Old family photos lead to a quest to find out more about a Vincent-racing dad
A secret past, caravan capers and winning bikes from Hailwood
It all started when I found a clubman’s meeting card amongst some old family photographs that my aunt had given me, a while after my father had passed away. It stated that Mr GF Barber (my father) had completed the flying kilometre at Brooklands on April 17, 1937, riding a 498cc Vincent HRD – this was well before my time, and dad’s racing days weren’t talked about in our family. After many letters to many different people, the National Motorcycle Museum gave me the address of the Vincent HRD Owners Club, who subsequently carried out a search as much as they could, based on the information to hand.
Working backwards from the date of the Brooklands certificate, they found that a Comet Special – a tuned-up road bike or a detuned TT replica, whichever way you chose to look at it – was built for one GF Barber and that he took delivery of it on March 14, 1936. In a separate spec book for the engines, there is a note that engine number TTC 17 was for Mr GF Barber’s machine – and this is the engine which was fitted to the bike built to his order.
Vincent occasionally supplied ‘racing’ machines which were then used as development bikes by the factory, with the riders being partially factory-supported, which may have happened with my father’s bike. The bike finished eighth in the 1937 TT, ridden by Jock West.
Then, after World War II, George Brown found TTC 17 in a works shed and it became the Cadwell special. If any Classic Bike readers have any further information on the bike and my father’s racing career, I would be grateful if you could contact me via the magazine.
GF Barber (4) waiting to get underway at Brooklands
The 1947/48 prototype Black Shadow with John Barber’s father (right)