Another record is in the books following the 14th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, Oct. 5-7, with event organizer ZOOM Motorsports pegging total attendance at just under 80,000. This year’s festival actually felt smaller to us than the last two, but whatever the case there’s no questioning Barber's status as the biggest vintage motorcycle event in the U.S., with more going on than you can hope to take in during the three-day festival. Event Grand Marshal Colin Seeley was hosted at Friday night’s Motorcycles by Moonlight museum fundraiser, and he graciously made time to swing by the Motorcycle Classics tent on Saturday, sharing stories of his remarkable career in sidecar racing and frame building with the crowd gathered for our show awards ceremony.
Seeley presented our Best Triple award, honoring the 3-cylinder offerings from Triumph/BSA that were introduced in 1968, which appropriately enough went to Triumph specialist Randy Baxter for his fantastic circa-1973 Seeley-framed Triumph Trident, one of only three or four made by Seeley. Visibly moved by the warm and enthusiastic reception of fans, the humble Seeley seemed truly amazed at just how revered he is in the classic bike community.
The Triumph/BSA triple contingent was predictably strong, with numerous Tridents and Rocket 3s on hand, including the surprise visit of Team Obsolete’s ex-Dick Mann BSA Rocket 3. The Barber Museum’s Brian Slark and the National Motorcycle Museum’s Mark Mederski once again helped with judging.
Our Editors’ Choice award went to Frank Lipinski, who showed his unrestored 1982 Triumph Royal, one of only 50 made. The next day, Lipinski rode the Royal on our Sunday Morning Ride, and afterward, apparently taking leave of his senses, encouraged me to take it for a spin. Often maligned, the Meriden-built Triumphs were and are great motorcycles, with loads of torque and a fabulous, throaty roar emanating from their twin pipes. I didn’t want to hand it back.
Our technical seminars included an examination of vintage Japanese electrical systems led by Rick Shaw of Rick’s Motorsport Electrics, and an inside look at vintage motorcycle suspensions with Matt Wiley of Race Tech Suspension. As always there was great AHRMA road racing on the 2.4-mile Barber track, along with AHRMA vintage motocross and trials racing in the surrounding woods of the 740-acre Barber Motorsports Park. This year’s swap meet was the biggest yet, expanding into the Porsche Sport Driving School and Mercedes Benz Proving Grounds, and the variety of parts and complete bikes for sale – ranging from fresh field finds to restored runners – was simply amazing. The Ace Corner returned to Turn 17, and the AMCA and VJMC held their annual shows off the perimeter road across from the museum.
Bonhams held its first-ever Barber auction in the museum on Saturday, selling the featured ex-Steve McQueen 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross for an astounding $230,500. A spectacular and rare 1928 Windhoff powered by an overhead cam, 746cc inline four sold for the same money, but the auction headliner, the second Vincent Black Lightning built, failed to find a new owner.
The Barber Vintage Festival is always something of a pinch-me event. Did all that really happen? Did I really meet and talk to famed frame builder Colin Seeley? Did I really ride a perfect 1982 Triumph Bonneville Royal? Did I really hang out with former Ducati-riding 1977 Daytona Superbike winner Cook Neilson? Yeah, I really did, and you might have, too, if you'd been there.Special thanks to sponsors Spectro Performance Oils, Pecard Leather Care, S100 and Hagerty Motorcycle Insurance for helping to make it all happen. See you next year. MC