George Barber owned and raced Porsches, but he didn’t like the way you couldn’t see the mechanical components without removing the cars’ body panels. A friend suggested Barber consider motorcycles, which already have their engines and other parts fully exposed. Barber bought one. Then another. Eventually, Barber found himself with 1100 such vehicles, dating from some of the earliest motor-powered bicycles to today’s most modern two-wheeled machines.
Barber’s collection, of cars and “bikes,” outgrew a warehouse in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, where his family was in the milk distribution business. In addition to dairy products, Barber became one of the largest real estate developers in northern Alabama and in 1998 he began converting some of his acreage near the Interstates into a facility to both race and showcase his collection of cars and motorcycles. The result is Barber Motorsports Park and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, just east of Birmingham near the intersection of Interstates 20 and 59.
Barber wanted his racetrack to be the Augusta of auto sports, a racing facility on par with the golf course that hosts the annual Masters tournament. His 2.38-mile road course is wide, with 16 turns and 80 feet of elevation changes. The track has no grandstands, but is beautifully landscaped and designed so spectators can sit on grassy hillsides and see nearly the full span of winding pavement.
The museum is located near the track entrance and features 144,000 square feet on four floors connected by curving, freeway style ramps. The bottom floor has separate restoration shops for cars and motorcycles.
In addition to the world’s largest motorcycle collection, Barber has the largest collection of Lotus cars in the United States. Nearly all the vehicles are maintained in running order and often are exercised on the adjacent track, which also is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with longer hours during summer months. Admission is only $10 for adults, $6 for those 4-12.
For more information, visit www.barbermuseum.org
or call (205) 699-7275.
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