Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

11th Annual Barber Vintage Festival – Birmingham, Alabama

Written by  October 30, 2015

October signals the start of fall; the time changes, Halloween and the biggest most exciting thing to happen in the southeast pertaining to the motorcycle community. I say the southeast, but it’s a pretty big deal for people from all over the country and from a few other countries as well, I’m talking about the Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, which takes place October 9-11.

This year the police were directing traffic long before entering the park, and there was also a new location for guests to park offsite and catch a bus to the track. There was also a new place to pick up tickets and passes, which let us know this year was going to be a little different, and Barbers would be hosting a lot more people.

It did flow a little better coming in early Saturday morning, even though traffic was two rows wide; at 7 a.m. mind you! It was a little overcast, but expected to burn off, and the temperature was almost perfect, none of which seemed to slow down the steady stream of people rolling in.

This year Barbers was honoring very special guests; the family and friends of John Britten, who came all the way from New Zealand for this year’s festival. John Britten (1950-1995) was the creator of one of the worlds most innovative and prized motorcycles; the Britten V1000. Only 10 of these bikes were made. The Barber Museum is proud to call itself home to the #7 Britten, and it has always been one of the guest’s favorites.

We met John’s daughter Kristeen Britten on Saturday as she and George Barber waved the green and checked flags for the race of five of those bad boys, including the one that was brought out of the museum, which lives there and four others that had traveled from all over to be there. It was said there was around five million dollars’ worth of motorcycles on the track during that race. Amazing!

The #1- F001-91, The Cardinal Britten, that resides in New Zealand at the Britten Motorcycle Company was featured in “The Naked Britten” seminars that took place at the museum over the weekend. We managed to snap off a shot or two as they buzzed by on the track! It was pretty cool.

Other seminars at the museum were, 2 Guys & a Century of Knowledge with John Healy & Don Hutchinson, 150 Years of Restoration, also with John and Don and added Leo Goff who also did the Vintage Performance Enhancements seminar.

The museum has an added benefit for its “members only” like Turn 9 Hospitality and access to the pedestrian bridge, and let me tell you, it’s totally worth it! There’s not a bad seat in the house, but this may top the list of really good spots to see the action. There’s artwork all around the park, so at the end of the bridge they added a huge snake; pretty funny watching people question whether or not it was real. Jeff Ray thought that would be the freak out moment for us, but actually it was the walk over viewing glass inset in the floor that allowed you to look down on the track, which was pretty freaky for a lot of us. I wasn’t the only one who felt a little uneasy while walking on it. Still, it was really cool!

The collection of vintage cars and bikes has grown to around 1,400, so the museum is now in the process of expanding to add to the approximately 750 that are already on display. Even after the expansion, the museum still won’t hold all of the collection, but they are edging their way closer. All of the restorations are done in-house. There are bikes from 20 countries that represent 200 different marques, from the common street bike to the rare one-off Gran Prix race machines. Bikes have been purchased from as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, but also as near as down the road. Twenty-one motorcycles were selected for the famed Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim’s New York and Bilbao, Spain location as well as the Field Museum in Chicago. England’s Goodwood Festival of speed has also featured cars from the Barber collection.

There was so much stuff going on all over the place, it was hard to catch it all. There were bike shows for the AMCA, VJMC, Vintage MX, Side Car, Electric Bikes and VJMC, AHRMA Road Racing, Cross Country Racing, Trials, and then there was the ultimate, all time favorites, the Century Laps and the Cannon Ball Riders Parade, Awesome, Awesome. We could go and get lunch while they went puttering around, but who doesn’t love to see these 100 year old bikes motor around the track? Too cool!

We are always meeting some pretty interesting characters at this event, and this year was no exception. We met this cool family whose son Ryan Cherry is a junior drag racer. Ryan started racing junior drag cars at the age of six, and then switched over to motocross for two years. He then got into the drag bike program. His dream is to be the youngest top fuel rider at the age of 16, but in the meantime, his mission is to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Birmingham, Alabama. How impressive is that? You go dude! We wish you much success in your endeavors!

We also met Berry Wardlan who owns Accurate Engineering in Dothan, Alabama. We could have spent all day talking with him. He has a pretty impressive background with the folks he has worked with and some of the things he has accomplished. It’s so much fun getting inside of his head.

The Fan Zone was so full this year they were not letting people park down there, but of course we made our way down to see what all was going on.

Amongst the many food concessions was the Cantina on Wheels, where you could pick up some great tacos, The American Auto Drome Company Wall of Death Thrill show was also located in the fan zone, along with the Globe of Death Stunt Show and the “On the Edge Stunt Show.” Big #1 Motorsports, Triumph and WOW Motorcycles were nestled down there with the Britten Motorcycle Club representing the bikes and then there were the various vendors like the folks from the Skull Canvas Helmet Art show that had some wicked art work going on. Some of it was a little creepy, and some just outright wrong like the baby head helmet. It was also nice to see the Faith Riders and the CMA out there.

We also saw some pretty cool conversion bikes from the folks at Hannigan Motorsports out of Kentucky. There was just so much cool stuff to see all weekend!