2009 Barber Vintage Festival

Classic overload

barber lineup

Japanese classics lined up at the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club show at Barber.

Photo by Richard Backus

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Where the Bonneville Vintage GP is a spectator experience, with the majestic mountains of Utah providing a breath-taking backdrop to the incredible vintage racing that dominates the event, the Barber Vintage Festival is a spectacle, a vintage gathering of the first order where the racing is just one part of the show.

When the folks at Barber announced their first Vintage Festival back in 2005, it was a good bet they’d pull out the stops and host a show of the first order. When your credits include the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, an 80,000-square-foot structure of gleaming metal and glass housing the world’s foremost collection of vintage and collectible motorcycles, and the adjacent Barber Motorsports Park, a 2.3-mile world-class circuit designed by track-master Alan Wilson, you don’t aim low. They didn’t, and in five short years the Barber Festival has become the ne plus ultra of vintage motorcycle events. The 5th Annual Barber Vintage Festival was held Oct. 9-11, 2009, and like every Barber Festival before, it didn’t disappoint.

Classic overload

The Barber Festival is all about packing it in. Besides AHRMA racing (it’s also AHRMA’s season ender) there’s an excellent — and constantly expanding — swap meet, technical seminars at the museum, the Rhett Rotten Wall of Death (with daredevils riding a 1927 Indian Scout and other vintage iron on the inside wall of an approximately 50-foot diameter wooden barrel), mid-day aerobatic displays by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, new Triumph and Ducati demo rides, a Saturday auction, plus individual shows from the VJMC, AMCA and Motorcycle Classics.

Show time

Riding high on our Honda CB500 Project Café, we teamed up with Dairyland Cycle Insurance to host the Motorcycle Classics Café Bike Show. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, and a  steady drizzle of rain threatened to diminish Saturday’s crowd, but classic bike fans are nothing if not dedicated, a point amply proven by the dozens of beautifully prepared machines packed in and around our tent.

Enthusiasm for the show and for our little CB500 Café was excellent, and we even managed to talk Brian Slark, Barber’s chief restoration expert (and former Matchless/Norton employee), into helping us choose our Best of Show winner.

Joining Slark was Mark Mederski, former executive director of the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum and now special projects director for the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.

Looking over the bikes on hand, Slark showed a definite leaning toward old-school cafés while Mederski leaned toward interpretations on the theme, like Billy Aldrich’s lovely Honda CB77, while I tended to be drawn to the poor-man’s specials, of which there were more than a few. In the end, we agreed with Slark, and our top award went to Ed Vanaman for his immaculate and perfectly period-correct 1959 Triton. Built with a 1959 Triumph T-120 twin engine and a 1959 Norton Wideline Featherbed frame, it was fitting homage to the original café motorcycles of the 1960s and perfectly captured the look and feel of those early machines. Mark Turner took People’s Choice for his stunning 1974 Ducati 750 Sport.

Non-motorcycle elements included the Southern Vintage Fire Apparatus Assn.’s very cool display of vintage fire trucks. They were functional, too, as we discovered when an association member was kind enough to use his rig to pull our own truck out of the mud at the end of the weekend. Plans call for laying down blacktop lanes in the Expo area to ward off mud concerns in the future.

Slark estimates total attendance at roughly 35,000, a more than three-fold increase since 2005’s first event. That’s impressive growth by any standard, but hardly surprising given the caliber of the show. The 6th Annual Barber Vintage Festival will be held Oct. 8-10, 2010. Mark you calendar now for the year’s best spectacle in classic motorcycling. MC

On the block: Bator auction at Barber

This was the third Bator auction anywhere, and the first at the Barber Vintage Festival. This auction had something for every bidder, but trended toward affordable bikes for budget-minded collectors, with many very nice, everyday riders. In fact, 18 motorcycles crossed the block at $1,000 or less. On the high end of the price spectrum, two Vincent Rapides were very well bought at $28,000 and $30,000.

There were 89 sales of 130 lots, a 68 percent sales ratio, very respectable for an inaugural auction. I was both a buyer and a seller, and I believe I got a good deal on both ends. The bikes were not over hyped, and as far as I could tell all bids were genuine. The food service in the auction tent was excellent (prime rib with all the trimmings for $9), just another example of the tip-top accommodations provided during the Barber Vintage Festival.

With real estate and stock market values still reeling, it is apparent collectible motorcycle values have fared better, although values appear to be 10 to 20 percent lower than two years ago. Yet there is no shortage of enthusiastic buyers willing to pay cash for motorcycles. Following are some selected results:

Lot 45, 1948 Triumph GP racer: Sold $25,300. Original works racer with aluminum head and cylinders. Racing history not stated. Rare, historic Triumph for the discerning collector or vintage racer.
Lot 126A, 1973 Triumph Rickman Métisse: Sold $7,700. Ultimate Seventies café racer, beautiful nickel plating, superb attention to detail, all the period British parts. It would be difficult to reproduce this bike for twice the price. A great buy.
Lot 113, 1982 Yamaha Seca Turbo: Sold $1,815. Remember the early Eighties when anything that said “turbo” was the hot ticket? A great motorcycle in great condition that can be ridden and enjoyed as an everyday rider. Very well bought.
Lot 10, 1965 Velocette LE: Sold $2,310. Unusual 200cc, water-cooled, 2-stroke boxer, original. I later saw this bike running around the grounds, purring like a kitten. Very interesting bike for very little money.
Lot 19, 1975 Honda 350 four: Sold $1,760. Repainted and cleaned up, a great deal on a reliable Japanese
collectible.
Lot 94, 1976 BMW R90S: Sold $5,500. Above average original paint Daytona orange R90S with R100RS fairing added. This is no money for an R90S, incorrect fairing could easily be changed; buyer got a great deal.

— John Landstrom


Resources

Barber Vintage Festival
Bator Auctions