Sunday, October 09, 2011


A few of the ex-Factory Ducatis on display at DucStock
The 7th annual Barber Vintage Festival, just outside Birmingham Alabama, is fast becoming the premier vintage motorcycle event in the US.  With attendance increasing by 30% each year as word spreads about this amazing weekend, there can be no doubt 'the Barber' will soon rise to the top of every vintage enthusiast's 'must do' list...and for the 60,000 visitors this year, it already has.
CB160 racing; massive grids!
It's taken me 7 years to fly to Birmingham, although the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum's incredible collection of 1300 motorcycles has been no secret.  The museum itself will get its own post, but is of course an integral part of the appeal of the Vintage Festival...even though quite a few visitors (and racers) miss it entirely!
George Barber talking with writer Mick Duckworth
George Barber has spent over $70 Million of his own money developing the Barber Motorsports Park, which includes an excellent 2.38mile race track, the museum, plus extensive grounds and event facilities.  This figure doesn't include the 1400 motorcycle and racing cars in the Museum collection itself, so clearly, Mr. Barber is about as Deep into Motorcycling as anyone on the planet.  There are hundreds of extremely wealthy individuals who one-up each other for the largest yacht, biggest art collection, or name on a university library, but there is none other who has made such a massive gesture to motorcyclists everywhere.  Hats off to the man.
Aerobatics display; 'strafing' Charlotte the giant Spider
A laundry list of the weekend's events would include a swap meet with 350 vendors (pre-booked since June), an auction, club displays (AMCA, Moto Guzzi m/c, etc) with attached bike shows, magazine booths (Motorcycle Classics, Café Racer) with their attached shows, a Wall of Death, a fire truck display, rows of commercial vendors, a Café Racer hill, an air show, AHRMA vintage racing, and this year, Ducstock.  As the park covers 740 acres, a shuttle service runs continually between events and parking areas.  The best way to get around, though, is on a motorcycle - no surprises there - and nobody cares if you park on the tidily mown grass.

Café Racer Hill was new this year, with the Ace Café, Café Racer magazine/tv, and Dime City Cycles combining forces in an isolated spot surrounded by trees, with an excellent track view.  Besides the corral of tv-show builds, the 'Hogslayer' triple-engined Norton dragster sat, menacingly, a slumbering beast. As you'd expect, the hill was a magnet for the Café Custom crowd, and it was the only spot in the Park with live music!  Which was daily interrupted by the aerobatic team buzzing just over tree level, laying a smoke screen down, looping overhead, and 'strafing' the giant spider sculpture ('Charlotte') with ground-implanted pyrotechnics.
Café Racer hill...
Ducati's 'club liaison' Vicki Smith launched 'Ducstock' in a previously closed part of the track, her own 'Ducati Valley', without factory involvement.  Duc owners brought their bikes for display on the grass of course, with enough variety of models and ages to keep it interesting, but the big news was inside two tents; 24 of the 40 NCR Ducati racers built from the 80s and 90s - a collection unlikely to be repeated - plus a display of delicious exotica, including a pair of dohc GP twin-cylinders from the 1950s; just about the rarest Ducatis of all.  Kudos to Vicki for pulling off a very cool event.
Racing F1 Ducatis at DucStock...
AHRMA racing was held over 3 days, and a walk through the open paddocks provided an easy tour of the state of American vintage racing.  The good news; lots of women are grabbing the handlebars and taking to the track, especially in CB160/200GP classes, where the grids swell to over 50 bikes at times.  Quite a few women become 'monkeys' on racing sidecars as well.   The racing in various classes is extensive and lasts all day, although AHRMA has allowed replica G50s and Manxes to dominate the vintage classes, with only a single event for racers built before the late 1930s - the 'Century Race' for machines over 100 years old, which is frankly more of a waving tour than a competition.  But, as the years roll on, the race will open to 1915 Harleys, and methinks the competition will become serious indeed.  The scale of race participation (with four tiers of paddocks filled) and the quality of the facility rivals the Coupe Moto Legendes in Dijon, France, but European vintage racing has much greater depth and variety of machinery, veritable rolling museums with ex-Works and ultra-rare racing bikes stretching their legs alongside the ubiquitous Matchlesses and Nortons, which are not allowed to dominate the proceedings, number-wise, which keeps the event interesting for spectators.  AHRMA's huge fight with Team Obsolete several years ago seems to have left their racing field lacking in diversity...where are the MV Agustas, the Benellis, the Moto Guzzis, the NSUs, the DKWs, the Rennsports?  There are plenty of these in the US and abroad who would surely come to Barber to race, with a little encouragement.  As it was, teams from Holland and New Zealand made their way to Alabama; with vintage racing at Daytona the following weekend, 'racing tourism' could become an industry.
Race Tourism; a large team from New Zealand/Australia swelled the paddock...
 The Barber Vintage Festival costs $40 for a 3-day ticket, and hotels/car rentals in Birmingham are about as cheap as it gets.  There is camping at the Park as well, although this fills up quickly, so planning and reservations are a good idea, if you're driving in.  If you want to book a swap meet space, do it by May, or forget about it.  I made the trip as a fly-in tourist on a week's notice, with no problems getting a hotel or getting around, and I found a couple of excellent restaurants in town.  The weather this year was very mild, and the tree-filled countryside is lovely.  See you in 2012.

