World’s Best: The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

The founder of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum near Birmingham, Alabama, gives a rare interview to Alan Cathcart.

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courtesy Barber Motorsports

Courteous and correct, yet clearly fired by an inner passion for doing whatever in life he chooses to accomplish to the best of his ability, George W. Barber is the man we all dream of becoming.

The 70-something Alabama businessman has made a success out of everything he’s done in life: In 1970, Barber took over the family dairy business, Barber Dairies, founded by his father in the 1930s. After selling the dairy in 1998, he’s since branched out into real estate and played a key role in Birmingham, Alabama’s resurgence as one of the principal medical cities in the U.S. He’s also driven development of the massive Barber Marina on Alabama’s Gulf Shores — but best of all he’s created the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, housing what is unarguably the world’s finest collection of motorcycles, set alongside its own daunting but scenic race track. Begun in a warehouse in downtown Birmingham, Barber quickly ran out of space. He purchased a property from the city outside of Birmingham, and built the current museum there.

Despite his eagerness to meet and talk with fellow bike enthusiasts who flock to see his collection, George Barber is a private person, so it’s rare for him to be persuaded to recount in detail the story of the museum’s founding. But here in his own words is how that came about.

“I’ve always been enthusiastic about automobiles, but I guess my earliest memories of driving are of delivering milk in a truck, which I had to do every summer when I got out of school. That was until I got old enough to begin racing cars in 1960.” Aged 20, Barber wasn’t just a rich kid who wanted to show off, but a seriously good driver who won 63 races in the following decade, and successive SCCA Divisional Championships with various Porsches ranging from the Super 90 road car he started with, via a Carrera, 904 and RSK, finishing with a 2-liter Brabham BT8 sports racer. Moreover, in further dismissing the rich kid label, he actually prepared the cars himself.

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