, almost drowning out the clink of wrenches and tools. I am invited in to explore, and apologies are made for the current state of affairs. It is after all, still winter and most of the Club's collection is in for maintenance.
CCC has tapped into a unique market - that of a discerning motoring enthusiast who doesn't want (or care for) the expense or space that caring for a classic requires. I can certainly see the benefit in a dense urban centre like London where the cost of owning and operating a classic can quickly spiral out of control. Indeed, the sister operation in Manhattan is proof that the concept is equally well received on the other side of the Atlantic. Members buy into points and the fleet of cars and motorcycles are bucketed into bands. Availability is but a phone call away, and with all upkeep taken care of, that is quite a value proposition.
You would think that winter would be a quiet time for the Club. Weather is generally not compatible with drives in drafty old cars except for the most dedicated enthusiast (though there are a few who insist). On the contrary, it does appear to be a most busy time at CCC, and it all revolves around planning for the spring and summer to come. Most of the collection is in, and the cars are packed bow to stern. Here old favorites of the fleet mingle with new additions waiting to be prepared.
The atmosphere is of relaxed urgency: parts are being sourced and ordered; mechanics are fettering away, hunting for the perfect tune. Some cars are almost ready but for a shine and polish. Others sit impatiently, ever higher on the jackstands, waiting for supplies to finish the job.
The staff are clearly in love with what they they do and it shows. Even a short pause for a cuppa in the break room means you're surrounded by automotive memorabilia. A random Lambretta tucked away shows that anything with a motor is chosen with style.
In time winter will release its hold and members will begin to check their calendars, peruse the collection and make plans for idyllic, rambling journeys in the spring sunshine. Your chosen car will smile, take a bow, and cheerfully dance with you through motorways and country lanes. Where you take it is entirely up to you.
Thank you to D_TRB's Florence Walker who put me in touch with CCC and made this visit possible.