Sights and sounds from a feast of cars from 1948–1966, doing what they were meant to do.
The former Lord March, now Duke of Richmond, hosts three marquee motor racing events at his Goodwood estate in the U.K.: the Festival of Speed, the Revival, and Speed Week. We’ve just returned from the second, which celebrates racing’s early postwar period from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. No period-correct detail gets left out of the experience, right down to a Churchill look-alike strutting past Spitfires with a cigar in his mouth and two bodyguards in matching black suits at his side. This scribe isn’t personally into dress-up and costume balls, but the Goodwood Revival feels so real and so comfortable with it that there’s nothing pretentious about it.
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Naturally, the main draw is watching cars that normally only appear in articles and at auction sales go hammer and tongs around the 2.37-mile circuit.
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Nevertheless, there are so many period attractions coming together to create a historical world that it was soon clear there is no better place to experience where the modern cars we revere came from.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Okay, so we did arrive by helicopter, but only to avoid the ridiculous traffic and to take in the scope. There’s an RV park next to the circuit for those wishing to avoid traffic who don’t have helicopters handy. The public parking lots in the background hints at the magnitude of the gathering, yet those lots—which we’ll get to—could be their very own exclusive car show, holding enough vehicular treasure to buy an enormous swath of the English countryside beyond.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Once on the ground, it’s the 1940s, starting with being picked up in an old Willys for the short ride to the gate. Jeeps get credit for helping win the war, but riding in the back of one is as brutal as having to fight on another front. The Revival also taught us that the English farmers who created the original Land Rover, copied off the Jeep, might have felt the same way. I feel like I can admit, as a proud American, the Series I Landie is so much nicer to ride in.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Period dress is the rule, so strict at the race paddocks that entry is forbidden to men not wearing a tie or an ascot and women not wearing a skirt or dress unless they’re part of a team. It’s a common scene to see those who look like they work on the cars, garbed in coveralls and grease, speaking to those who look like they own the cars, garbed like they’re about to get an audience with the Duke.
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The Revival is a living museum. Not only can you get closer to the multimillion-dollar cars and their owners than you would at any actual museum, you get to see how they run and how they sound. Before every race, the paddock is full of old metal roaring to life to be driven to the trackside pen. The sound can barely be believed, this being a time when tracks didn’t order free-breathing screamers to keep it below 95 decibels. The world might have been black and white 70 years ago, but it was really loud.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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And talk about period correct: when’s the last time you saw anyone rest a boot on the fender of a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL?
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The Revival could sell tickets to the trackside pen alone, where the entrants in a race gather before lining up on the grid. The Freddie March Memorial Trophy featured runners like a 1952 Jaguar C-Type—one year younger than the three C-type continuation cars Jaguar is making, a 1956 Jaguar D-type, a 1950 Maserati 300S, a 1953 Ferrari 250MM, a 1952 Aston Martin DBS, and that boot-stamped 300SL. Standing in the middle of them all coming to life at once is like opera—one sung by a band of dyspeptic pets from Satan’s kennel that reek of oil and will not quit until your eardrums boil.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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The racing is as instructive and thrilling as it is occasionally painful. The #1 1964 AC Cobra was one of 11 Cobras in the 27-car field of the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration. It’s impossible to understand how much of a shock Carroll Shelby’s creation was to the racing system until you watch three Cobras gap the field of contemporary Lister Jaguars, Lister Tigers, Jaguar E-types, and Corvette Stingrays.
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Even among amateurs, the racing is thrilling—the two leading ERAs in the Festival of Britain put on a sensational show. And Cobras weren’t the only Americans leading the way, this 1959 Ford Thunderbird driven by Englishman Bill Shepherd bringing some NASCAR to the St. Mary’s Trophy. Shepherd opened up his 7.0-liter V-8 to keep the smaller-displacement competitors behind on the straights. When turns came, Shepherd took everyone to the school of “rubbing is racing,” flinging the T-Bird all over the tarmac to keep more nimble cars like the 1956 Austin A90, 1961 Alfa Romeo Giuliettta TI, and several Jaguar Mk 1s behind. And that’s the only time we’ll use “nimble” and “Jaguar Mk 1” in the same sentence.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Motorcycles get their run of the track as well, riders in the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy just as keen and aggressive as the drivers even in the rain. When a Sunday morning drizzle smeared the weekend’s oil and fluids across the track during the second race, riders began going down at the circuit’s final corner, Woodcote. This being a vintage track, runoff areas aren’t generously proportioned, so everyone who went down came to a sudden stop at the padded wall just below the grandstand. Many “Ooof!”s were had that day.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Incidents brought out the Land Rover tow trucks. If the trucks had charged for tows, much money would have been made over the weekend. If the tow driver owned a garage, he would have been set for life after any single accident. A C-type, an E-type, and a couple of Cobras didn’t finish their races looking the same way they’d started, those being just the wrecks we saw personally. Doing a search for “Goodwood Revival accident” gets you pages of breathtakingly expensive horror.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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The kids get on track, too, racing the Settrington Cup on Saturday and Sunday in identical Austin J40 pedal cars for about 247 yards down the main straight. It’s a great event that gets all the pomp of adult races, from on-track interviews to breathless commentary. The first race was close, George Moore snatching victory in the last few meters to win. In the second race, Esme Graham took off from pole and built a lead so comical she probably couldn’t hear every other kid choking on her shoe leather dust.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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The first day there, I discovered an old friend would be there with her brother, Nikolaus Ditting, who brought a 1963 Jaguar E-type for the RAC TT and a 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT for the Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy. The E-type has borne its WOO 11 registration since being raced by John Quick and his friend and mechanic Stuart Davies in the 1960s and 1970s, and their names are still on the fenders. For Goodwood, Ditting shared driving duty with 74-year-old ex-F1 and endurance racing driver Jochen Mass, a driver as charming off the track as he is canny on it.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Ditting’s DB4GT, shared with pro driver and classic car expert Sam Hancock, was one of several in the paddock. But here’s more magic of the Revival: when I told another colleague about it, he asked me, “Have you been to the parking lot? There’s probably another six DB4GTs out there.” The Revival is the only car event I’ve ever been to where I was asked repeatedly, “Have you been to the parking lot?” A car show in itself, where space constraints enforce the democracy of a gaggle of MGs and Triumphs parked with vintage and modern Porsches, Jaguars, BMWs, at least one Ferrari Dino, and a three-wheeled Reliant Bond Bug. On Friday and Saturday, these treasures sat on the dirt. On Sunday, when it rained, they sat in the mud.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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And then there was this, a Ford Mustang Shooting Brake. In 1965, a couple of literal Mad Men from Ford’s ad agency J Walter Thompson commissioned Italy’s Intermecanica to turn the then-new Mustang into a wagon. When they showed Ford the result and Ford said, “No, thank you,” that car disappeared. The Mustang wagons that show up exceedingly occasionally on eBay or at car shows are often homemade jobs because someone paired the question, “What if . . .” with a glass of some bold Italian red. The Revival parking lot is row after row of these gems, and one of the only places in the world where you’d think, “Well, why wouldn’t that be in the parking lot?”ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Because it’s a whole world in motion, it’s impossible to see the entire Goodwood Revival in a day or even the entire weekend. Between the racing—which goes from morning to late afternoon, the massive range of shops selling everything from new ascots to ancient gas station bowsers to old bicycles, the specialty areas like the hot rod pen full of 1932 Fords, the Bonhams tent with a glorious array of cars for sale, the U.S. and British World War II planes, the casino, the track walk, and the gut-busting smorgasbord of food, the only way to do it is to pick your poison and enjoy. Then buy tickets for the following year to try to see what you missed.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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It was a special weekend for British Racing Motors (BRM), the national team that wanted to carry the hopes of all England to the Formula 1 Championship in the 1950s. They tried with this, the Type 15, powered by a 1.5-liter supercharged V-16. Somehow, the displacement of a Ford Fiesta combined with the cylinder count of a Bugatti Veyron and forced induction didn’t yield victories. BRM finally got its moment in the spotlight over the weekend, though, debuting the first of three continuation Type 15s to the former team principal’s 72-year-old son.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
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The next day, BRMs paraded around the track in the largest gathering of the make since its racing days. As special as the Type 15 is and sounds, our favorite was the 1965 Rover-BRM turbine. The two companies collaborated on the endurance racer for Le Mans, yet it sounded like it would be more at home on the Goodwood airfield; Graham Hill supposedly said it sounded like a Boeing 707. Phil Hill and Jackie Stewart drove it in the 1965 race, the car classified as a 2.0-liter and finishing 10th overall.
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This looks like a magazine ad. But it’s just another afternoon at the Goodwood Revival.
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