Tickets to the 15th Annual Barber Vintage Festival are on sale now!
Vintage Festival WeekendThursday: 8am - 5pm
Friday: 8am - 5pm
Saturday: 8am - 7pm
Sunday: 8am - 6pm
Monday: 9am - 5pm
Tickets for Museum AdmissionAdult Weekend: $25 +tax
Adult Daily: $15 +tax
Child Daily: $10 +tax
AAA & Military: $12 +tax
October 4-6, 2019
John Penton has been on the cover of many magazines, the subject of many feature articles, a biography and a movie and it has taken all these and more to convey his story. His talents include innovator, racer, mechanic, motorcycle dealer, champion, father, entrepreneur, and member of the AMA Hall of Fame among others.
Born in 1925, he is considered one of the most influential members in the development of off-road motorcycle racing in America during the 1960s and ‘70s. A national champion rider, Penton went on to develop a legendary brand of off-road motorcycles that bore his name. When he couldn’t find the motorcycle that he wanted and needed to race, he created it. Thousands of riders learned to ride on Pentons which are celebrating their 51st anniversary. In their 10-year production run, more than 25,000 Penton motorcycles were sold in America.
In 1950, Penton and his brothers opened a motorcycle dealership that carried BSAs and soon afterwards BMW and NSU brands with others to follow including the Penton itself.
Penton was an Enduro racer which means he raced in off-road competitions over natural rough terrain (“mud runs”). He began racing in the Jack Pine where the bikes of choice were Harleys and Indians, but he soon turned to a smaller BSA with the thought that “smaller may be better.” He spent 1958 racing enduros all over the US on a quest that became legendary leading to his first Jack Pine win.
In 1959 on a bet, he successfully completed a transcontinental record attempt from New York to California. He did 3051 miles in 52 hours, 11 minutes and 1 second with an average speed of 58mph. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run making Penton a legend in motorcycling.
In 1960, Penton won the AMA’s Most Popular Rider Award in a time when that prestigious award was almost exclusively won by AMA Grand National racers. He is the only American recipient of the NSU Victorious Rider Award, which has only been awarded 7 times.
In 1967, Penton was a member of the U.S. International Six Day Trial (now called International Six Day Enduro) and known as the “Olympics of Motorcycling” since it is said to be the “most difficult and prestigious motorcycle endurance event on earth.”
While in Europe, Penton toured the Husqvarna factory trying to convince the manufacturer to produce an even lighter off-road machine. After receiving a lukewarm reception Penton decided to visit the KTM factory in Austria. His proposal for a lightweight off-road bike was again met with skepticism. As an incentive, Penton offered to put up his own money if KTM would build prototypes to his specifications. KTM agreed and in early 1968 Penton took delivery of six Penton 100cc prototypes. He promptly entered races and put some of the other top riders on the other bikes. In the first year, more than 400 Pentons were sold.
Penton’s innovations were not reserved exclusively for motorcycle manufacturers. Wanting to improve on the standard work boot that most off-road riders wore, he approached Italian ski boot maker Alpinestars about modifying their boots for motorcycling. The result was Hi-Point boots, “Built for Champions”, which were endorsed by Kenny Roberts and by the late-1970s were considered a must-have by many motocross and off-road riders. It became the biggest-selling boot in the country, and Hi-Point expanded to include all forms of off-road riding apparel.
His many accolades and awards go on and on. In 1980, Cycle News declared him the “Motorcyclist of the decade”. He won 13 AMA Enduro Championships and, in 1998, he was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame.
We are honored to have John Penton as the Grand Marshal for the 15th Annual Barber Vintage Festival October 4-6, 2019.