A brief guide to the best motoring weekend on the planet.
Go to the Goodwood Revival. When my friends at Subaru extended a very kind invitation to join them on what has become a kind of yearly “We sold a ton of cars and are having a party in England” adventure, I was excited, but in retrospect too hesitant.
Spending the weekend on the sprawling, green Goodwood estate, surrounded by fellow reveling car fans, and some of the most important, lovely, and impressive classic racing cars on Earth is well worth the trip. There’s more to see and do and talk about that can even be accomplished over a weekend. And even those friends or family who might not be wildly interested in classic cars will find enough diverting in the food, drinks, and fanfare to have a blast.
With that in mind, and with my virgin Revival experience now under my belt, here are a few dos and don’ts to get you started on planning for next year. I’ll see you there.
Do find a spot on the corner. I’ll be honest in saying that watching modern racing isn’t my favorite pastime. Vintage racing, on the other hand, is fascinating. The diversity of each field – there are wide gulfs in individual car performance and driver skill – makes for exciting racing, but doubly so if your vantage point takes in the hairy, high-speed Woodcot or the chicane.
For me, this isn’t so much about the potential to see million-dollar cars crack up (thought that does happen), but rather to appreciate how truculent most of the machines are when it comes to turning a fast corner. You haven’t seen “lean” until you’ve seen something like an Allard J2 or a Frazer Nash TT replica come around hot. Even modern street cars must feel rock solid when tossed around, by comparison. It’s a hell of a show – but less so on the straights. And listen, no one’s going to blame you if you smile a bit if the weather turns to rain… things do get a little more interesting in the wet.
Do Not waste too much time shopping. There are seemingly hundreds of vendors to pick from at the Goodwood thoroughfare (called “Over the Road” on the site map), selling your pick of everything from official Porsche Classic parts, to various and sundry pieces of period clothing, to tchotchkes and man-cave filler. There are even turnkey classic cars to be had – the Rennsport booth was particularly mouthwatering.
Ultimately though the shopping seems like a very repeatable experience – most items I was interested in could be had for no more trouble than an internet search and a credit card number – that comes at the expense of unmissable stuff happening everywhere else. Would you rather have that cool Triumph keychain now, or buy it on Etsy when you get home and not miss the Ferrari 250 GT SWB lighting up and driving out of the paddock? Make smart choices.
Gallery: Brooklands Museum
Do expand the weekend to a full, motoring-themed event. My hosts at Subaru are, like myself and many of you, easily fascinated by deep racing and general automotive history around the south of England. The day before we headed to Goodwood, we spent a diverting afternoon taking in the sights at the incredible Brooklands museum.
I’d visited Brooklands before, but only had time to glance at the ruins of the banked track – lovely in its mossy disrepair. But the museum is wild. Not only will volunteer guides answer all of you questions about the track – its construction, history, and lore – but they’re also adept at walking you through the garages full of classic racing cars, motorcycles, and, of course, hangar after hangar of jaw-dropping aircraft. Brooklands history in the world of aerospace rivals its car-based legend, and the fact that it offers a tour of a perfectly restored Concorde jet is, in and of itself, worth the price of the ticket.
Do Not stress about what you’re going to wear. Part of the magic of Revival is its immersive, back-in-time quality, to be sure. The organizers and most of the attendees do a tremendous job making one feel as though the clock has turned back, and the guns of WWII are only now cooling off (riding from the airfield to the racing grounds in vintage military vehicles goes a long way to cementing that). But as a first time visitor, I think I was overly worried about being “correct” and, therefore, not out of place.
The truth is that a tweed or corduroy sport jacket, slacks, a tie of some kind, and a hat, are about all the costume that you need to a) fit in and b) be allowed entry to the paddock, where there’s a slightly formal dress code for visitors. Beyond that, make sure that you have sturdy footwear and an umbrella – this is England in the early fall, after all – and enjoy the sights. If you love dressing to impress, more power to you, but the perfect costume isn’t a barrier to entry.
Do bring the kids along if you have them. I was surprised to see how much fun so many kids seemed to be having at an event like this. After all, it’s basically a big park, surrounded by sights and sounds, and with easy-to-swallow history lessons just about anywhere you care to look. Plus there are pedal car races for the little ones, and the vehicles therein are nearly as impressive as the real versions that feature. When I have kids I’d do this before Disney, in a heartbeat.
Do Not skip the parking lot. This is perhaps the most oft-repeated piece of Revival advice I’ve heard and read, but that doesn’t make it any less viable. I was 50/50 on making the walk over to the grassy parking area between races, but ended up so flabbergasted with the assemblage of Astons, Jags, Ferraris, and anything else weird or awesome you can imagine, that I had to capture some casual video of it (above). It’s stunning to see, and fitting that – while million-dollar classics are trading paint back at the track – esteemed classics and beautiful anomalies are parked, mud-spattered and well-loved, just over the way.
Photos: Michael Shaffer / Subaru