Beautiful weather, rolling green hills, and a world class facility; all punctuated by a crowd of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts. Welcome to the Barber Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsports Park.
This year marks the 11th anniversary of the event and the crowd was as big as ever. Last year, over 65,000 people attended during the three day event and this year didn’t seem any different.
Of course, the highlight of this year’s event was the largest gathering of Britten V1000 motorcycles ever (which we’ll cover in-depth in a separate article), and as always, there was great vintage motorcycle racing by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA).
Everywhere you looked, there were motorcycles. The amazing thing about this event is the variety. Unlike many events where the focus is on one type of motorcycle, Barber focuses on a little bit of everything.
There were vintage bikes from the US, Europe, and Japan with different shows for each. You could find race bikes, street bikes, choppers, bobbers, café racers, and every niche in between. If you have a fetish for Jawa motorcycles from the 1960s, you could probably find someone at Barber who is an expert on the subject.
One of the main attractions at Barber is the swap meet. Just imagine row upon row of motorcycle parts, accessories, and knickknacks and you’ll have an idea of what the Barber swap meet is like.
There were over 300 vendors on-site. Looking for a cylinder head for your 1955 BMW? It’s probably here. How about an original seat for a 1969 Honda that you’re restoring? Yup, got it.
The array of items on display was almost dizzying and the folks who were displaying their wares were very knowledgeable. A lot of sharing and learning goes on at Barber. But the swap meet is only the beginning. There were lots of other activities going on at Vintage Fest.
The Fan Zone was an area dedicated to vendors, attractions, and food. Triumph Motorcycles was working its retro vibe and had their entire lineup with them, as well as a special parking area for their customers.
The local motorcycle scene was also well represented. Motus Motorcycles of Birmingham had their lineup of limited production, V-4 sport tourers. Additionally, Motus had a one-off, supercharged naked bike on display. The sound that bike produced was mind boggling!
Other regional manufacturers such as Bedlam Werks of Athens Georgia and Fuller Moto of Atlanta were also present. There definitely was a lot to see and do, with vendors, different motorcycle clubs and one motorcycle luminary in particular – Malcolm Smith, in attendance.
The six time Baja 1000 champion was on hand to autograph his new autobiography, “Malcolm”. The book is huge with great pictures and a lot of history about Malcolm, his riding exploits, and the off-road industry.
It was a pleasure to spend a few minutes meeting a man who inspired a whole generation of riders with his appearance in Bruce Brown’s iconic move “On Any Sunday”. After walking the Fan Zone and meeting a motorcycling legend, it was time to take a break and see a little motorcycle entertainment.
The fun started with the On the Edge Stunt Show, which was based on trials bikes and BMX stunts. The show involved lots of bunny hopping of bikes over cars as well as over the host of the show. After that, the Globe of Death riders rode their bikes in their small steel sphere, and amazingly, didn’t hit each other in the process.
The final and biggest show was the American Motor Drome Company’s Wall of Death. This show involved riders zooming around a 15 foot tall wooden, cylindrical building on vintage American bikes.
This portable building holds almost 200 people and the motorcycles zoom about on a vertical wall almost 15 feet above the floor. The noise and the force of the whole display were pretty amazing. Once the show was over it was time to move on and see the Ace Corner at turn 17 of the track.
The Ace Corner was co-produced by Ace Café North America and Dime City Cycles. The area brought together a number of Café Racer and retro inspired vendors and activities.
Royal Enfield was the title sponsor of Ace Corner and had their lineup of retro inspired bikes on display, including a very cool custom sidecar rig. Ace Corner also featured vendors and artisans, lots of giveaways, British themed food, and live entertainment.
And of course, the venue also offered a perfect, grassy, shady view of Turn 17 from which to catch all of the racing action.
The AHRMA Vintage Races provided constant racing, and a pleasantly noisy soundtrack throughout the festival, with multiple races per day. Vintage might be a misnomer for some of the bikes on the track, as there were some modern bikes peppered throughout the classes.
Professional racers such as Jake Zemke, Chris Fillmore, and Mark Heckles were in attendance and took to the track with the rest of the field. It was great to see old vintage bikes of many different varieties mixing it up with one another. The racing was tight, but the camaraderie between the teams, even tighter.
The vibe in the paddock was great. Though competitive, these teams share a love of vintage racing, and it was obvious how much they enjoyed each other’s company and assistance. It’s like a big racing family.
Racing these vintage machines is not the only way to enjoy them, and many folks spend a lot of time, effort, and money to restore them to their original glory. That’s where the motorcycle shows come in.
There were three main vintage motorcycle shows at Barber: the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC), the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA), and the Motorcycle Classics Magazine show.
The Japanese show featured beautifully restored bikes from all of the big-four Japanese manufacturers. It was fun to see everything from a fleet of Honda Dreams to Kawasaki’s early GPz bikes.
I can’t think of another place on the planet where a person could find a bunch of Yamaha Viragos parked next to a Suzuki RM 450 motocross bike from the 80s. It was a great trip down memory lane.
The AMCA and Motorcycle Classics shows covered all makes and models from all nations. There were perfectly restored Harleys and Indians parked with old BMWs, Nortons, and Triumphs.
It was kind of like the United Nations of the vintage motorcycling world. It was obvious the care and passion the owners had put into their machines, and just like the vintage racing community, the camaraderie here was very tight.
Now of course, not everyone has the time or the money to restore one of these beautiful machines, but still may want to admire these bikes and learn about their Heritage. That’s where the Barber Motorcycle Museum comes in.
The Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum is the crown jewel of the Barber Motorsports complex. Opened at this location in September of 2003, it is a truly world class facility.
With four floors of exhibits, over 1,400 motorcycles in the collection with around 800 on display, and a full restoration facility on the bottom floor, the museum is truly magical.
It’s one of those places where your mind is overwhelmed with the scope and scale of what’s being shown and it takes all of your mental capacity to truly process the vastness of the collection. We’ll have a more detailed report on the museum and all its offerings soon.
The Barber Vintage Festival was an amazing weekend of fun, fellowship, racing and the opportunity to see motorcycles from around the world. The crowd was large, yet never felt overwhelming, the facilities were top-notch, and the people friendly. This event is bucket list worthy; it’s a must see!
Photos: © 2015 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved