Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Temperature 83 Degrees, Abundant Sunshine
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Visited September 17, 2022
It began in 1988 with the dream of one man, George Barber a successful business man and someone who was in love with automobiles of all flavors. In this year he began collecting and restoring classic cars. He wanted at first to amass the largest collection in America of classic cars. However, a close friend of his convinced him otherwise. He suggested that since there were already several large and truly unique automobile museums he should focus instead on collecting motorcycles. Being a man of big dreams, Barber seized the opportunity to accomplish what no one else had done – build the world’s best and largest motorcycle collection.
Toward that end in 1995 Barber opened the Vintage Motorsports Museum. But he was far from done.
Going even further he imagined a road course where his collection of motorcycles could be demonstrated in action. In 1983 he opened an 880 acre park with a 16 turn road race track that was open to the public. Today, the track is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School, and numerous automakers have chosen the park as their stage for vehicle debuts and to film commercials. Then in 2014 The Barber Proving Grounds was built adjacent to the race track (upper left corner of the above picture). It can be configured as a racetrack, or used in various configurations to test vehicle capabilities such as accident avoidance, braking, turning, and acceleration.
But the crown jewel of the park is beyond a doubt The Vintage Motorsports Museum which today is recognized by Guinness World Records as being the world’s largest motorcycle collection. This is truly one awe inspiring facility that has one’s head spinning from the first few steps in the door. You hardly know which way to look.
But ,actually, the experience starts even before you enter. There is this sculpture on the front lawn.
OK, let’s go inside and I’ll share with you just a bit of what there is to see.
There are five full floors of motorcycles of every kind, a total of about 1,600 motorcycles that span over 100 years of production. I, for one, never knew there were so many different manufacturers, so many different brands, and so many different models. Of course some no longer exist today. They were made for maybe a year and then disappeared from the motorcycle scene.
Here is where the motorcycle began.
From 1885. This is a replica of one of the first motorcycles ever built. Two German engineers built it to test out their new engine. They called it a riding car and it achieved a blazing 7 mph. This is where it all began.
1867. Another early attempt. This is a replica of what is believed to be the first true two wheeled motorcycle built. It features a coal fired steam boiler with the water for same built into the saddle. It is believed that about five or six were actually built but it never went into production. I wonder why!
This is believed to be the first mass produced motorcycle. The power unit was based on steam principles but was powered by gasoline.
OK, let’s take a look at just a few of the unique motorcycles in this amazing collection. I’m just going to “throw” them out in no particular order.
1923. It was called a Ner-A-Car. This was promoted in the United States as an economical form of transportation. Over a period of seven years 100,000 units were produced. It’s weather protection and quietness made it popular with women and in November, 1921, Mrs. G. M. Janson completed a 1,000 mile test without stopping the engine.
In 1922 Cannonball Baker rode one from New York to Los Angles in eight days covering 3,368 miles at an average speed of 30 mph.
1925. The Bohmerland, is one of the most unusual in the history of motorcycles. Designed to seat three people in tandem some models were almost 10 feet long. About a thousand machines were built between 1924 and 1939 and now only a handful remain. This actual machine is the oldest one in existence.
1959. Though often looked down upon in the United States, in Europe owning a fully equipped luxury model Scooter would be regarded as a status symbol. This CZ Cezeta with trailer for camping gear would enable a couple to go on vacation at minimal cost. Anyone out there with a large rig that want’s to downsize might want to take a better look!
1965. It’s called a Valmobile and its a folding scooter. Designed to be carried in the trunk of your car, boat or plane. Suffice to say, it never caught on.
1915. You could order it out of the catalogue and have it delivered to your closest railroad station ready for you to ride. The big attraction of purchasing from Sears was that you could pay for it in installments.
Want something a little more comfortable? This is a Honda GoldWing, the type of bike that I used to ride. It had cruise control, stereo, and could run all day at 70 mph. When Ms. Barbara and I used to go on a run more often then not she would fall asleep in the back seat.
Any Disney fans recognize this motorcycle? If you were at Disney World in the 70’s or 80’s you more than likely saw it at some time on Main Street. Yes, it is still in running condition but the low down is stopping is whole other thing!
For the couple looking for something new to do how about motorcycle side car racing. Granted it is one of the most dangerous forms of motorcycle racing but just think of the stories that you can tell your neighbors. Oh, and yes for the one in the side car you basically kneel on that small aluminum platform and hang on for dear life.
Yes, this one is for real. For a brief time JRL Cycles Lucky 7 was the only radial-engine production motorcycle in the world. The goal was to build and sell a minimum of 50 units but the development and production of them resulted in a price tag of $100,000 per bike. Alas, only four were ever built and this is one of those four.
OK, this is just a taste of what is in this amazing motorcycle museum. If you love, really love motorcycles then this is a must visit for you. It was a must for me and I’m glad I finally was able to visit it.
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.