Why the Goodwood Revival may be the Greatest Show on Earth

Published: 22 September 2010

Did you go to the Goodwood Revival? If not, you really should have. That Fifties and Sixties festival and nostalgia-fest – when you really can pretend that characterful Morris Minors are everyday transport not dull little hatches, that Britain’s motor industry is Europe’s strongest and that every young man about town has a Jaguar XK or Aston DB; that Britannia rules the skies (look at those Lancasters and Spitfires thrumming overhead!); and smart tweed and ties are the norm, not tatty trainers and T-shirts. Ladies are in dresses. No one walks around, zombie-like, brainwashed by iPods. There is no such thing as Jordan, Jonathan Ross or Simon Cowell. Tony Blair is doing his homework not publishing his memoirs.

It was a glorious remembrance of things past. I loved it. Although a German friend of mine commented that only the English seem happier living in the past than enjoying the present. Whatever, everyone seemed to be having a great time.

It’s also the only event that I have ever attended where I would have been quite happy to spend all day in the car park. What a line-up! From Mustangs to Maseratis to old Minis; from Ferraris to Ford GT40s. I saw lovely Traction Avant Citroens and DSs, two gorgeous DB5s, numerous XK roadsters. Twenties and Thirties Bentleys were haphazardly parked, like Fiestas outside Tesco. The car park alone was better than most classic car shows and the whole Goodwood event is miles better than those pretentious concours d’elegance displays, such as Pebble Beach, where over-restored cars are cosseted by preening paranoid owners. Compare that with Goodwood! You should have seen Nick Mason’s Ferrari GTO (probable value: £20 million), opp-locked by Martin Brundle, banging doors with a bloke in a Cobra. Bravo!

Lord March: The world’s top sporting organiser

The Revival also confirmed my view that Lord March – Charles to his mates – really is the best event organiser in the world. I’m sure if he was running the 2012 Olympics, it would be on time, on budget, brilliantly run, and he’d probably persuade Mark Spitz, Daley Thompson, Steve Redgrave, Kip Keino, Fanny Bankers-Koen, Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis to come out of retirement to compete. What’s more, he’d get the world’s car makers to pay for it (think of the savings to the British tax payer!).

Transport by Batmobile

I drove down to Goodwood in a 1973 BMW 3.0CSL ‘Batmobile’, kindly loaned to me by BMW. What a car! Based on the BMW CS coupe, one of the handsomest cars ever made, the ‘Batmobile’ tag reflected the various aero addenda designed to keep the CSL’s tyres firmly on the tarmac while it was racing and winning the European Touring Car Championship. They included a vast rear wing, deep front spoiler and front fender fins.

Mrs Green, who is no car expert, thought it looked like it belonged to a teenage Max Power reader. It’s true, that styling kit is loud. Yet it also worked. I reminded her that one recently sold at auction for £82,000, which reinforced her long-held belief that car enthusiasts really are mad.

Performance, by modern standards, is relaxed – my Mercedes C-class diesel estate has a higher top speed, and certainly better brakes, steering and grip. It’s a reminder that steering and brakes are the twin areas of greatest automotive advance over the past three or four decades (in no small part due to improvements in the one area of cars rarely discussed in car magazines – tyres).

Some lessons from old cars

The qualities of the CSL that really stood out were the ride suppleness – helped by that high profile 70-series 14-inch rubber (the flipside of that huge grip!) – and the breathtakingly brilliant all-round visibility, due mostly to those elegantly slim pillars. What a refreshing change from modern coupes, rear end invariably veiled by metalwork.

I know the makers blame safety legislation for the trunk-sized pillars which currently disfigure cars and blight visibility (especially rear-three-quarter). But in these days of carbon and high-tensile steels, is it really so difficult to give owners the safety-boosting qualities of a panorama, rather than a peek, of events going on behind?

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By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience