The life of a motoring journalist can be tough sometimes, between hard fought negotiations with various car manufacturers to allow me access to their latest stables for testing, I have had the task of attending the Goodwood Revival at the weekend.
This is one of my favorite events of the year and epitomises the ideal of ‘putting the fun’ back into motoring! Dusting off my Levi’s Big E 1960s jacket and biker boots, I jumped in a classic car and headed for Sussex, south east England.
Although predominantly a celebration of all things motoring from pre-war up to the early 1970s this is also an event to capture the style and ambience of the 40s, 50s and 60s; North Face fleeces and Nikes are not the order of the day here, sir! The Goodwood track surround becomes a sea of Trilbys, tweed and Teddy Boys for the men and A-hemmed skirts, black-lined stockings and furs for women!
The dressing up game isn’t just reserved for the crowds though, the organizers and sponsors diligent attention to detail stretches to full 50s and 60s high street recreations. A Kenwoods Kitchenware showroom with original mixer ranges is flanked by a Cuban cigar shop and milliners. Even ubiquitous UK supermarket Tescos went to the trouble of repackaging all its goods in their original period wrapping and yes, I had to buy a pack of Smith’s Salt and Shake!
As you stroll round the vast circuit the bubbly rhythms of a live swing band are briefly drowned out by the roar over head of Spitfire and Mustang World War II fighter planes, somehow the glass of bubbly I’m sipping tastes sweeter! Everyone looks happy, possibly helped by it being such a beautiful day, the Sussex countryside bathed in late summer sunlight.
I pass Austin Powers and Blowfelt with a soft toy cat attached to his arm and walk on into the paddock enticed in by the sweet, marzipan-like scent of Castol oil. It feels homely, almost natural, like a scent preserved at the back of your grandparents shed where the ancient petrol mower is kept.
But away from the gimmicks, the vibe is defined by a mutual appreciation for the wonderful machines on display. Jaguar E Types, Aston Martins and Ferrari 250 GTOs (these currently change hands for upwards of £20m!) are painstakingly tended to by the enthusiasts that own them.
This isn’t just about preservation in temperature controlled warehouses, we are reminded as another glorious V12 engine coughs, splutters and eventually roars into life; this is about using and enjoying these machines. You can touch the cars, listen to them and smell them, this is heritage at its best reminding us of the beginnings of the technology that has shaped the cars we currently drive today.
LGBT drivers are just as fond of vintage motors as everyone else and the UK’s Gay Classic Car Group members are regulars at Goodwood Revival. Actually, that group is a classic itself, celebrating its 25th anniversary next year – find out more on their site here.
As the sun begins to sink as quickly as the Pimms in my glass and the last hard-fought race is finished, reality cruelly beckons me back to the world in earnest, the disappointment seems shared by others around me.
This festival evokes a wonderful sense of courtesy and respect among the crowd – loutish, bad mannered behavior is refreshingly absent. All that is left to do is head back to the British Racing Green 1968 MGB we have travelled down in, drop the roof and enjoy the final hour of the sun on our backs as we head back to the big smoke.
Disappointed as I am to leave, the blow is somewhat softened by the many thousands of classic cars that accompany us on the journey home. The Goodwood Revival’s magic spreading around the M25 motorway, reminding the world that to appreciate the modern, sometimes it essential to remember the past.