The weather might be typically English in that it’s chilly, wet, and gray, but the weekend is far from ordinary. At the Goodwood Revival, nobody lets a little rain spoil the festivities. And while there are dozens of vintage car gatherings that come to mind, not even the glam of Monterey Car Week or Goodwood’s own Festival of Speed can match the Revival’s blissful retreat into the high spirits of postwar 1940s and 1950s England. A weekend at the Goodwood Revival sticks with you, imprinted in your memory with senses and feelings worthy of the glory of the spectacular people, setting, and racing you’ll find there every year. Here’s why you’ll never forget it, and why you’ll want to come back every year after.
1. The Circuit
Goodwood, the name an evolution of “God’s Wood’, is one of the most storied places in the automotive pantheon of must-see locations. The 2.4-mile circuit dates back to 1948 and has hosted legendary races and test runs—including one that claimed the life of Bruce McLaren in 1970. After that tragedy, the circuit was closed until the current Lord March, Charles Gordon-Lennox, began to rehabilitate it in about 1988. Lord March founded the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1993, and with the first Goodwood Revival in 1998, vintage racing returned to the reopened circuit. The track is on the Goodwood Estate, located on 12,000 acres of stunning countryside near Chichester that’s also home to equestrian racing, and the motor racing circuit completely encircles the Chichester/Goodwood airfield that was built during World War II and used by the Royal Air Force. Any fan of vintage racing, aviation, or European history would have plenty to enjoy.
2. The Planes
In recognition of Goodwood’s role in World War II, the airfield during Revival is littered with amazing aircraft. Spitfires fly once more in the skies, sharing airspace with other legendary warplanes like the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Curtiss P-40C Warhawk, and, of course, the Bristol Blenheim bomber. It’s one thing to see the machines in a museum, and entirely another to see them in the skies or coming in for a landing. It truly makes you feel like a kid again, playing with toys and making spittle-projecting propeller sounds with your mouth.
3. The Sounds
Aside from the planes, there are plenty of other memorable noises that’ll rattle around in your head for days after leaving Goodwood. I, for example, cannot shake the shrieking, high-pitched wail of a Ferrari 3.0-liter V-12 from a 250 GTO/64 from my brain (nor do I want to). Walking through the festivities, with the feverish yelp of motorcycles rising off into the distance, you can hear the chit chat of accents and languages from all over the world crossing paths. Period 1940s music radiates from record players, accompanied by the sing-song vocals of some local ladies who are cooing in concert at a passing gentleman dressed as a sailor. Little kids dressed like chimney sweeps run by with ice cream smeared on their faces, delivered to them from a Rolls-Royce dairy truck. It’s Goodwood, and it’s spectacular even with your eyes closed.
4. The Getups
Not to be neglected, a big part of Goodwood is the enthusiasm everyone brings to it. That’s visible in the outfits, which range from 1940s military outfits to big dresses with even bigger hair, lots of tweed for the men, suspenders, the iconic flat cap, and some sensational bow ties.
For my part, I wore a flat cap with a jacket and slacks on both days. For Saturday, I paired a gray jacket with a motoring-themed red tie, as well as a pair of black Dom Vetro Cortina sunglasses and black Autodromo stringback gloves. Dom Vetro’s Cortina glasses ($295) definitely helped me stand out from the masses of others in period-themed dress, and the polarized lenses and slight tint totally eliminated glare from the (brief) spates of sunlight. The Cortina is meant for activities like motorcycling or skiing, so the motoring theme of Goodwood Revival totally fits. At first they seemed a little big for my face, but I quickly found them comfortable enough to wear all day and compact enough to slip into the front pocket of my jacket.
It was chilly on both days at the 2017 Goodwood Revival, around 50-55 degrees and with gusts of wind. My hands stayed both warm and dry while cozy in Autodromo’s stringback driving gloves ($125); they’re definitely snug, but they easily go on and off your hands, and before long, you barely realize you’re wearing them. The only thing missing was the thin rim of a vintage car‘s steering wheel in my hands, but at Goodwood it’s strictly look, don’t touch.
On my second day, I sported an Autodromo Stradale watch ($875) as well. The watch’s 1950s-1960s motoring design cues blend in marvelously at Goodwood, and others take particular note of the handsome cream dial, speedometer-like numbering, and distinctive leather strap. With its reliable Miyota 9015 movement, it keeps excellent time all weekend, and its light weight makes it very satisfying and comfortable to wear all day. If the date wheel’s numbers matched the others, and the metal-finished second hand and hour hand looked a bit more high-end, it would be just about perfect as a retro watch from a seriously cool brand.
5. The Cars
Where to begin? If pre-war is your thing, enjoy breathing an inch away from the Bugatti Type 50 in the paddock, or a 1937 BMW 328 if you prefer something more German. Insanely expensive Ferrari 250s are around, as well as a whole fleet of gorgeous Jags like the E-Type Lightweight and D-Type. Maybe the most fun to see really racing out there on the circuit are the sedans, whether it be the beautiful Alfa Romeo Giuletta Ti or the lumbering Ford Thunderbird. I most enjoyed seeing the Jaguar Mark 1 go drifting through the chicane, chased right on its heels by the peppy Morris Minor. My jaw just about hits the floor when I stumble upon the lineup of Ford GT40s revving their engines in the paddock, while five Lola-Chevrolet T70 Spyders look mighty low-slung and majestic in their own right. No matter where you turn there’s something wonderful to ogle, but make the 20-minute walk to the public parking lot for a whole different game entirely. There you’ll see oddities from Britain’s past you’ve never laid eyes on, as well as more mud-splashed Aston Martins and Lamborghinis than you’d ever see parked next to Opel Adams and Ford Escorts. What a place Goodwood is.
6. The People
Best of all, the glory of Goodwood is sharing it with other real lovers of automotive culture. People are smiling all day, even when it starts raining sideways, and nobody is opposed to chatting for a minute, grabbing you a beer from the end of the bar, or posing for a picture. The Revival brings out the best in people, and the best people dress up and come back to Revival year after year. Count us among them.