Jim Barbour III - Celebrating memories of one fine man

Dave Helms

Volume 45 Issue 20

Sep 26, 2020

Jim Barbour III was one of my personal heroes, a dear friend and someone I held in extremely high regard. A tribute to Jim cannot easily be condensed into a few paragraphs; this was a man who lived life to the fullest and taught by example.
A Tuskegee Airman, P-51 Crew Chief, race car driver, Ferrari Mondial owner, member of the SCCA Board of Directors and the first Chief Steward for the Ferrari Challenge Series, if one was to highlight just a few of his accomplishments.

     Jim Barbour III was one of my personal heroes, a dear friend and someone I held in extremely high regard. A tribute to Jim cannot easily be condensed into a few paragraphs; this was a man who lived life to the fullest and taught by example.

 

     A Tuskegee Airman, P-51 Crew Chief, race car driver, Ferrari Mondial owner, member of the SCCA Board of Directors and the first Chief Steward for the Ferrari Challenge Series, if one was to highlight just a few of his accomplishments.

     An exceedingly humble and soft-spoken man, even those who were close to him found themselves surprised to learn of his history. David Obuchowski, a very talented and accomplished writer for Jalopnik, did a series of articles on Jim a few years ago.

 

     I can only begin to imagine how many times Obuchowski had to start over again while writing those documentaries, with each new conversation came to light yet another interesting side story of a wonderful man.

 

     Jim and I worked together at Dr. Robert Bodin’s World Ferrari shop in Minneapolis. Jim was to take over day-to-day management of the business, that allowed me more time to get in the shop and focus on what I was supposed to be doing.

 

     As an expert in the up-and-coming computer systems within the government and later in the high-level private sector, little prepared Jim for the hustle and triage involved in running a Ferrari restoration and repair shop, that being the 9-to-5 portion of the job.

 

     What Jim did not realize when he took the position (I am certain there was unreadable fine print involved) is the ‘remainder of the day’ was centered around the World Ferrari Race Team intricacies and challenges.

 

     What should have been four full-time separate positions for the both of us, over time morphed into single 15-hour days.  The GTO, TdF, a gaggle of SWBs, 250 TRs, “Jim, which ones are going to the track this weekend, and which are staying home?”

 

     I can remember Jim’s head dropping in exhaustion when I pressed for an answer while loading the semi for a weekend at Road America. “Load whatever you want, we will sort it out at the track”. The very detailed race registration that was supposed to be done months or even years prior was usually done on the spot at the racetrack. Often, that involved several bottles of good wine to be used as bribes to the ladies behind the registration counter.

 

     Being an extremely organized person, Jim knew the right way to do the planning and race registration, he himself wrote the directives for SCCA. What Jim was now about to learn is how it was done at World Ferrari and that adding in the cost of several cases of good wine per race weekend, was simply a required race weekend expense.

     While most race teams maintained computer spread sheets on tire durometer readings, alignment settings, cam timing set ups and sway bar sizes for a given track, I would scribble those down on scratch paper while Jim’s computer skills were put to the test maintaining a database of which registration lady at every track preferred what type of wine.

 

     I believe Dr. Bodin in some small way prepared Jim very well for the many challenges he would have to overcome as the newly elected Chief Steward of the Ferrari Challenge Series.

 

     We lost James Barbour III last weekend, but the fond memories of a very fine man will provide, for me, quiet moment smiles for the rest of my days, Jim will not be forgotten.

 

     Dave Helms is the owner of Scuderia Rampante in Erie, Colorado. His company provides maintenance and restoration services on Ferrari. Helms insists he is not a writer and was hesitant to bring us this story. His first draft contained the following two paragraphs that I had hoped he would include. They come from the heart and I felt it important to add them.   Jim Weed

 

     How does one make it on someone’s personal list?  Does one start with ascending order or descending order?  Honor those currently with us or those we have recently lost?  I am in no way smart enough to answer these questions but when I dig deep in my heart, the list of names is in descending order, starting with those from our Greatest Generation and working towards present.

 

     Jim Barbour was just that man, he earned this spot on my personal list, a Man-of-Honor in every respect.  Jim’s early life is what everyone would expect of a black man growing up in the South, but this was a generation that would accept nothing as the norm of the time. They controlled their destinies with hard fought perseverance.  Jim was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, one of the highest decorated group of Airmen in WWII.  I worked alongside Jim for years never knowing this fact... add the ultimate level of humility to the list of his incredible accomplishments during his lifetime!