MXA GOES TO THE 16TH ANNUAL BARBER VINTAGE FESTIVAL
By Mark Donaldson
Each October brings us to Barber Motorsports Park’s 880-acre facility near Birmingham, Alabama, for the Barber Vintage Festival. The three-day event includes everything motorcycles: vintage racing (road, trials, enduro, motocross), bike shows, swap meet, auction, demo rides, the worlds largest motorcycle museum (over 1600 motorcycles in the collection) and the “Motorcycles by Moonlight” fund raising dinner in the museum, which each year features a motorcycling icon as the Grand Marshal. This year the honoree was AMA Hall of Famer Mary McGee.
You may even catch the owner of the facility, Mr. George Barber, dressed the same as his employees, help with the loading of trams and making sure everyone is enjoying their time at his facility. Though we are there mostly for the motocross bikes, it is an opportunity to experience every kind of motorcycles. This is an event to attend. Heavy thunderstorms in the Birmingham area in the days leading up to the event made for some muddy swap meet booths, campgrounds and all the dirt track events. Eventually the weather cleared and despite the conditions, participants came out in near capacity levels to enjoy the sunshine at what has been described as the finest motorsports facility in the world.
For those who believed in Horst Leitner’s genius, the ATK 250/406 was a thing of simplistic beauty. Note the airbox under the gas tank, steel swingarm, singled-side shock and air-cooled Rotax engine. In 1989 many off-road racers didn’t trust water-cooling in the woods.
Never heard of a Gina? The name Gina is derived by the first two letters of Gilera and the last three letters Argentina. The 1972 Gina 175 was a partnership between Gilera and and an Argentina frame builder.
The German-made Sommer 462 is named after Jochen Sommer, and its history is tied-in with Royal Enfield, who tried to market diesel-power motorcycles with little success. Jochen has produced over 200 Sommer 462s.
The Sommer, which is not a vintage bike, but a modern machine, is equipped with a 462cc Hatz 1B-40 diesel engine, which Jochen Sommer modifies to fit in an Indian-made Royal-Enfield chassis. The Hatz Diesel, is an industrial engine and it barely moves the needle on horsepower, but it does make good torque and has a claimed top speed of 105 mph.
The Villiers engine on the Cobra 250 is outfitted with a Parkinson Conversion cylinder and head. The squarish cylinder finning helped cooling, while the cylinder’s bore was chrome plated (which was incredibly high tech on the 1963 motocross bike).