Dale Keesecker won Best of Show for his 1971 Egli-Vincent at the Motorcycle Classics East Meets West Bike Show at the 2008 Barber Vintage Festival
Vincent collector Dale Keesecker’s 1971 Egli-Vincent won top honors at the Motorcycle Classics East Meets West Classic Bike Show, Saturday, Oct. 18 at the 4th Annual Barber Vintage Festival. A long-time Vincent fan, Keesecker has over the past few years focused on Vincent specials like the Swiss Egli and Australian Terry Prince specials.
Although a driving rain on Friday threatened to put a real damper on the show, and forced us to cancel our Barber to 29 Dreams Charity Ride, Saturday dawned clear and bright, if maybe a little too cold to burn off the rain water liberally coating just about every square inch of manicured grass at the Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham, Ala. Fortunately, that didn’t seem to stop tens of thousands of vintage bike fans from descending on Barber, taking in the incredible collection of vintage bikes housed in the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum while also watching the season ending races in the AHRMA vintage race schedule.
The Aeroshell Aerobatics Team puts on a show at Barber 2008
The Barber folks pulled out the stops – again – for their 4th festival, with a repeat performance from the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team who gave attendees an incredible show of old-school aerobatics in their vintage North American AT-6 “Texan” planes. These guys are nothing short of amazing, flying with incredible precision and skill, buzzing seemingly feet above the start/finish line at the track before pulling up in an impossibly vertical climb and roaring off in perfect formation. Cool stuff, and the sound their engines make is music to the ears. Loud music, but music, none the less.
The swap meet has grown exponentially since the first festival back in 2005, and I heard more than a few attendees suggesting it’s now better than the swap meet at Vintage Motorcycle Days. Smaller, to be sure, but with more good stuff over obvious junk on sale.
Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling check out Deja Blue being readied for its maiden run at the Barber Vintage Festival
The big news of the weekend was the museum’s Friday night fund raising dinner with special guests Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling. Cook and Phil were major figures in the mid- and late-1970s, both as motorsports journalists and as racers. They garnered particular fame for their now legendary Ducati 750SS racer, “Old Blue,” which they campaigned successfully at Daytona in 1977.
Okay, cool enough, but the real fun came when the museum presented Cook with an exact, piece-by-piece replica of Old Blue, aptly named “Deja Blue.” Stunning in every detail, the build was commissioned by the museum and carried out by Ducati expert Rich Lambrechts with help from Motorcycle Classics contributor Christian Clarke, who penned our article on the Motogiro d’Italia in the January/February 2008 issue. Cook was caught completely off guard, which of course was the plan. Museum consultant and restoration manager Brian Slark confessed it was almost impossible to keep the bike build secret, but keep it secret they did, and Cook was predictably stunned when the bike was rolled out and presented to him during Friday's dinner.
As the final build pulled together at literally the last minute, Deja Blue hadn’t been run prior to its unveiling. Rich and crew got the bike running the next day (after sorting out some clutch problems that became apparent as soon as they tried riding the bike), and Cook eventually took it out for a few ceremonial laps on Sunday, the Duc’s high-swept pipes bellowing their sweet sound as he worked his way around the Barber track. Too cool, and what a beautiful bike. Fortunately for the rest of us, Deja Blue will join the permanent collection at the Barber Museum, available for viewing and for Cook to ride whenever he happens to be around.
Cook and Phil check out their favorite mag: Motorcycle Classics, of course!
I caught up with Cook later on and asked him how it felt to be so recognized after dropping off the radar for so long. “You know, when I left the biz in 1979 I was glad to be anonymous again. I didn’t look back. But this is pretty amazing, and it feels good to see all this interest. We were just a couple of guys doing what we do,” Cook said.
Obviously, if you weren’t there you missed one of the biggest classic bike events of 2008. Don’t make the same mistake next year. We’ve been going since the beginning, and we’ll be back next year with a bigger bike show and another run at our Barber to 29 Dreams Charity Ride. – Richard Backus