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Here’s why the Goodwood Revival should be on your bucket list
There is nothing quite like the Goodwood Revival, and that is not conjecture. Held each September at the legendary Goodwood Motor Circuit near Chichester, England, the three-day, 14-race Revival is the largest and most authentic historic motorsport event in the world.
Goodwood was an active racing venue from 1948 until its closing in 1966, when it was deemed too dangerous for modern race cars. Although the 2.367-mile circuit hosted premier racing for a mere 19 seasons, it witnessed some incredible motorsport showdowns and attracted the biggest names of the era—none better than Stirling Moss, who won 22 races there and earned the nickname “Mr. Goodwood.” Moss’ first race, at age 19, was at Goodwood. So was his last, on April 24, 1962, when a horrific crash on the back straight nearly ended his life.)
When Goodwood reopened for competition with the first Revival Meeting on September 18, 1998, exactly 50 years after its original opening, track staff celebrated the circuit’s storied history by wearing period-appropriate clothing. Before long, fans followed suit, and now wearing vintage clothing is as much a part of the Revival as the racing. Although dressing up is not a requirement, most of the 170,000 weekend spectators do—not wearing 1948–66 clothing is comparable to showing up at a Halloween bash in what you wore to the office. You’d definitely stand out.
As the home of a Royal Air Force (RAF) base during World War II, the Goodwood venue has deep military roots, which is evident in the WWII buildings, vehicles, and attire at the Revival. You can enjoy lunch and a pint in the Spitfire Café or, if you’re lucky, in the Mess or Officers’ Club. British and American soldiers, sailors, and airmen are everywhere, as are WWII airplanes, Jeeps, Land Rovers, and motorcycles.
The musical entertainment and atmosphere tend to favor the late 1940s and ’50s, but you’ll also find 1960s fashion too, from tie-dyed-shirt-wearing hippies and leggy models to airline pilots and flight attendants—back when they were called stewardesses.
While some of the attire is hyper-accurate and obviously expensive, many attendees take the easy way out by purchasing mechanics’ overalls adorned with auto company logos, a choice that is particularly prevalent in the paddock.
It all makes the Revival a one-of-a-kind trip down Memory Lane, without the need for a time machine.
The paddock is the best place to see the competitors and their amazing cars up close. Drivers and crew are generally approachable and more than willing to answer questions—unless, of course, they’re frantically working on their cars in preparation for the next race. And there’s plenty of racing action, from motorcycles to high-horsepower GT cars and prototypes to J40 pedal cars in the popular Settrington Cup children’s race.
But that is only the beginning. Walk through the tunnel to the other side of the track and you’ll find much more to see and do. There’s food and drink, singers, dancers, street performers, and lots and lots of shopping. If, perhaps, you didn’t bring enough vintage clothing to last the weekend, second-hand shops are plentiful.
Think you’ve seen it all? Hardly. Take the overhead walkway over the service road and you’ll find carnival rides, plus lots more food, drink, and shopping. And beyond that is the holy grail for car enthusiasts who just can’t get enough: the parking lot. There you’ll find hundreds of classic cars of all shapes and sizes, from popular classics to uncommon gems and truly rare cars.
“I’ve been to a lot of really cool places and races, and the Goodwood Revival is the best automotive event in the world,” a fellow automotive writer told me before the event. “From the moment you walk through the gate, you know you’re somewhere very special.”
He was right. Do whatever you can to experience the Goodwood Revival firsthand, and do not skip the vintage clothing. The event is not only priceless, it’s timeless.