[ motorcycle spotlights ]
1954 AJS E95 "Porcupine"
2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance First in Class Winner
Introduced in 1952, the E95 was a much-redesigned version of the E90 horizontal twin, which was known as the Porcupine due to the spiky finning on the cylinder head. The original design was drawn pre-WWII when supercharging was legal. When racing resumed in the 40s, supercharging was banned and the Porcupine was uncompetitive. With the redesign, cylinders were given a 45° angle to shorten the wheelbase to improve handling. While fast, the machines were not reliable, and in 1954 were abandoned in favor of the G45 twin, a race version of the G9 street bike.
Check out the feature article on the Museum's E95 at Motorcycleclassics.com.
The AJS E95
1942 Harley Davidson WLA
Meet "The Ginny"
This tough military Harley was the preferred machine for the American and Allied armed forces during WWII, used for solo escort, dispatch, and police duties.
In January 2014, 89-year-old WWII Veteran, US Army Cpl. William Virgil Burton, of Bessemer, Alabama, visited the Barber Museum on a mission. He was looking for his "Ginny," the 1942 Harley Davidson WLA motorcycle that he rode during his service.
Discovering the museum's 1942 WLA, identical in vintage to "Ginny," Cpl. Burton looked on with a mix of nostalgia and pride. He had ridden three different motorcycles during his service, but "Ginny" was his favorite. Ironically, when he was issued the bike, it already wore the name, which happened also to be his mother's name.
The Barber Museum painted the name "Ginny" on the bike to honor Burton and those who serve in the military. Museum staff consulted with Burton about the name and insignia painted on his "Ginny," so that the museum's bike would match up with the bike in Burton's memory.
1995 The Britten
One of the most asked-about exhibits at the Barber Museum, the Britten V1000 was a radical departure from conventional racing motorcycle design. Its popularity is due to its creator, John Britten, an engineering genius who—together with a talented team of craftsmen—built the bike from scratch on a shoestring budget in his backyard workshop in New Zealand. A total of 10 Britten V1000s were created.
The Britten V1000's unconventional style and pink and blue colors make it a natural standout. Another distinctive feature of the Britten is its streamlined, lightweight carbon fiber body.
John Britten lived life fully and fearlessly. After fighting a short battle with cancer, Britten died on September 5, 1995, at the young age of 45.
1912Indian Board Track Racer
Board track motorcycle racing was an extreme sport of the early 1900s. Tens of thousands of people would gather at the steep, bowl-shaped motordromes to watch riders circle the oil-slicked wooden board tracks. There were few safety barriers to prevent these racers—who were careening around the track at speeds of 70-100mph on motorcycles with no brakes—from crashing into the spectators at the top of the track.
The 1912 Indian board track racer was a direct-drive, 8-valve motorcycle—referred to as "direct-drive" because it had no clutch or transmission. The four valve per cylinder design added both efficiency and horsepower as it allowed for greater air and fuel intake into the engine. One of the earliest participants in the sport, Indian was the dominant contender of its time, its racing team earning every American speed and distance record. Around 1914, Harley-Davidson entered the sport and became Indian's greatest rival.
PHOTO 2. Board track racer Harry Glenn stands next to this 1912 Indian at the Atlanta, Georgia Motordome. Glenn survived more than one crash at this particular track. Wright, Stephen. American Racer 1900-1939. p. 49
PHOTO 3. Retired board track racer Paul "Dare Devil" Derkum sits on a 1912 Indian in this Oilzum Lubricants advertisement. After retiring from board track racing, Derkum managed the Los Angeles Stadium Motordome. Wright, Stephen. American Racer 1900-1939. p. 43
1951 Vincent Black Shadow
From every vantage point, the Vincent Black Shadow is a marvel. Shrouded in stove-enamel black, the shadow flew in the face of convention in terms of speed, design, and production. The bike evolved from modifications that Vincent HRD engineer Phil Irving made to the Vincent Rapide. Despite that the Black Shadow was only produced between the years 1948-1954, people’s esteem for the legendary bike is still alive and well today. Like the Barber Museum, Jay Leno also owns a 1950s-era Vincent Black Shadow. He has described it as being his favorite motorcycle in his collection.
Fewer than 1,700 Vincent Black Shadows were made during the bike’s six year production period, and each was carefully hand-built. This bike was designed for speed. It achieved stellar performance by being lightweight and powerful, boasting larger carburetors than its predecessor, running on an increased compression ratio, and having carefully-selected camshafts. In fact, the Vincent Black Shadow was the fastest production motorcycle of its time with a top speed of 125mph. That speed was very impressive, especially when you consider that getting a bike up to 100mph back then—“doing the ton” as the British called it—was an accomplishment. The Black Shadow held the record as the fastest production motorcycle for 24 years. No other production motorcycle has even come close to holding that record for as long as the Shadow did.
During the 1950s, it was trendy to have motorcycles outfitted in as much chromium-colored strips and panels as possible. To set the Black Shadow apart from the rest, Vincent gave it a different appearance by making it almost entirely black. In the Stevenage, England factory, the motorcycle’s pieces were dipped in black stove enamel, drip-dried, and then put into an oven for a few hours to bake, or “cure,” the enamel. The black coloring gave a solemn look to the aptly-named Black Shadow, a bike that was considered classy and sophisticated, and it helped visibly differentiate it from the Rapide as well.
Considering that the Black Shadow cost about the same as a 2-3 bedroom bungalow in Britain in the 1950s, the bike was too expensive for most people to afford. Even so, wealthy consumers interested in purchasing a Black Shadow were usually put on a waiting list because the machine was so time-consuming for the factory to build. The Black Shadow was also extremely expensive to produce, and Vincent stopped producing the line after its short run due to financial problems.
Vincent Black Shadow
1920 Harley-Davidson Board Track Racer
In 1914, the Harley-Davidson factory racing team entered the board track scene as a fierce competitor. Their team became known as "The Wrecking Crew" for taking so many first-place wins, and Harley-Davidson was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer by 1920. These motorcycles existed during a time when all their moving parts were still experimental. The Racer's suspension consisted of a front spring fork with a Hartford damper, and a rigid rear fork. Prior to having front suspension, the ride was quite unforgiving, with springs only located underneath the rider's seat.
An extremely rare bike, it is thought that only eight were ever built, since they were only made for the factory team's best riders. These machines boasted a top speed of 120mph and were priced at an astronomical $1,500. Over the decade of the 1920s, board tracks all around the country began to shut down, one-by-one, because of how dangerous the sport was for the riders and spectators.
PHOTO 2. Ray Weishaar offers "Hog" a sip of soda after a race in 1920. Wright, Stephen. American Racer 1900-1939. p. 145
1959 Triumph Bonneville
With the success of the T110, a single-carb, 110mph, 650 Twin, it was logical to add another carb to increase performance. The outcome was the T120, in reference to its 120mph top speed. This historic artifact from the brand's first year model boasts the headlamp nacelle, generator, and remote fuel float bowl—components only featured in 1959.
One of the fastest motorcycles of its time, topping out at a speed of 120mph, this Triumph gained its name from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah—the ultimate proving grounds for machines attempting to set new land-speed records. In 1956, when a Triumph nitro-fueled 650cc motorcycle earned the world absolute speed record there, this achievement led Triumph to name its 1959 model "Bonneville."
Race tuner Jack Wilson (1927-2000) can be credited with much of Triumph's success, having built more than 60 world speed record-setting motorcycles, including the machine that inspired the Bonneville name. It was Jack Wilson who first uncrated the museum's T120 in 1959, and Wilson who restored it 31 years later.
1956 M.V. Agusta 500cc
Hand-built at the M.V. Agusta racing department, this motorcycle was created with the sole purpose of winning the World Championship. With an air-cooled, transverse 4-cylinder, 4-stroke engine and a power rating of 56bhp @ 10,500rpm, this machine was designed for a top speed of 145mph.
Ridden by a young rising star, John Surtees of England, the combination of rider and machine captured the 500cc World Championship crown in 1956, and three more by 1960. This was the start of total domination of the Premier racing class by M.V. for the next 15 years.
M.V. Agusta 500cc
WWII ERA American Military Bikes
Harley-Davidson & Indian
With specialized features for warfare, American military bikes of the early 1940s were in a class of their own. The Barber Museum collection includes a variety of remarkable motorcycles that were purpose-built for military use in WWII.
Monopolizing the market, Harley-Davidson bikes were “tough and versatile.” Leading the pack from 1939 until 1944 was the WLA—the workhorse of the military in many countries—with more than 60,000 machines supplied to the US military during this period. In 1940 Harley-Davidson introduced the US Army’s big twin UA model, featuring a Thompson submachine gun. In 1942 came the XA Military, a model designed for the North African deserts and resembling the German models of the day. The 1943 WLC was built for the Canadian National Defense. In 1944, the Model U, customized for shore patrol, was produced in small numbers.
In 1941, Indian entered the market, commissioned by the US government to manufacture multi-terrain machines. The company produced more than 1,000 of the 841 model, only to have the contract cancelled by the government. In 1943, Indian turned its business to focus on America’s European allies, creating the small and light 741 Scout, ideal for escorting slow-moving convoys.
Legendary John Surtees
One of History's Most Accomplished Racers
Legendary on both two wheels and four, the influence of Englishman John Surtees, CBE, (1934-2017), can be felt across Barber Motorsports Park.
Surtees’ famed 1956 Italian M.V. Agusta motorcycle is on display in the Barber Museum. On that bike, Surtees captured the 500cc World Championship crown in 1956, followed by three more crowns by 1960. The museum also has the Ferrari F-158 that Surtees drove to win the 1964 Grand Prix World Championship. Surtees was the only individual ever to win world championship races on four wheels and two wheels.
A friend of the Barber Museum, Surtees provided consultation in designing Barber’s world-class track. Surtees later served as the Grand Marshal for the Barber Vintage Festival in 2010, where he performed track demos with both his M.V. Agusta and 158 Ferrari.
In addition to having been a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Surtees was honored by the FIM as a Grand Prix "Legend." He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Starting in 2009, John Surtees became known for championing young people's success through a special foundation that he established in honor of his late son, Henry. The Henry Surtees Foundation continues to help young people return to health after serious accidents and achieve future success by way of education and training. The foundation also provides funding for air ambulance and other life-saving services.