The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum: A Must-See if You are Into Motorcycles and/or Vintage Cars

William E. Van Tassel, Ph.D.

On a recent trip, I took the opportunity to visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, and my one-word summary would be “fantastic!”  Located in Birmingham, Alabama, the museum houses over 1,000 significant motorcycles and race cars- it’s a big place.  Automobile museums are one of my hobbies, and I was not about to miss this wonderful example.

I am definitely into racing cars, and the automobiles displayed at the museum represent an incredible history of motor racing.  In fact, I got to see this white Lotus Esprit race professionally years ago, with Robert Carradine (of Revenge of the Nerds fame) behind the wheel.  My position at the side of the track, working with a team of safety corner workers, gave me a great view of an epic battle between the Lotus and a Corvette.

automobile displayed at the museum

Photo: W.E. Van Tassel

And even though I am not a motorcycle rider, I could appreciate the incredible craftsmanship that went into each of the models on display.  The ingenuity of the machines’ designers is quite evident, as is the progression of safety features throughout the years.  For example, motorcycle tires and overall construction has come to offer more and more protection for their riders over time.

At this museum, my favorite motorcycles were the ones with sidecars, of which there were quite a few on display.  Some models could even carry two passengers, alongside the rider!  These just look like a hoot to take out on the roads, whether your passenger is your spouse, best friend, or your trusty canine companion.

motorcycle with side-car displayed at museum

Photo: W.E. Van Tassel

The museum is also adjacent to the Barber Motorsport Park, a 2.4 mile grand prix-type race track.  In fact, admission to the museum gives you direct access to view what’s going on around the track.  During my visit, single-seat formula-type racecars were doing hot laps, the novice drivers receiving coaching tips from veteran racing drivers.  The track also serves to showcase the many classic racing cars that the museum restores and displays, some of which appear in this image.

automobiles displayed at museum

Photo: W.E. Van Tassel

If you are ever passing through that area of the country, be sure to stop by and visit the Barber Motorsport Museum- it’s awesome, and might end up being the undisputed highlight of your trip, as it was for mine.

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