2005 Barber Vintage Festival

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum launches the Barber vintage Festival and Gary Nixon dominates AHRMA's Historic Cup Roadrace Series

| March/April 2006

It's early in the game, but the 2005 Barber Vintage Festival, combined with the season finale of AHRMA's Historic Cup Roadrace Series, looks set to become the next big happening in the classic bike scene. In three short years Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum has quickly established itself as the ne plus ultra of vintage motorcycles, a Mecca for lovers of classic bikes everywhere.

Founded by businessman George Barber in 1994, and in its current digs since 2003, the museum houses the most amazing collection of classic bikes anywhere, bar none. And the adjoining track, alternately described as heaven on two wheels and as one of the most demanding circuits in the country, has bowled over AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) race fans with its roller coaster runs and spectacular scenery. 

2005 was the third year for AHRMA races at Barber, but the first for the Vintage Festival. The folks at Barber crafted the event in short order and publicized it sparingly, yet it still drew rave reviews. "We were absolutely overwhelmed. We got so much positive feedback. It was an enjoyable experience," says Barber's Brian Slark. Slark says he and museum executive director Jeff Ray would have been happy to get 40 vendors on board for the first event. As it was, 150 vendors filled 200 spots on the Barber grounds next to the track. In addition to the vendors, the Confederate Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America held a classic bike show on the grounds, and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club held a member bike show in the vendor area. The diverse offerings of the two groups (the AMCA leans towards vintage American and British iron, while the VJMC is strictly Japanese bikes) complemented each other well. The VJMC had an estimated 60 bikes, while the AMCA had about double that number; we expect to see even more bikes at the next event. Slark wants to see more club activity, as well. "We want to encourage the clubs to do displays, to have a little area where they can show what they are. The VJMC display proved to be extremely popular." Slark expects big things for 2006, predicting 400 vendors and promising more events, including AHRMA off-road races, a live auction, and a road run on classic bikes to 29 Dreams, a motorcycle resort situated 12 beautiful, winding miles away from Barber. 

As well as it went, the event wasn't without some teething problems. "There are a few areas we could improve on," Slark admits. "We need more toilet facilities, and more variety in food vendors." Fairly minor issues really, and both easy to address. Slark says an estimated 10,000 enthusiasts were on hand for the AHRMA races and Vintage Festival, and he's convinced part of the draw is geographical. "It's a unique event in the South, because for years everyone's had to go north or down to Daytona. I can see in about three or four years this is going to be a bloody good event."

Vintage wrenching

That's what Jerry Liggett, team manager for Steel Breeze Racing, calls AHRMA's Historic Cup Roadrace Series. "A lot of guys think they'll get a vintage bike because it's cheap, easy racing. And it's the exact opposite of that. I don't call it vintage racing, I call it vintage wrenching, because you're wrenching about 100 hours for every one hour on the track."

Liggett, owner of the '72 Triumph triple that racing legend Gary Nixon rode to Formula Vintage victory at Barber, got into AHRMA's racing series in 1992. But it was in 2004 that he scored big and got Nixon, back-to-back winner of the 1967 and 1968 AMA Grand National Championships, as his rider.

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