Overwhelming, but in a really good way. That’s the best way to describe the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Officially categorized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest motorcycle museum, the collection at Barber contains over 1,400 motorcycles with over 650 on display at any one time.
Over 20 manufacturers are represented, and the collections spans over 100 years of motorcycling’s history. This is truly a destination that no motorcycle enthusiast should miss.
Founded by George Barber in 1995, the museum started in downtown Birmingham, Alabama before moving to its current location in the Birmingham suburb of Leeds in 2003.
The 144,000 square foot museum comfortably rests on the grounds of the Barber Motorsports Park, with the entire back half of the building overlooking the popular 2.38 mile track.
George Barber started as a car racer, racing Porsches and racking up 63 victories. From that background, he began collecting cars, but quickly realized there were numerous world-class car collections that already existed.
On the other hand, there really wasn’t a world class motorcycle museum that truly captured the history of the sport. Barber saw an opportunity, began collecting motorcycles, and the rest is history.
The museum building itself is a beautiful example of modern architecture with an open floorplan and spiral concrete catwalks surround by lots of metal and glass.
The large amount of glass allows natural light to stream into the interior to help illuminate the bikes. A huge elevator in the center of the museum transports people between floors and is punctuated by a racecar on its roof. As you walk through the museum, you are surrounded by the history of the sport we love.
Everywhere you look is a historically significant motorcycle. Look right and you’ll see a Vincent Black Shadow, look left and you’ll see a 1912 Indian board tracker.
Look up (yes, you really need to do this) and you’ll see a 1954 AJS Porcupine with its fuel tank appearing to hover above its frame. And if you haven’t achieved sensory overload yet, look down and you’ll see the world class restoration facility on the bottom floor of the museum.
Some of the more noteworthy displays in the museum include the extensive display of American board track racers, the Daytona racing display, the collection of WWII motorcycles, and of course, one of only ten Britten Motorcycles ever built.
And by the way, if you are in the mood to see some cars, the museum also houses the world’s largest collection of Lotus racecars. Simply outstanding!
You could easily spend a whole day browsing the museum. As a matter of fact, it was helpful to take a mental break about midway through the collection.
Six hundred plus motorcycles is a lot for the brain to take in, especially when so many of these machines are so historically significant. A mid-visit lunch break was a good time to let all of the history sink-in before viewing the second half of the collection.
As you can see from the pictures, of which there are many below, visiting the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is amazing. The exquisite nature of the collection, combined with a phenomenal level of presentation, makes for a world class experience.
And that world class experience is going to get bigger, as the museum is undergoing an 85,000 square foot expansion that should be complete in the Fall of 2016. With the expansion, you might want to allow two days for your visit!
Photos: © 2015 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved