2014 Goodwood Revival: Where the past comes alive

Some characterize it as Halloween for gearheads. The Goodwood Revival is an amalgamation of classic car races, vintage plane displays and nostalgic entertainment that each year turns back the hands of time to an era from the late 1930s to the mid-1960s. That's when the estate of Lord Freddie March was the site of one of the RAF's Spitfire bases during the Battle of Britain and later became a racing circuit that launched the careers of such notables as Sir Jackie Stewart.

Freddie's grandson Charles, the current Lord March, has turned the Goodwood estate in a veritable year 'round festival grounds that hosts not only the Revival, but a hillclimb called the Festival of Speed that features both classic and current fare. He also stages horse races, music extravaganzas and even garden shows throughout the year at the estate. And while the Festival of Speed predates the Revival, the latter has earned a reputation for not only the high level of racing, which involves the sport's past and current stars, but also the atmosphere surrounding the event. Competitors, pit crews, officials and the help staffing the hospitality areas are all dressed in period costumes from that original 30-year period from World War II until the circuit closed. Above all, attendees are encouraged to dress up as well, and from the looks of the crowd, more than 90 percent get into the spirit of things.

A feast for the eyes   

From the fetching costumes that range from World War II era military uniforms to some random '60s hippies, the Revival is a visual feast where nostalgia is the main course. The circuit itself has been restored to its 1960s look, all the vehicles, from shuttles to vans delivering food and beverages, are all period. The paddock is crammed with an amazing variety of vintage racers, from 1930s era Gran Prix cars, up through Le Mans racers like the legendary Ford GT40, all being serviced by mechanics in throwback overalls. 

The modern world does poke its head under the tent in the Earl's Court Motorshow, a recreation of one of the United Kingdom's largest auto shows that used to be held in London. In the art deco building alongside classic cars were new models, like the new 2015 Land Rover Discovery, the 2015 Maserati Gran Turismo MC, Porsche's 911 Turbo, the 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish and concepts like the Jaguar Project 7 show car. Even Jaguar's new-old lightweight E-Type, a continuation of cars that were produced in the 1960s, looked right at home on the Jaguar stand.

Subaru shows the way

Subaru? The American unit of the Japanese automaker can best be described as somewhat of an Anglophile, having sponsored a course car at the Isle of Man TT motorcycles races and having done several introductions in both Ireland and the U.K. Its corporate culture is car crazy and an event like the Revival is not to be missed. So, our visit to Goodwood and a day's outing at the Brooklands Circuit and Museum (the birthplace of British motorsports is a 2.75-mile banked oval that predates the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) came courtesy of the automaker. It bodes well for those who look to Subaru to continue to produce cars like the 2015 BRZ, the all-new Legacy and Outback as well as the performance WRX.

That enthusiasm for things British by Subaru is matched by Lord March's love of things American. In addition to categories that feature primarily European racers, the Revival also has a class that competes for the Shelby Cup, named in honor of the late Carroll Shelby. Here a wide range of V8 powered cars, including a number of Ford Mustangs and Falcons, Mercury Comets and the odd Plymouth Barracude, Dodge Dart and Studebaker Lark, dice on the tight track.

World War II remembered

Aerial displays and military dress have been an integral part of the Revival experience and décor (one of the hospitality areas is called the Eton Mess and is done up like an army dining hall). This year's event took time out not only to commemorate those who fought, but also the homefront war effort as a way of marking the 75th anniversary of the Sept. 1, 1939 start of the World War II. As part of these ceremonies a parade of military vehicles on the circuit was complemented by a flyby of the two remaining Lancaster bombers, one from England and the other from Canada. The huge 4-engine bombers were accompanied by a pair of Spitfires, a Hurricane, an American P-51 Mustang and even a German Me-109.

It was the war effort that proved to be the basis of the future Goodwood circuit as the racetrack follows a perimeter road that was built around the airfield and the displays of wartime propaganda posters and newspaper front pages reporting on major battles give a taste of what England was like while it was on wartime footing.

The kids are alright

A major part, though, is keeping the memories of both the wartime sacrifices and motorsports heroics of a bygone era alive. The Goodwood Revival is not just for grown-ups, it has a pedal car race for youngsters as well as carnival rides, cartoon cars and entertainment geared towards youngsters. 

By immersing them in this potent mix of motorsports, history and entertainment, the Revival is creating a new generation of car enthusiasts with an abiding appreciation and insight into what has come before.

For anyone with more than a passing interest in racing, old cars, history, music, the Goodwood Rival is a definite addition to the bucket list.

 

 

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