Due to its history, the Goodwood Revival is more a historic motor racing event than an airshow. But Goodwood still is a very pleasant and fully functional airfield and so during the motoring events they also host a spectacular display of flying and static historic aircraft.
The airfield was built during the Second World War as a relief landing ground for nearby RAF Tangmere near Chichester, West Sussex. After the war the airfield was returned to the Goodwood Estate and the perimeter track of the airfield has been used since 1948 as the Goodwood Circuit for motor racing.
Each September the Goodwood Revival is a three-day festival for the cars and motorcycles from the circuit’s original period of 1948–1966. Almost everyone dresses up in vintage clothes, ranging from period mechanics’ overalls to psychedelic miniskirts. We dressed up too and the very few that did not, stood out like a hippo at a sheep auction.
We arrived early enough (appropriately in a Range Rover) to be taken to our host’s private suite at the Esses for a champagne breakfast, while overhead a pair of Spitfires and a Mustang flew an impressive display.
I was back in an era where everyone dressed smartly, behaved well and respected others. There was no litter, no loutishness and women dressed to be admired (which they were!) Alice’s rabbit hole opened into a reflection of beautifully attired crowds, stalls filled with genuine value-for-money offerings, and a display of motor and aviation history that has to be seen to be believed. My tongue was hanging out in envy all day.
There were unbelievably expensive cars on display, I saw three Ferrari 250 GTOs; each estimated at around £50M. And then there were more than a half dozen 250 GT Berlinetta SWBs, of similar value. I managed a long and pleasant discussion with Sam Wilson who owns and races an ex-South African Lotus 20, still in Dave Charlton’s livery.
The actual motor racing made the current Formula 1 racing look pedestrian. I could not believe the vigour with which the drivers raced their expensive machines, in particular the Bentleys. The drivers included Rowan Atkinson (more famous as Mr Bean) and Ben Collings (equally ‘unfamous’ as Top Gear’s Stig). A Blower Bentley can now fetch more than €7 million! They raced as if their entire future lives would be destroyed if they came second. There was absolutely no quarter given. As a lifelong motor racing enthusiast who no longer watches Formula 1, it’s a treat for the crowds.
It was wonderful to walk around the pits and view the cars from close up. Sadly, much of the exotic machinery was from southern Africa. I wandered across to the manicured grass airfield, filled with aviators’ toys. I saw my first Bucker Jungmiester in the flesh (there was also a perfect Jungmann); a Klemm KI35; a perfect Beechcraft Staggerwing; a gaggle of Spitfires and a Spanish built Me109. They also had a Fairchild F24R Argus and a rare airworthy Avro Anson. A full list would border on the unbelievable.
The award-winning restorations on display was not the surprise. It was the fact that you could walk right up to the aircraft and view them without being yelled at. All the aircraft were airworthy and the public were encouraged to take a closer look. There were no high visibility vests being worn by officious jobsworths anywhere! A welcome change and the respect was returned. Viewers looked but did not touch.
At the 2019 event they were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the June 1944 D-Day landings and Hap Arnold’s restored C-47/DC-3 Dakota was present along with a 500-strong American military camp complete with cooks, bicycles, American bacon, Texan steak and all the various military equipment that was part of a huge display. And yes, everyone was dressed in period-correct military fatigues.
On leaving we had to walk a fair distance before we could take a ride in a modern farm tractor with a massive trailer to the car park. Everything looked modern and ugly.
Quite simply, the event was – bloody wonderful.