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The Goodwood Revival – The Cars and Clothes of the 1950s

The Goodwood Revival – The Cars and Clothes of the 1950s

The annual Goodwood Revival is three day motor sport event held over a long weekend in September at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in West Sussex, England.  What makes this event so special is the atmosphere created by the visitors and spectators, many of whom dress in the clothes of the period, as well as the vehicles on display and taking part in the races.   The appropriately dressed crowds gather to watch the races of classic motor cars and bikes of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and there are the beautiful air displays of vintage World War II fighter aircraft.

Over the years, as the event has grown in popularity, so too has the number of people arriving at the location dressed in vintage clothing.  By entering into the spirit of the occasion the visitors have helped to create a unique spectacle.  Where else can you see (apart from a busy film set!) men dressed in the RAF uniforms of WWII and women dressed as WRENs, or spivs, mods, rockers, and hippies walking past a woman in a elegant Dior dress straight off the cover Vogue 1954?

The 1950s clothing is particularly popular as it was during this decade that Goodwood Motor Circuit was at its peak.  The mechanics in the paddocks dress in white overalls and tweed caps while gentlemen in suits and fedoras accompany their wives or girlfriends and lay out picnics on tartan rugs.  A group of actors recreate scenes from the BBC TV series “Dad’s Army”, and some giggling young women in short-skirted Glam Cabs uniforms pose for photos in front of their vintage taxis like something from an early Carry On film.

Wandering around the site you can expect to see many familiar faces including Laurel and Hardy and Marilyn Monroe, while stars of the racing circuits past and present bring their era back to life during one of the many races.  Celebrities from the worlds of show business and music have been known to visit the Revival.  Nick Mason (of Pink Floyd), Bryan Ferry (of Roxy Music), Rowan Atkinson (TV and Films) have all been there and often return.

On each of the three days the circuit is brought to life with races comprised of vehicles of various classes and from several decades of motor racing.  The crowds can sit on the grassy banks that surround the race track or in one of several grandstands erected at key points on the perimeter.  The organisers limit the number of tickets sold each year and thus maintain the optimum numbers of spectators.  There are all kinds of refreshments available, from reproduction NAAFI style canteens to champagne and oyster bars.  Drinkers and diners can enjoy their meals while being entertained by jazz and rock & roll bands.

Goodwood Motor Circuit had its heyday between 1948 and 1966 and was the scene of some of most thrilling racing of the period.  The race track surrounds what is today Goodwood Airfield , but during World War II it was known as Westhampnett and was an important base for fighter operations during the Battle of Britain.  It was from this airfield that Douglas Bader flew what was to be his last mission of the war which ended in his capture after being shot down.  A few years ago his widow, Lady Bader, unveiled a life-size statue of the former Wing Commander which stands as a silent witness to the flying and festivities that continue to keep the site alive.