My Car Quest

November 17, 2019

What’s Great About Goodwood

by Wallace Wyss

Bearing in mind, I haven’t been to the Goodwood Revival, and you must know that I am a staunch Anglophile, ever since I first set sail for the Olde Sod more than half a century ago. I consider myself to be fairly steeped in all things British, including odd bits of WWII history.

One of my favorite photographs from England is the one from WWII, after a church has been bombed by the Germans, and there is not much left standing but two walls and a few pews. But there are parishioners there, praying. I knew, after seeing that picture during the war, the Brits knew that there will always be an England.

When the Goodwood Revival was first announced, I was a bit pessimistic. But now, observing it from across the pond, I am more impressed each year. There are actually two events that take place on the Lord March estate, the Festival of Speed and the Revival but I am more interested in what’s been done with the Revival. Cherished Vehicle Insurance latest campaign aims to identify Britain’s finest classic drives and vehicle events and the Goodwood Revival clearly belongs on their list.

Jaguar Race Car

First of all there’s Lord March, the Earl of Richmond. I am impressed with the way this look alike for Hugh Grant realizes that his stewardship of the estate is important to the nation’s morale. His ancestral home was once an RAF base during the war, at a point when England was in dire peril. So naturally he invites the owners of many of the same planes that defended the realm to do flyovers and such.

I don’t know which would thrill me more—seeing a gaggle of D-type Jags gunning their engines waiting for the flag or a trio of Spitfires swoop over the crowd, followed in 2014 by a couple of Lancaster bombers, the only ones still flying. I think just the sight of them brings tears to the eyes of the few WWII veterans in the crowd, those who remember the Battle of Britain, which was won by a very thin margin, the British down to their last few pilots only to be saved by a German change in bombing targets.

WWII fighter plane

Secondly I admire Lord March’s well thought out sense of how attendees could participate in his celebration of history even if they weren’t racing. Somewhere in the information about the event it suggests that period clothes would be a good idea.

WWII soldiers

For those of us who can’t spring for a P3/4 Ferrari to enter (mine’s at the shop being fettled, pity), at least wearing vintage garb gives us some sense of being in the game if we can find that bespoke three-piece tweed suit from the ‘40s to wear to the event so we can look oh-so-period.

I myself ordered up a nice pair of brass-rimmed bespoke Victorian style sunglasses for such an occasion and, before attending Goodwood, would like to find that woven wide brimmed English hat that the men all seem to wear at Ascot opening day. I was particularly smitten when Lord March’s own daughter wore a WAF uniform at the Revival, or whatever the wartime women’s RAF auxiliary was called.

Think of it as a theme party

Lord March has been quoted as saying his event is “the only major sporting event to be staged to a period theme.”

Indeed, he went on to say in his opening remarks to the 2014 event: “It’s a huge party and an extraordinary step back in time. I always wanted the return of racing to Goodwood to be fun, something beyond just the cars and bikes where the crowd is part of the drama. It’s romantic, it’s glamorous, and that’s how it used to be.”

“For three days we close the gates on the modern world. So cast off your everyday clothes, dust off those tweeds and trilbies, slip on those stockings and silks, and join in what I hope will be a weekend of fun, frivolity and the best historic racing in the world.”

It’s too bad that I couldn’t attend this event with a guest that was there in the ’40s, to see their enjoyment at seeing familiar things from the past. At least there are some drivers and mechanics there that were there in the ’50s, such as Sir Stirling Moss (I was so tempted at the Carmel driving event this year, where I saw him in a Mercedes Gullwing, to throw in some phrase like “it’s a bit sticky out there on Turn 3”, Stirling).

Mercedes Race Car

Then too, Lord March goes to great lengths to have a theme display made that’s memorable, such as putting real car bodies high on supports, cars as sculpture, as motifs for the event. I don’t recall the vintage races at Monterey having any motif to symbolize each year’s August races.

Mercedes Race Car

Then, too, I admire his flexibility in inviting various and sundry cars to make appearances even though they are not particularly old but just interesting such as the one-off Ferrari F12 TRS prototype. Ferrari only built one and it was sold so my good Lord just wanted us all to see it.

Oddballs welcome

And then there’s the cars he invites to race. Turbine cars? NASCAR stockers. Trans Am Mustangs. All sorts of cars that the Brits are not used to seeing toodling through their countryside at full tilt boogie, hanging onto the tarmac by the thinnest of margins.

I also admire his determination to recognize some great drivers with special tributes. For 2014 it was Jackie Stewart, the wee Scot, who 50 years before came to Goodwood to test a Formula 3 car for Ken Tyrrell, his maiden outing in a single-seater.

