• Motorcycles as art? See world's largest motorcycle collection

    By: Nelson Hicks

    Updated:

    LEEDS, Ala. - Ever thought of a motorcycle as a piece of art? Interested in seeing the world's largest motorcycle collection? Want to race bikes or cars?

    Do it all at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

    From Harley Davidson to Honda, BMW to Bohmerland; the museum houses more than 1600 motorcycles. And a racetrack, too.

    Birmingham businessman George Barber originated the collection in the late 80's and grew it in the early 90's. But along the way, Barber started to see motorcycles for more than just their automotive significance.

    Soon after, the Guggenheim Museum came calling.

    "(In) 1997, we got an invitation to participate with the Art of the Motorcycle in New York," the Barber Motorsports Museum's Jeff Ray told wsbtv.com's Nelson Hicks. "And that really was a pinnacle of our growth because Mr. Barber realized that people were genuinely interested in the history of motorcycles."

    That invitation to display 21 motorcycles as pieces of art sparked a much larger dream for Barber, a dream to build a world-class facility to restore, house, showcase and race the bikes in Birmingham.

    "My son is into motors, so what better place to come to then a great motorcycle museum," visitor Chris Luker said.

    Barber's dream has been realized with the 880-acre property that includes both the museum and a 2.38-mile road course. 

    The collection includes motorcycles from 200 different manufacturers from 20 different countries spanning over 100 years of production. All but three of the motorcycles are in running condition. Those three static displays feature models of original motorcycles that no longer exist.

    Visitors can see military motorcycles to one that resembles a hot dog, but the museum's operators hope every visitor can appreciate some artistic qualities in addition to the power and performance these machines offer.

    Looking for a time to visit? The facility hosts an IndyCar race in April, a vintage festival in October. Both draw about 70,000 fans. Looking for a quieter time? It's open seven days a week and can kickoff a three-day weekend in Birmingham.

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