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We are located in sunny WHITE ROCK, BC, CANADA

Contact Jim Bush by email

Phone 604-535-5800

 

 

 


 

 

 



Our 4.00am departure from White Rock, saw us cross the USA Border in a flash and hustle down the I5 to SeaTac Airport for our flight to Birmingham Alabama. Long way for a hair cut one might wonder – but this was the 5th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, weekend of the October 9th to 11th.  Ken Hazzard, Steve Gurry, Robert Smith & myself had made plans to go to the deep south, to take in this extravaganza of motorcycling.

As if visiting the Barber Museum wouldn’t be enough reason to visit, throw in vintage racing, a swap meet, an auction, special displays, wall of death, best cafe contest, vintage aircraft flyovers and you have one heck of a weekend lined up.
The Barber Motorsports park is a lavish facility, overall 700 acres, mostly of forest, with 60 acres fully developed in the Motosports Park and Museum. George Barber (who was often seen by us just mingling with the crowd) made his money through the family Diary business and real estate. The local stores all carry Barber brand milk, juice and ice cream products.. He raced Porsches and soon got interested in Motorcycles  and his collection started – his first motorcycles were only  acquired in 1989.


Some snippets from their website:
The collection now has over 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles and as well as a substantial collection of Lotus and other race cars. It is considered the largest collection of its type in North American and possibly the world. There are approximately 600 of the collection’s 1200 motorcycles on display at any given time. These bikes range from 1902 to current-year production. Bikes from 20 countries represent 200 different manufacturers. The common street bike is represented, as well as rare, one-off Gran Prix race machinery. Bikes have been purchased from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden, but also as close as down the street.
The Museum opened at its original location in 1995 and now at its current location in 2003.  99% of all bikes in the museum can be run within one hour. The museum was the largest lender to the original “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit in New York, Chicago and Bilbao, Spain. Considered the largest motorcycle museum in the World. Largest collection of Lotus race cars known.

Immediately on arrival, we were astonished at how well laid out and new everything was. There is a ring road  around the entire facility – and free shuttles, this meant parking wasn’t a problem and getting to see everything means walking was cut down substantially. Due to looming bad weather reports for the next day, we spent the Friday at the Swapmeet. Now this is an outdoor Swapmeet and the venders come prepared for at least three full days of selling – which means packing in RV’s, trailers, tents and all kinds of accommodation. It felt sort of like a music festival, only with bike bits.  My favourite stall was 3 red-neck guys sitting around a converted propane tank smoker, just waiting for the ribs to be done. Being a BBQ-aholic, I introduced myself, bagged the seat in the middle and ordered up a PBL (Pabst Blue Label)– well I would have, except the ribs were about 3 hours from being done and I had treasure hunting to do.
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Everyone was very friendly and laid back – even the good old Harley boys were super friendly, it seems in the South that anyone on a motorcycle is your friend (maybe they think relative).  Being open to all brands and ages of motorcycles, the items on offering were vastly varied and equally diverse in condition or price.  There was a proliferation of pit bikes zooming around – some really neat restored early Japanese dirt bikes to crap-rat  machines pulled from the swamp festooned with an alligator head.
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Trudging the aisles of the Swapmeet in the horrid humid heat of Alabama’s late summer proved a major task – but the thought that there must be just one treasure to take home motivated Ken & I to complete to the end.  Robert & Steve motored thru it all. I did pass over a mint Grimeca four leading front wheel complete with Boriani rim for $400 – these routinely sell up here for $1200-$1500. The heat meant it was too much trouble to drag  around, plus I would have to ship it home in my luggage....must have been sun stroke for me  to pass that one up.
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Surveying the Swapmeet, it would seem that vintage Japanese along with a smattering of Italian, German and other foreign makes bikes outnumbered British Bikes and that American bikes are still the leader. One problem of the South it seems is rust. Many of the basket case bikes were complete heaps of rust, yet the sellers were asking top dollar. Maybe it is the floods, the proximity to the ocean or what – but some stuff was just plain NOS “nasty old shite”  Half a gas tank anyone?
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One big surpise for me was finally meeting Mike Partridge of Walridge Motors fame and his lovely sidekick Kath. I have been dealing with Walridge for almost 15 years, spoken many times with Mike and Kath, yet never had the opportunity to meet up. They pull several cargo trailers of parts to this event and seemed to be doing a brisk business. It was good to put face to name and spend a few moments chatting about stuff. They also had an amble awning to shelter under and ice cold water....


Once through the Swapmeet, Ken & I wandered off in the direction of the track, climbed a bank under a covering of trees and came out on a great overlook to the track. A perfect spot to see the bikes in action, lay about under the shade of the trees on the lovely grass and pass out (in Ken’s case). “Listen to that old Manx at full throttle Ken – oh sorry to wake you,  that must have been you snoring!”
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The best bikes that come to mind in the Swapmeet were

Square Norton – a Norton Featherbed with a Ariel Square Four engine – lovely..

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Rickman Triumph Trident – real original (1 of 8???) – tasty

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A battery of early Honda’s, pristinely restored – eye candy

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Our evening  was finished off with some barley therapy (replenishment of all the lost electrolytes from our day in the sun) and a good old barbeque dinner at Johnny Raes. I was so impressed with the Alabama BBQ sauce that I bought a quart jug to bring home. Rather than the artificial hickory smoke doused brown sugar sauce that is common up here, Johnny Raes sauce is more vinegar/ tomato based with fragrant spices and sweet onion, mild on the chillies – very light and clean, yet pulls the smoke flavour from the meat. Quite a treat.