Custom Powder Coating Does the Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsport Park
In the middle of last year the owner of Custom Powder Coating, decided that we should take our message of quality custom powder coating to the 4th Annual Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsport Park. To that end, vendor spaces were reserved for the event at the swap meet village and a motor home was rented for the trip. On Wednesday, October 15th, we loaded the motor coach with food, drink and an assortment of Custom Powder Coating samples with which to wow the general public and we hit the road. Barber Motorsports Park is located in Leeds, Alabama, an eleven hour drive from Dallas, Texas where Custom Powder Coating is located. Since we powder coat many items for individuals outside our local market it seemed only fitting to show what Custom Powder Coating is all about to people that both build bikes and who may not have access to a high quality custom powder coater. The motorsport park and the motorcycle museum are nestled in a beautiful tree lined valley just outside of Birmingham Alabama. The drive over was punctuated by beautiful pine forests and gentle rolling landscapes and we were rewarded with almost perfect weather, if you discount the few hours of driving rain on Wednesday at the start of the journey.
We arrived around 11:00 A.M. on Thursday to a rapidly filling vendor area. A motley assortment of vans and box trailers disgorged everything from pristine vintage bikes to rusty hulks. There were parts for all types of bikes that ranged from brand new, used and in some cases pure scrap metal. You never know, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. There were a good number of visitors to the vendor area during the day on Friday. We had a lot of interest in Custom Powder Coating right from the start especially our specialty finishes of candy, sparkle and clear coats. Early shopping was soon dampened by the light rain that started to fall on Friday evening. We retreated to the dry interior of the motor home to watch a DVD (life is so rough) and to wait for Saturday.
It rained off and on all of Friday night but the skies cleared to a beautiful clear blue by about 8:00 on Saturday morning. This left a clear day but a goodly amount of gooey mud to deal with. The Barber Motorsport Park is composed of large grassy spectator areas set in a terraced bowl around the road race track. The area was well drained but still required some emergency ground repair due to the mud. This was carried out in expert fashion by the Barber crews, using bark mulch to create paths in some of the most effected mud zones. In one case a truck was brought in to actually suck water up from in front of a vendors display. I cannot stress enough the planning, the staffing and the first rate facilities that made this one of the best events of its kind I have ever attended. Prolific signage and well defined parking, camping and spectator areas made for a well organized event. There were trash cans everywhere with regular trash pickup. I never saw trash on the ground and I only saw one trash container that was overflowing and this can was in an inaccessible, very muddy area. Even the portable toilet installations were a class act. They were well placed and all were landscaped with foliage to both disguise them and make them a bit more attractive. The park is full of surprises. You have to look sharp to find them but there are sculptures everywhere adding a touch of detail and humor to the park. If you happen to go, look for the piston and rod carved from a tree, the man in the lake, the giant ants and many more.
Saturday turned out to be a huge success, with every type of motorcycle under the sun lining the parameter road that rings the race course. There were literally hundreds of motorcycles from Aermacchis to Zundaps ringing the outer road course as riders poured into the park on Saturday. There were Nortons in abundance along with Harleys, Vincents and Velos all being ridden and enjoyed. I saw a Heskith being ridden by a man and his little girl on pillion. The museum people even got into the act taking some of the exhibits out and riding or driving them around. Once when out and about in the golf cart, that was our main mode of transport, we found ourselves being drafted by a Lotus 7 from the museum collection.
Racing started in earnest on Saturday with classes of vintage road racing that included bikes from the 1940s through the 1970s. The racing pits turned in to a virtual museum of racing machinery. Old Indians, with hand shifts stood side by side with Vincents, BMW side car kneeler rigs and Manx Nortons. Full race two strokes from the 70s were in full attendance with a healthy dose of TZ and RD Yamahas, Kawasaki and Honda being represented as well. There were a number of Commando based road racers in the pits as well as a number of Manx racers. They sounded fantastic as they blipped the throttle and cruised through the pits on the way to the starting grid. Not to be left out, there were vintage motocross races at the newly prepared vintage motocross track. This track featured more period style jumps rather than the huge shock busting jumps of today’s modern tracks. Most of the MX race events centered on 70s vintage Huskies, Hondas, CZs, Macos and other popular racers of that era. There were even a few older four stroke BSAs and Matchless bikes from the era of big singles prior to 1965. The racing was good and competitive if not a bit muddy.
Saturday’s activities, besides the vintage road racing and vintage motocross, also included an air show. Four T-6 Texans, vintage World War Two combat trainers, put on a fantastic show, flying over the park trailing plumes of decorative smoke. They climbed, looped, rolled and impressed the crowd with aerobatic precision as well as earth shaking noise from their huge radial engines. The roar of their Pratt & Whitney R-1340-49 Wasp radial engines were enough to bring a smile to to face of every hard core motor head in attendance.
After spending the day extolling the virtues and benefits of Custom Powder Coating, taking in the road races and the vintage motocross events it was time to head to the museum. I think it is safe to say that there is not another motorcycle museum in the world that can match the Barber Museum for quality of exhibits, sheer numbers of pioneer, veteran, classic and modern bikes on display and absolutely breathtaking surroundings. The whole back wall of the museum is glass and looks out over the world class road course. What a thrill it is to be examining the rare and unusual machines against a back drop of a real road racing event. The museum has five levels, connected with a large glass elevator in the center and a spiral ramp connecting all floors. The lowest level houses the shops, parts rooms and is home to a number of daily riders and drivers. These include such rare beauties as a pair of exotic Honda 250 four cylinder race bikes, an original Harley Davidson service cycle, a fifty’s vintage Moto Guzzi single and a Kawasaki H1 two stroke three cylinder with an extra two cylinders grafted on. This last bike was a bit of a technical exercise perpetrated by the lads in the shop and except for the width, that makes it necessary to get one foot well out at stops, is quite a pleasant performer or so the creator says. The back of the shop area opens out onto the race track were machines can be ridden and tested. The upper levels contain motorcycle and some car exhibits arranged around the age of the bikes. In some case special sections house bike groups such as the Daytona display or the John Surtees exhibit. I was fascinated by the board track racer display complete with a piece of reconstructed board track. The museum also featured a selection of formula one cars and a number of interesting boat motors, quite a few of which were made by motorcycle manufacturers. It is impossible to properly convey the fantastic detail and care involved in displaying each exhibit. The Barber Motorcycle museum is a must for anyone that loves two wheeled transport.
Sunday was packed with more racing both in the dirt and on the track but fewer people at the Custom Powder Coating display stand. Park attendance was down to maybe half of Saturday’s crowd. We watched more racing, made one more tour around the swap meet, took a last tour around the museum and it was time to pack up and go home. On the way out of the museum on Sunday we saw the man himself, George Barber. We recognized him from his many pictures in the gallery down stairs. He was chatting with one of the museum workers but started to walk our way. We turned and introduced ourselves and thanked him for the wonderful experience. He ask if we were enjoying our stay. I am afraid that we rather gushed enthusiasm like Japanese school girls at a Kiss concert but he seemed pleased with our over the top report.
We had a great time, saw some fantastic racing, ogled old motorcycle, rubbed elbows with lots of other motorcycle enthusiasts both great and small and actually introduced a fair number of people to the joys and beauty of Custom Powder Coating. The trip home was long but uneventful and left us to plan for next year because we will be going back.