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A Magic Carpet Ride to The Past

by Michael Wan / Images: S Lee

Imagine you are at a buffet in a five-star hotel and there is all the food you want to eat, or put it in another way, your Mum takes you to your favourite sweet shop and you are allowed to buy all the sweets you wish. This is the feeling I get whenever I go to the Goodwood Revival. Even months before the event starts, I already think about how to dress and what to see and do when I am there… 

The Goodwood Revival is now a world famous three-day festival of classic car motor racing and much more. Even if you are not a car lover, you will surely love the atmosphere. Well over 100,000 people flock from across the globe to attend this weekend of festivities. My first piece of advice is to book your hotel at least nine months ahead or you could find yourself without any nearby accommodation.

We all know how much the Brits like to dress up on special occasions, and at the Revival, it would be odd not to dress up. From Teddy Boys and rock n’ roll stars to naughty nuns with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, everyone tries to dress to impress. If you are like me – somewhat more reserved - you could dress as a British gentleman in tweed, wear a vintage army uniform or just throw on some dungarees to look like a mechanic. As long as you look and dress in vintage mode, you’ll blend in with the rest of the crowd. When I attended the Revival for the first time, it felt as if I had gone back in time at least 50 or more years.


The Revival is mainly composed of two areas; the Motor Circuit and Over the Road. The former, as the name suggests, is where all the racing happens. If you buy additional grandstand tickets, you can gain access to the various grandstands where you can watch the motor racing taking place over the three days. However, if you don’t, you can still watch the races on the lawn surrounding the grandstands, but the view is obviously not as good. 


I, myself, am not a big motor racing fan, but it’s fascinating to watch classic cars race each other; it’s very different to Formula One. For me, the race to watch is the Kinrara Trophy because most of these cars are extremely rare and expensive. As a classic car enthusiast, it is always mind blowing to see cars such as a Ferrari 250 GT SWB or an Aston Martin DB4 GT in a hardcore motor race. Another reason that I enjoy watching classic car racing is that even though the cars might not be fast in comparison to modern racing cars, but the anticipation of a car spinning off the track or the leading car being overtaken is exciting enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. The noise from the cars zooming past actually gives me goose bumps. On Sunday, my friends raced their Bizzaraini-Chevrolet P538 in the Whitsun Trophy. This is   the fastest race in Goodwood.

Be sure to have access to the paddocks where you can get very close to those rare cars and Instagram to your heart’s content. One of the cars not be missed this year was a 49 FXN, a low drag lightweight Jaguar E-Type which competed in the RAC TT Celebration. It is one of only two originals, making it exceptionally rare. If you are lucky like me, the owners might let you sit in their cars as I did in a red Ferrari 250 GT SWB thanks to DK Engineering. People are generally friendly and therefore, you can have a chit-chat with the owners or their racing drivers. There is another paddock close-by where the children’s vintage pedal cars are kept when they are not racing at the Settrington Cup (247 yards). These children take their racing seriously too!

The Earls Court Motor Show pays tribute to the London Motor Shows of the 1950s and ‘60s. The displays vary and this year, there was a stunning selection of both modern and classic cars displayed by Aston Martin, Maserati, MINI and Ford. As a fan of Aston Martin, I was glad to be able to chat to them about their continuation projects. One such example on display was a brand new DB4 GT Zagato Continuation. In the vicinity was also a ‘Best of British’ display with icons such as a very early Defender and a McLaren F1. On the other side, was the Earls Court Studios where Sky Cinema presented a selection of live sets to recreate some of the moments of iconic films such as ‘The Italian Job’, released 50 years ago.

During the Revival, there are always special parades to celebrate past events. This year, the ‘Sixty Years of the Mini’ parade took place on Friday and Saturday morning but unfortunately, I missed both events. More than 150 examples of this British icon drove around the track and were later spread out over the Revival grounds for close-up viewing. Another parade was the Commemoration of D-Day to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy landings, which consisted of an impressive line-up of Allied military vehicles from World War II including armoured cars, amphibious vehicles, motorcycles
and tanks.

If at any time you want to take a short break away from cars, why not go rock n’ roll dancing in the tent, sip champagne on the lawn or have a pint of bitter in one of the pubs. There are also plenty of choices of food from sausages while on the move to having a sit-down lunch at Palm Court, which this year featured a vintage fashion show. Each day there is also a Best Dressed competition. In case, you can’t get a table at Palm Court, I would suggest trying your luck at the Goodwood Hotel and if you are still unlucky, at least you can enjoy the experience of being chauffeured in a vintage car to and from the property. For me, the ride is definitely a must! Depending on your age, it may bring back a lot of happy memories, otherwise just sit back and enjoy the experience of going back in time.

The Bonhams Auction is another must-attend event for classic car enthusiasts. Every year, there is an interesting selection of cars and automotive memorabilia up for auction. Personally, I was drawn to an Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior and an Aston Martin Vanquish S, but there were many other exciting cars such as a vintage Bugatti waiting for the lucky bidder. 

Outside Bonhams, there were other car companies showcasing their products such as Morgan with their 3-Wheeler and David Brown with its bespoke resto-classic MINI. Nearby was also a hidden gem - the car park reserved for participants who drove their classic cars to the event. One could literally spend hours just looking at those vehicles. 

As I mentioned earlier, there is a plethora of activities on offer at the Revival. The ladies can get a hair-do at Betty’s Salon, vintage style of course, while the gentlemen can smoke a Cuban cigar at Robusto House. Your nose will guide you there. If you like shopping or even just window shopping, there are plenty of stores that sell all kinds of vintage clothing and accessories including hats, cravats and even faux-vintage lingerie. There are also shops that offer all things related to cars including parts, manuals, auto couture, pictures, badges and not least, classic cars. You can literally shop ‘til you drop!

The Revival is very much a family occasion and at ‘Over the Road’, there is a Revival playground with a carousel and a helter skelter, plus other activities to amuse your kids. If you get tired, sit back on a deck chair and watch a film at the Revival Cinema.

Back at the Motor Circuit and after you go through the tunnel and under the race track, you can walk towards the airfield to check out a gathering of vintage flying machines. During the Second World War, the RAF Westhampnett fighter base was built on the Goodwood Estate. Every year, the ‘Freddy March Spirit of Aviation’ puts together a concours d’elegance and this year was no less impressive as there was a great selection of early fighter bombers, light aircraft and famous WWII fighter planes. I highly recommend going there and if you arrive at around 8:00am each morning, there is a dramatic Dawn Patrol air display by a trio of stunning fighters including a 1943 Supermarine Spitfire MK IX to remind us of this chapter in Goodwood’s wartime history.

Whether you are with your family or in my case, with my friends from Hong Kong, you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time. Some say that there is too much to see and not enough time; I tend to agree and if even if you arrive at 7:30am and stay until the day ends at 7:30pm, you will likely still feel that you want to stay a little longer. I suppose that is probably why
I always look forward to going back to the Revival.