Day 23: Saturday 6th October : A day at the museum

For our second day at the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival we agreed on a late start (to let Aaron sleep in!) and after breakfast caught an Uber to the circuit pick-up point where we met Jordan from BMW and got our “Expo” passes. These give us unlimited access to the circuit, and with the wristbands for the museum already procured we were good to go. Jordan dropped us off at the entrance to the Barber Motorsports Museum and in we went. As they say here, OH MY GOD!!!

The place is huge, built in a dedicated building next to the circuit and housing over 1,400 motorcycles of various ages as well as a large collection of racing Lotus cars. It started as Mr Barber’s own collection of motorcycles and has gradually expanded to what is now believed is the world’s largest motorcycle museum. The exhibits do not appear to be in any particular order, with modern bikes displayed alongside older bikes, although there are dedicated areas for very early American motorcycles, flat-track racers, drag racers and dirt-track bikes. The entrance is particularly impressive, with a large covered atrium-style space with a central lift (elevator) at the sides of which are racks with motorcycles stacked high up into the ceiling. Each of the 4 main floors of the museum has hundreds of bikes on display, some stacked in racks and others on plinths with explanations of what they are next to them. All are immaculately prepared and in pristine condition, with the exception of the few traveller’s bikes which are left in original post-expedition condition.

We spent a good few very happy hours admiring the bikes, which included some particular favourites of mine. These included a Honda VF500FII Interceptor (the first big bike I ever owned, although it wasn’t called the Interceptor in the UK), and a 1974 Kawasaki Z900 (Z1a). The collection is unusual, in that it’s not just rare or significant bikes, but a collection of bikes that are a reflection of the time they were released. Some are obscure one-offs, including two made by the renowned English engineer, Allan Millyard – a Kawasaki z900 (z1) with a home-built 1600cc V-8 engine and a Kawasaki z1300 with a home-built 2300cc V12 engine!

After wandering around we grabbed a sandwich for lunch and then made our way out via the gift shop, where the museum’s only shortcoming became apparent. No fridge magnets!

It was then a short shuttle ride over to Ace Corner ready for the evening’s festivities, only to be told there were none planned for the Saturday. This gave us chance to head back to the cool of the hotel and a shower before heading to downtown Birmingham for dinner. We met up with a couple of Aaron’s friends, including Lee, one of the two owners of Motus Motorcycles, and the other Jeremy, who has a track-day prepared race Ducati Panigale R. The story behind Motus is fascinating as Lee and his business partner formed the company to build an American muscle motorcycle with a V4 engine based on the V8 muscle cars. The resultant bike is, apparently, quite something to ride and Aaron is a dealer for them. Or was, because just recently the finance company that they were reliant on has closed their credit line with no warning, just after they had invested heavily in machinery necessary make the bikes Euro-Compliant with ABS etc. This has effectively put them out of business and Lee was unsurprisingly reticent to spend time around other motorcycle enthusiasts. It was only Mira’s presence that convinced him to come out and I’m delighted he did, as he’s such a charming, intelligent guy with a clear passion for bikes and his company. I only hope they manage to get things sorted out, as I’d love to ride one of his creations!

Dinner was in a restaurant called Chez Fonfon, a recommendation by Lee, and it was fantastic. I had a great chicken liver mousse followed by the burger. Now normally in a good restaurant the only burger would be the cleaner’s lunch, but Lee recommended I try the one on the menu and it was superb! More like a steak that had been chopped up and put into a burger-shape than anything you’d normally get in a bun. Leaving the bread also left me room for the delicious Lemon Meringue Pie too!

After dinner we caught yet another Uber back to the hotel and I was in bed and asleep by 10:30pm, dreaming of the bikes I’d put in my own museum when I won the lottery!

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