Virgil Oates Barnard, 88, a retired owner and operator of an automobile rental company and an Army Reserve colonel who served in both world wars, died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda Tuesday after a heart attack.

Col. Barnard was born in Atlanta and grew up there and in Ozark, Ala. He received a law degree at the University of Alabama, where he earned letters on the varsity track and tennis teams, and then was commissioned in the Army artillery.

During World War I, he served in France and was gassed. He was awarded the Silver Star.

After the war, he moved to Kansas City, Mo., and entered the automobile rental business. In 1932, he moved here to run the Washington office of the Saunders System, an auto rental company based in Kansas City. He eventually bought the Washington business and continued to operate it until his retirement in 1966.

During World War II, he was called to active duty and assigned to the Armored Command at Fort Knox, Ky. He was made an honorary officer of the military division of the Order of the British Empire for his services. He retired from the reserves in 1966.

Col. Barnard was a member of the University of Alabama "A" Club, the Kiwanis Club of Washington, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Retired Officers Association, the Military Order of the World Wars and the Congressional Country Club. He also was a Kentucky colonel and an honorary colonel of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Emma Saunders Barnard, of Chevy Chase, where the family lives; five children, Betty B. Davidson of Denver, Ellis B. Strickler of Potomac, Patricia B. Wilson of Gaithersburg, Virgil Oates Jr. of Frankfort, Ky., and Annie Laurie Wright of Kensington; a sister, Mrs. B. Y. Martin of Washington; a brother, Horace Barnard of Richmond; 17 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Kiwanis Foundation of the District of Columbia.