There’s nothing quite like it – whether it’s historic racing cars, vintage fashion, air displays, nostalgia or just the chance of an absolutely unique weekend, a visit to the Goodwood Revival meeting is a must as part of any British summer of motorsport.
The UK’s largest historic racing event takes place at the Goodwood country estate in Sussex over three days each September, as a counterpoint to July’s Festival of Speed. The Goodwood racing circuit rivalled Silverstone for prominence during its heyday of 1948-1966 – and, to recreate these glory days, the modern world is banished during the Revival weekend, with no pre-1966 vehicles intruding past the estate perimeter and guests asked to wear period attire.
An impressive number of them actually do this, offering the opportunity to hobnob with ladies wearing everything from the classic Dior New Look, straight out of a 40s noir film, to American-influenced 50s snug sweaters and flared skirts, not to mention the white knee boots and miniskirts of the 60s. Land girls, nurses, mechanics in overalls and Rosie the Riveter headscarves plus service personnel were also rather common.
Preferred kit among male visitors was definitely the wool blazer, cravat and Panama hat, although a few colourful souls successfully attempted the striped blazer, bow tie and boater combination. Military uniforms were very popular, although probably the less said about the proliferation of RAF flight sergeants wearing officers’ caps, the better for our readers. Peaked caps, plus-fours and tweeds were de rigeur in the paddock.
But we guess you’ll likely be as interested in the cars as the clothing, and there were all the events that a historic racing fan’s heart could desire. They included a parade of classic Minis (one bearing Revival regular Rowan Atkinson in Mr Bean guise on its roof), an 80-car tribute to Sir Stirling Moss that included the great man driving an iconic Lotus 18 owned by Tom and Kevin Wheatcroft, plus trophies for vehicles that ran in every decade between 1930 and 1966. One of the biggest treats of the weekend was a chance to get a good view of this historic circuit and its period buildings.
But the Revival is not just a historic race meeting nor a vintage clothing fair – although you could happily attend and get your fill of either of those things. The circuit surrounds an airfield and the event featured enough air displays to qualify as airshow in its own right, with an appearance by a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a majestic Avro Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, plus a Messerschmitt BF-109 to represent the Other Side, a brace of Mustangs, a Harvard, an Avro Vulcan and a Gloster Gladiator plus a large display of static aircraft.
The estate is treated like a giant film set for the duration of the Revival, with any amount of period colour, including a platoon of the Home Guard that marches around looking oddly familiar (especially the young lad with the bulky wool scarf and the older guy with the little round spectacles).
Policemen chase down and arrest spivs offering knockdown watches for sale out of suitcases. This year a building in the style of the Art Deco frontage of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre was recreated to house a static exhibition with a motor show theme. Also not to be missed is a flea market with row on row of period clothing stalls, artworks, models and collectibles. Add in a funfair and a classic car auction, and you will see how there truly is something for everyone.
Even the walk to the entrance is a treat, passing as it does through the pre-1966 section of the car park. Basically, turn up in a classic and you’re allowed to park one field closer and among your peers (and they didn’t seem to us to be all that fussy about including vehicles from the early 70s, either). Nothing does a better job of evoking another era, although sadly our Triumph Spitfire 1500 is a full 11 years too young and not currently in a condition to be taken on a 200-mile round trip involving motorways.
Our verdict: it’s bloody great and you should attend at least once if you possibly can. It would probably be worth the trip even if you don’t live in the UK. It is undoubtedly a motorsport event and it was interesting to note how, once you got out onto the further reaches of the circuit, the period costume dried up quite abruptly in favour of the practical clothing, folding stools and beer coolers evident at every single British circuit in the summer.
But, in our humble opinion, there’s a lot of fun to be had by dressing the part and treating the whole thing as a once-a-year experience that you’re certainly not going to have anywhere else.
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