Hogslayer!  I'm sure it could slay bigger animals too...
The one-of-four-made Ducati 125cc dohc desmo twin-cylinder racer, ridden by Mike Hailwood
The Ace marquee
Tech inspection bay in the early morning
Zero-emissions pit bike
Matchy-match; Yetman-framed Honda CB77 with transport van..."the van came first, a long time before I got the bike"
BSA Lightning mkIII roadster, still with its Amal GP mk2 carbs...
Daisy Duke for a day; the Café Racer girls...
Carbs on the 1957 175cc Ducati dohc twin-cylinder GP racer
HD iron-head chopper...pit bike
From the swap meet; dozens of SSI Dell'Orto carbs, ranging from modest to enormous
Dale Walksler of the Wheels Through Time Museum warms up his 1911 Indian for the Century Race
Nice unrestored '71 Triumph T100 Daytona
Never imported to the 'States; Honda 'Benly' ca 1957
A long way from its birthplace in Blighty; the Phantom EG 004...Phantom, makers of 'Quality, two-wheeled death traps'!
The airshow featured loops at very close range...
That's 'H'RD to you, buddy...a series 'A' Vincent Rapide, on display at the AMCA corral
Racers in the morning light
Triumph T140 in the BEARS race
Seldom seen in the US; a French 'Ratier', yes a BMW clone, but fast, and used as a police machine.
Ducati Rossopants!
Another Seeley-framed Norton Commando racer
Plenty of aluminum!
Vicki Smith, organizer of DucStock
Yamaha 100 with period 'GYT Kit' (Genuine Yamaha Tuning Kit) for racing

Yamaha XS650 sidecar racer
Seeley-framed Norton Commando racer
A fine selection of pit bikes! BSA Lightning (picked up at the auction), Velocette MSS Endurance, Norton ES2, Velo Venom
Trackside offices, tech station, media center, control tower...
Moto-blogger Jacqui Van Ham
A LeMans-style start!


jerry smith said...

Hello Paul, it was so nice meeting you at Ducstock and your pictures capture the weekend perfectly. Hope to see more of the very rare early Ducati racers. Jerry Smith

Ayasha Kieth said...

Cool photos. specially the bikes, a lot of fabulous bikes, can i take home one of the red Ducati?lol...
Fender Flares | Bushwacker | Bestops| Discount-autocar-parts | 4wheelonline | All about car

Anonymous said...

I was really bummed when I saw you posting pictures from the barber vintage festival. I was there all weekend! I guess I should've checked Facebook a little earlier! Did you bring any bikes out? I would love to see your velo and sunbeam! Hope to cross paths with you one day and talk bikes, as I'm sure many people would like to talk to the vintagent! If you've never been, I hope you enjoyed barber and will come back next year!

All the best,


Buzz Kanter said...

Nice shot of me riding my first year 1936 Harley EL Knucklehead in the pits. I had rode it to Barber with Dale Walksler and 75 other kickstart bikes from Wheels Through Time museum on the first Motorcycle Kickstart Classic ride. Put together by American Iron Magazine.

Vicki Smith said...

Great photos and event coverage, really nice to run into you again! By the way, the event attracted closer to 60,000 people this year, biggest one to date!

Anonymous said...


In the late 70s when I was squatting in East London, we used to purchase parts for our Triumphs from a shop in Leytonstone High Street called MCS (Motor Cycle Shop) run by a fascist called Ted Bloomfield. He had at least 3 old terraces jammed top to bottom with new British spares. Ted always had a half smoked roll-up fag glued inside his top lip and generally ignored his customers. If he did bother to ask what you wanted and you were a foreigner (and plenty of people from the continent filled their vans at MCS), he made sure you knew he thought you were lower than the shit on the bottom of his shoes. The only sign in his shop captured Ted's essence perfectly with the words "Don't be a cunt, vote National Front" scrawled on a small piece of paper pinned to the plywood fascia above the counter. Ted was a natural who had clearly never attended any marketing seminar or sales course but despite this, his positioning statement communicated his brand values as eloquently as Apple's "Think Different" or Nike's "Just do it". The only motorcycle on display in the shop front was a Hercules Sachs Wankel. I think Ted was as proud of the overall effect as any Macy's window display designer ever could be.


Anonymous said...

I believe the Honda CB77 is a Yetman frame, not Drixon.

Lawrence said...

Great pics ... great blog!

One quibble though. The Drixton framed CB77 is more likely a Yetman framed CB77 with some additional frame tubes welded in.

Keep up the good work .. I really enjoy it.

Larry Somma

macfly said...

The red Honda CB550 looks more like a 400Four, it was my first proper bike, and a real gem of a machine. I rode it through two English winters working as a dispatch rider for Delta Dispatch when I was 17 & 18. You made more money in the winters because all the collage kids were back at their studies, and no one in their right minds wants to be on a bike 14 hours a day in winter!

Anonymous said...

Macfly you're correct that's a 400 not a 550 !

Anonymous said...

The 176 Triumph is a T140 BEARS class bike, not a T100. 67 is a Norton Seeley, not a Triumph.

The Vintagent said...

Thanks for the correction! Its not always easy to see under the fairings...

danny ahern said...

Hey Paul,

Your coverage written and photos is just fantastic. I was the honorary Kiwi in the camp (but had my Aussie flag on the screen of my much loved G50 #327)
What an experience had, Barber as a racetrack and facility would be second to none to anywhere I have been racing or watching.
The crowd watching the racing on Saturday was reasonable but Sunday I thought was disappointing.
We were spoilt rotten on Monday with a personalised tour of the museum, they had to push us out in the end.
I will not forget my 2 weekends racing in USA real quick!
Danny Ahern #327