Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

7th Annual Barber Vintage Festival - Birmingham, Alabama

Written by  October 31, 2011

When you start to see motorcycles everywhere you go in the Birmingham and surrounding areas, bikes at the hotels, bikes at the restaurants, on the road and looking a little like Thunder Beach, then you know something must be going on at Barber Motorsports Park.

On Friday, October 7, there were so many bikes in town for the 7th Annual Vintage Festival at Barber’s. The park opened at 7 a.m. with registration for the AHRMA Road Racing and the Barber Vintage Museum opening soon after, and the Swap Meet opened at 8.

The museum had a book signing with David Haynes’ “Motorcycling in Alabama” on Friday along with seminars and autograph sessions with Leo Geoff, Max Nightingale, Steve Hall, John Healy and Don Hutchinson on Friday and Saturday. Steve Hall and Max Nightingale returned on Sunday for a morning and afternoon seminar.

The museum is considered to be the largest of its type in the world, with the largest motorcycle collection, around 1300, with over 750 bikes on display at all times, and the largest collection of Lotus Race cars.

The racers got in some practice time, and folks got a preview of the auction by Auctions America, and the day’s events ended with the 4th Annual “Motorcycles by Moonlight” Gala, with special guests Paul Smart, Cook Neilson and Jason Disalvo. The Gala consisted of cocktails, dinner, live auction and a panel discussion and the gala proceeds will benefit the museum.

You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day as excitement filled the air Saturday morning when the AHRMA racers took to the track for some practice time. The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC) pancake breakfast got underway and registration opened for the antique bike shows.

The Fan Expo area with its “wall of death” and Southern Vintage Fire Apparatus Association’s restored antique fire trucks, also opened Saturday morning.

The Expo area is where you could find the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) Antique Bike Show, the Motorcycle Classics - Moto Guzzi Vintage Motorcycle Show, and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club bike show. In other words, there was a whole bunch of cool old bikes in one area for everyone to see and pick their favorites.

Nestled in amongst the vintage bike shows and Wall of Death were a few vendors like Anna and her Raci-Babi Diva-Do-Rags, a really cool idea for women with some length to their hair--no more helmet hair. American National was there with insurance information. Rider’s Harley-Davidson even brought some Harley goodies to add to the swap meet items, just to name a few.

The American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) has nine classes of road racing for both vintage and modern motorcycles, with 34 sub-classes based on displacement or a performance index. Grand Prix Classes are fully GP-kitted motorcycles built prior to December 31, 1968, with drum brakes only. Formula Classes are fully GP-kitted motorcycles built prior to December 31, 1972, with disc brakes allowed. The Sportsman Classes are four-stroke motorcycles, up to three cylinders, built by a recognized motorcycle manufacturer for street use up to December 31, 1972. The Classic Classes are pre- ’40 and ’50 era. Historic Production Classes are 1972 and earlier production street machines with limited modifications allowed. Vintage Super Bike Classes are 1982 and earlier production street machines, replicating the superbikes of the era with strict bodywork requirements. Then there was the Battle of the Twins Classes that had modern two-cylinder motorcycles only, any year. The Sounds of Singles were modern single-cylinder motorcycles only, any year. And the Sound of Thunder Class with unlimited displacement four-stroke singles and twins; three-cylinder machines to 1000cc; and twin- rotor rotary engines.

Then there are the special classes that are not run at every event, but they did run them at Barbers, the Open GP, Sidecars, BMW Airhead Invitational and CB160’s. All of the racing is always fun and exciting to watch, but the sidecars were so much fun; most of them have a guy and a girl riding them, and she does the steering. We met one of these couples, super nice folks, who offered to let us ride theirs. Not sure if they were kidding or not, but Leigh was ready to take them up on it!

They had the Ducstock Parade laps again each day during the lunch breaks, which are nice. It gives people the chance to get to ride the track here at Barbers. On Sunday the AMCA and the VJMC had parade laps to show off the bikes.

The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team took to the sky again this year on Saturday and Sunday, this time with the full team of four North American T-6 Texans, performing loops, rolls, and downward bomb bursts, all while they were in tight formation and only feet apart from one another. On Saturday the show was kicked up a notch with the Pyrotechnics that were added to simulate a battle on the track, and to ultimately attempt to take out “Charlotte” (the big iron spider), but even with all of the “bombs” that they dropped on her, Charlotte remained standing and lived again to see another race. This is just so cool!

If you love old bikes that are guaranteed to be older than you are, then you would get a really big kick out of watching the Century Race. All entries in this race must be at least 100 years old, meaning, nothing newer than a 1911 model are eligible, and the riders are dressed in period clothing. It was too funny listening to them call the race, talking about their blistering speeds. It seemed to take forever for them to run two laps. One took an extra lap because he wasn’t ready to get off the track yet. One came rolling off with a cigar in his mouth, and one lost a belt. These guys were as much fun to talk to as they were to watch run. We met “Mr. Bill,” one of the owners from out of town. They had made a run over to the Harley shop earlier to pick up a part, probably the first time something that old had come in there looking for parts.

Leaving Saturday, we had never seen so many bikes in there; it was hard to get around. It was a good thing that they have the tram to get around the park. We actually saw George Barber getting on the tram Friday. He is so cool, just one of the guys, you would never guess that he owns the place. He’s like a little kid when it comes to the Vintage weekend.

The swap meet area was pretty packed as well, even on Sunday. So many goodies to check out--so little time.

It was a great weekend of racing that I believe may have drawn a record crowd. This is truly a world-class track that draws world-class racers from all over the country and from other countries as well, like the racer this weekend from Italy. Each year Barbers just continues to get better. We had the most fun this time, and can’t wait for next year!

Write-On and Ride-On
By Lynn Reynolds and
Leigh Lilly