News : Lenham Café celebrates its 60th safari-style

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

John Sprinzel's MG Midget with extra tank onthe roof leaves Crystal Palace, first stop the Lenham Cafe on the '68 London to Sydney Marathon
John Sprinzel's MG Midget with extra tank onthe roof leaves Crystal Palace, first stop the Lenham Cafe on the '68 London to Sydney Marathon

The famous Lenham Café – the transport café on the A20 between Maidstone and Ashford – sees its 60th birthday in January, and will celebrate by hosting a checkpoint for crews on the London to Cape Town World Cup Rally which will stop here on the night of 1 January 2012.

This café has an older continuous run than the North Circular Road’s Ace Cafe, and is a regular haunt for bikers and classic-car events today. In its time it has seen regular breakfast finishes for the Kent night-road-rally scene, and was a haunt for Monte Carlo drivers in the era of duffle-coats.

The café has a number of rally plates around the walls from John Sprinzel, British rally champion in a Frogeye Sprite in 1959, and over 100 black and white rally photos, which makes it Britain’s biggest public display of rally memorabilia.

The café was regularly visited by Ian Fleming, author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and James Bond creator – he dropped in when travelling to London on the coach service from Deal, he lived on the sea-front nearby, to London’s Victoria Street. The number on the front of the bus was 007 and it’s the bus number that inspired the number of the “licence to kill.”

Fleming and fellow travellers would stop at the Lenham café as it was the half-way stop to London, take in a bacon butty and tin mug of tea, and then rejoin the bus…today the mugs have changed. They are now china, and have a cartoon on the side of John Sprinzel’s head poking out of the top of a Frogeye. An army of local rally enthusiasts, sponsored by the Endurance Rally Association, have recently given the Lenham Café a make-over, but the original brown stains on the ceiling from the 1950s were spared the paint brush.

Opening Times and more history is available on


Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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