2006 Barber Vintage Festival

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John Surtees signing autographs at the museum under the watchful eye of an MV Agusta.
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Bikes at the Bridgestone Owners Club tent.
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Swap meet vendors spread out on the grass.
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The workshop housed in the museum’s basement.
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Classic beauties line up for the Motorcycle Classics Concours d’Elegance on the Barber museum grounds, with the track in the background.
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Jack Wells garnered our Editor’s Choice award for his 1912 500cc Abingdon King Dick.
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For the past two years, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Alabama, home of what’s arguably the largest and most important collection of classic and vintage motorcycles in the world, has been moving into hosting classic events. 2005 witnessed the museum’s first Barber Vintage Festival, and with the second festival now under its belt, held Oct. 20-22, 2006, it’s clear that a new, “must see” vintage event has been created.

Quickly emerging as one of the most important classic motorcycle events of the year, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Barber and the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days, which for the past 12 years has been the largest and most successful vintage motorcycle gathering in the country. Like Vintage Motorcycle Days, the 2006 Barber Vintage Festival was a mix of vintage racing, a motorcycle swap meet, classic bike shows, an auction, seminars hosted by motorcycling legends and numerous special events held throughout the weekend.

But what really sets the Barber event apart is the accessibility attendees have to the pieces that make up the whole. The track, arguably one of the most beautiful in the country, is also one of the easiest to see, with track-side viewing points liberally spaced around its perimeter. The museum, overlooking the back of the track, can be reached from the pits by bike in minutes. The various classic bike shows, held in the Expo area, overlook the track and share line of sight with the museum. And the swap area, while hardly as large as VMD, is itself a one-minute walk from the track and only a few more minutes from the museum, and all of it is accessible by foot, motorcycle or shuttle.

Pulling it togetherThe 2005 event was pulled together in short order, but following the interest shown then, the Barber folks started planning immediately for 2006, and it showed. While 2005 was limited mostly to AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) vintage racing, a swap meet and a few small shows, for 2006 the schedule of events tripled. The AHRMA races are still the anchor, but for 2006 the swap meet more than doubled to an estimated 350 vendors. The museum, oddly quiet during 2005’s event, scheduled an array of events, from seminars presented by motorcycle stylist Craig Vetter to an auction of classic bikes held in the museum basement on Saturday night.

The unquestionable star of the weekend was John Surtees, the only man ever to win world championships on two wheels and four. The museum dedicated a special exhibit to Surtees on Friday night, and the star also took laps of the track both Friday and Saturday, driving the Ferrari 158 F1 he took to a world championship in 1964 and one of the MV Agustas he rode to victory in the late 1950s.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!