To honor him, Lord March assembled a sensational collection of the cars that he raced. And I think even Richard Petty was there in an old race car – I am constantly surprised by who he thinks of inviting – people I wouldn’t think he knew of.

He also has tributes to marques on anniversaries, such as in 2014 a tribute to the Maserati 250F, celebrating 60 years of that car being on the track. No less than 16 were invited to participate in a 250F only race.

Ford GT40

Shoring up the “true Brit” aspect was a race exclusively for D-type Jaguars, one of my Lord’s favorite cars , one which he said “still looks as good today as it did when it first appeared.”

By the way, Lord March is not beyond building Hollywood like settings to help those born in more recent years envision what it was like in the ‘50s and ‘60s, for instance when he got all the 250F cars together, he had them lined up together in the paddock, in essence a re-creation of the Monza pit lane as it was in the 1950s.

And don’t get the idea that his events are only a salute to the “old guns” because he invites very recent race car drivers –the young guns, so to speak, to test their skills in cars built well before their time. In 2014 it was Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton racing a Ford Mustang in the Shelby Cup.

One particular reason I’d like to go is to have a booth alongside the shops selling valuable memorabilia, fine art work, race driver duds. But then it’s hard to have a booth and see what’s going on, being torn between attending to commerce and seeing what’s going on out on the track.

Goodwood Revival Race Cars

To sum up, I think what Lord March has wrought with Goodwood is good for England, good for building enthusiasm for the old cars (and some modern ones introduced there) and good for vintage racing. He has managed to make vintage racing a major spectator sport in England, with crowds of up to 200,000.

I only wish in America we had an impresario in vintage racing that had the vision to pull off a similar event with such class…

~~~

Let us know what you think about Goodwood in the Comments.

More Goodwood Revival photos are in the two slide shows below.

Goodwood Revival photos by Andre Loubser.

Wallace Wyss has two barn-find book titles available from Enthusiast Books (Hudson, WI).

Wallace Wyss and Jay Leno

The author, in British flat cap, at a California old car event, touting his book to a customer.

Sell your classic car on My Car Quest – click here.

Summary
What's Great About Goodwood
Article Name
What's Great About Goodwood
Description
The Goodwood Revival is fun for all, at any age.
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Comments

  1. Chris Lackner says

    You forgot to post a pic of my Grifo 7-Litre in the Earls Court indoor display at the Goodwood Revival this year! The theme was V8-engined cars, and it was a great honour to be invited. It’s also been on display at the Festival twice, about a decade ago. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite like this, Goodwood certainly treats you like a king!
    The musical thunder of eleven Rolls-Royce Merlins overhead (2 Lancasters, 2 Spitfires and a Hurricane) was awesome, as was the shriek. of the jet-powered Canberra and two Hawker Hunters.
    Amongst the many other thrills: seeing my favourite motorcycle, a Vincent 1000cc win the bike race, a grid of about 30 D-Types, and of course the two Grifo A3Cs battling it out with a Maserati 151, Cobras, GTOs and Lightweight E-Types in the hour-long RAC TT race for closed GTs.

  2. wallace wyss says

    I am glad that M’Lord is welcoming to the “hybrid” Italian brands, as it wasn’t that long ago that Isos and Bizzarrinis weren’t welcome at the tonier car shows.
    As far as the Merlin engine, one of my favorite WWII stories in the area of Little Known Trivia involves the scandalous (for UK) story of “Miss Shilling’s Orifice ,” a little mechanical device thought up by a woman engineer that turned the Merlin from a loser into a winner, and whose nickname for the device provided a bit of humor for the engineers who thought up the name for it..

  3. I attended the original GW revival.. Quite a spectacle. Never saw so many c-types in one place. As I recall, Nick Mason’s wife broke her ankle stuffing a birdcage maser that year.

    BTW, right on about the Merlins, enjoy this, RIP Ray Hanna

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnc78LW7V1U

    Ray Hanna Spitfire Low Pass – Goodwood 1998

    cheers

  4. Mark C Williamson says

    Definitely on my list of events to attend. As you so rightly point out, not just for the cars, even though they are the main draw, but for the whole experience.

  5. ciaran j payne says

    Everyone who is into REAL CARS should make the trip to this event it is a REAL ONE OFF, with REAL RACING in $MULTI MILLION CARS, REALLY RACING, BUT, you must remember to Pre- BOOK, both the tickets and local accommodation EARLY, like NOW for next year!

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