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Barber Vintage Festival: Biggest and Best Ever

by Richard Backus


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MC Tent at Barber 2010 
Bikes started lining up early for the Motorcycle Classics Vintage Bike Show at the 6th Annual Barber Vintage Festival on Saturday, October 9, 2010. 

There are plenty of excellent bike shows held around the country every year. But only a very few have that special something, that almost indescribable allure that makes us jump on our bikes, hop in our vans or climb into planes and travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to immerse ourselves in the vintage scene for a few days. The Barber Vintage Festival is one of those shows.

If you missed the Barber Vintage Festival last weekend, well, simply put, you missed the coolest vintage bike show of the year. Now in its sixth year, the Barber Vintage Festival keeps growing and growing. The first show, held in 2005, logged something on the order of 6,000 attendees. By the time the fifth show rolled around last year that number had risen to a reported 35,000. Working off those numbers, we’d guess at least 45,000 vintage bike fans showed up this year for what can only be described as three days of classic bike heaven.

I can only guess why the numbers seemingly rose so dramatically, but frankly, I’m chalking it up to pent up interest and a general frustration with the drawn-out economic slump; simply put, I think people are finally saying screw it, I’m going to go out and do what I love most, economy be damned. And in our crowd, that means getting together with like-minded bike fans.

Motorcycle Classics held its annual vintage bike show, and this year’s was our biggest ever. Helping to draw a crowd to our tent were some special guests, a somewhat loose-knit association of Suzuki Gamma owners. Some 25 Gamma owners descended upon our tent for the Gathering of the Gammas, celebrating 25 years since Suzuki launched the Gamma, an amazing 500cc, liquid-cooled, 2-stroke square four that put more than a little emphasis on performance. Gammas are fabulous machines, as were the bikes that participated in our show.

The featured category in our show was Cafés, Bobbers and Customs, with Rick Jones taking top honors for his very nicely prepared 1976 Triumph T140 Street Tracker, a bike he’s owned since 1981 and started customizing about nine years ago.

 Rick Jones and Triumph Street Tracker 
Rick Jones and his very tasty Triumph Street Tracker. You can't see it in this small shot, but the bike features lots of nice detail work, and even runs a magneto ignition! Nice. 

The big surprise at our show was a visit from former world champion John Surtees, Grand Marshal for the 2010 event. Making the surprise even better, Surtees, the only man ever to win world championships on two wheels and four, showed up with classic car and bike TV personality Alain de Cadenet. A successful racer in the 1970s and 1980s, and today a major figure in the vintage car and bike scene thanks to his work with SPEED TV, de Cadenet is about the nicest, suavest guy you’ll ever meet. Surtees couldn’t hang around our tent for long, but he did stick around long enough to wander through our show. It was an absolute blast watching him walking around and checking out the nice selection of machines on hand, clearly enjoying himself and the opportunity to examine prized machines that owners use rather than stack in a collection hidden from view.

 John Surtees and Alain de Cadenet 
John Surtees (left) and Alain de Cadenet check out a Vincent Black Shadow at the Motorcycle Classics bike show. Surtees got his start in motorcycles as an apprentice for Vincent. 

Fabulously, de Cadenet stuck around for the end of our show, and alongside Barber’s Brian Slark and the National Motorcycle Museum’s Mark Mederski, who both helped judge the bikes on hand, de Cadenet handed out the trophies to the winners in our vintage bike show.

What a hoot, and really something that would only happen at the Barber Vintage Festival. We’ll have more on the show in the coming weeks, but for now, hats off to everyone who stopped by our booth, and congratulations to our winners, including Dale Carpenter, who won our on-site drawing for a full set of riding gear from Joe Rocket. Nice.

Speaking of winners, we did draw the name of the winner of our Motorcycle Classics/Dairyland Cycle Insurance 2010 Triumph Bonneville Build. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t on hand, and as of yet I’ve not been able to speak directly with them. As soon as I do, we’ll announce their name and give you full details. Stay tuned! – Richard Backus  

To check out our previous coverage of the Barber show, click on the links below:
2005 Barber Vintage Festival 

2006 Barber Vintage Festival 

2008 Barber Vintage Festival 

2009 Barber Vintage Festival 

 

cory holliday
10/16/2010 8:33:21 PM

I couldn't agree more. First class all the way. I missed a lot as I was stuck in my swap meet booth, but I met a lot of very nice folks and bought and sold some great stuff. I'm awaiting my call on the Bonnie build bike, I've left a space open for her to come home. Keep up the great work M/C Classics and Barber Festival Organizers.


monte miller
10/16/2010 3:20:35 PM

I'm awaiting your call for the Bonneville! Sorry to miss the Motorcycle Classics show. Don't know exactly where I was on the Barber grounds but I was like a blind dog in a meat factory. So much to see and do. My riding buddy said I was vibrating! Most likely... My first visit but not my last. The Barber Motorsports Park, track and museum were far beyond my expectations. Friendly folks, immaculate, trash free grounds and the bikes, the bike, the bikes.


dennis weinhold
10/14/2010 3:59:41 PM

Richard - I missed you at the Barber Festival. I was very busy at my swap spaces and had a few other distractions. I agree with your analysis about the motorcycle community and the economy...We sold everything we had except a CB750 Sandcast motor! You helped to make the 1st Road America Vintage Motorcycle Festival a success and I am looking forward to grow it to the status of the Barber Festival. See you next June 10 - 12 in Elkhart Lake!


bruce isaachsen
10/14/2010 7:15:59 AM

Richard, I think you are dead on with your impressions of Barber. This year was my first visit and certainly will not be my last. I flew in, but next year I plan on bringing truck and trailer with bikes and room for more. What an incredible weekend! Anyone who is into vintage,classic and antique bikes needs to go to Barber period end of sentence. To see, hear and smell the bikes at the show, on the track (you mean you race that?) and in the paddock is an unforetable experience. In addition to all that I got to meet you and shake your hand (I asked you to keep doing what you are doing and that you need to keep doing the builds). What a blast, I have the date in my calendar for next year. Time to finish up my '75 XL250 dirt bike and '80 CB750 cafe racer projects to go with my '77 Old Wing. I can still hear the bikes on the track, music, sweet music.