Retrospect: Revival of Pure Entertainment at Goodwood


© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

 

Looking back, sometime after the event, it’s difficult to put into words and express how good the 2019 Revival Meeting really was. But certain aspects of Goodwood’s biggest weekend of the year, in terms of attention to detail and microcosms of activity right across the expansive former RAF Westhampnett, were impossible not to notice and enjoy.



However, summing up - before I report on a few of the best bits, and those highlights which have become a unique trademark - I think that it was the smiles on the faces of people, throughout the occasion, which reflected the success. Thousands and thousands of happy, polite, smiling individuals, who had made a conscious effort to play their small part in enhancing the occasion. Where do all the nice people go for the other 51 weeks of the year, I wondered? They sure as hell don’t congregate in such numbers anywhere else!

So, let’s start with one of the fundamental features – the Bonhams auction: As ever, a varied and high quality collection of cars had been brought for sale, and whether you were a potential buyer or not, there was an opportunity to view, close up, some rarities and special vehicles seldom seen in public in the UK, if ever. One of these was a road-going Aston Martin DB4GT, that had spent most of its life in Germany and which now graced the cover of the Bonhams catalogue. But there would be twist in this particular tale. Another stand out car was a Type 57 Bugatti. This one a particularly sought after Atalante Faux Cabriolet, the only one of three constructed to this precise specification, which found a new home for £1.5 million. Another similarly curvaceous pre-war car of class was a 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Short-Chassis Spider. And, given that it received a new body, some decades after leaving the Molsheim factory, was sold for a much more modest sum approaching £410,000. I certainly wouldn’t have known, unless reading the narrative!

Sixteen years older, and one of the first surviving Aston Martins, was a 1923 1½ litre Tourer that beat the upper estimate and changed hands for over £150k. For three quarters of a million pounds enthusiasts of the marque had the chance of a DB6 Mk2 Volante, one the final convertibles from the David Brown era and certainly one with the most comprehensive specification, given it had been enhanced to ‘Vantage’ power. The temptation for a blue right-hand drive Ferrari ‘Daytona’ ultimately proved irresistible for someone, as the 365 GTB/4 eventually changed hands for £432,000. ‘See us afterwards’ paid dividends.

For a person desiring elegance of a decade earlier, a similar colour Facel Vega ‘Facel II’, again in rare right-hand drive, was the answer for a whisker under £185,000, while for those wanting to stand out even more while enjoying classic rallies, a fully prepared ‘Francorchamps’ yellow Jaguar XK120 FHC was the answer. This cat pounced at just below £100k. Other sports cars of roughly a similar age from the Brown’s Lane Coventry firm were available in more traditional colours, including a cream 1961 XK150S drop-head for £161k, and a sister dark green XK150S, with a roof, for a little more than half the price. Both were in the most powerful 265 bhp iteration with a 3.8 litre engine, and an XK140 DHC with a particularly attractive interior went for £124k.

Of course, not every car coming before the audience would sell, but their owners will find opportunities on subsequent occasions, so among those poised to shine for another day included - in the over half a million region - a 1929 4½ Litre Bentley Tourer and a 1933 racing Talbot AV105. Closer to three quarters of a million will be needed to compete in the 4th oldest surviving E-type Jaguar roadster, this one supplied to John Coombs in 1961 as a highly desirable semi-lightweight. The well-known ‘9 VPD’ has both period racing history and regular appearances at the Goodwood Revival, including with multiple Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro behind the wheel.

Returning to positive results, in financial terms, those exceeding the £200,000 mark were a Lagonda V12 Le Mans replica, a Bugatti Type 23 ‘Brescia’ for an identical £207k, and a Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole for the same. A Ferrari 365 Berlinetta Boxer made almost a quarter million and a grand 1915 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost went well beyond, at £264k. Beginning the auction and representing the charity, Race Against Dementia, Sir Jackie Stewart personally encouraged spirited bidding to support the cause. All proceeds for the ex-Sir Jack Brabham Cooper Climax T55 F1 car benefited the charity to the tune of £244,375.

It was whilst taking a break to sit in the shade outside the tent, that I listened to the star lot, the DB4 GT predicted to reach £2.5 million, have its moment in the spotlight…Only it didn’t. Yes, the car was still present, thankfully, but to the surprise of many, James Knight, Bonhams Group Motoring Chairman announced that it had already been sold in a private agreement for an undisclosed sum. Logic suggests this was near to, or above, the top published estimate, but smiles all round for vendor, purchaser and a select few of Bonhams’ staff were the only results the rest of us could guarantee.

Somewhat ironically, at the time, I was admiring an adjacent coach-built Bugatti Type 57 Atalante, available from a UK dealer, with a good pitch, no doubt more interested in hearing that the Bonhams Atalante had made £1.5 million. This one, a 1938 Closed Coupé, in an attractive plum shade of mauve over black, but uniquely had seats and door panels upholstered in ostrich leather. However, not being in the market, its price was not revealed to me. But, back in the tent, Bonhams would round off the day, the pre- and post deals included, on a total sum in excess of £11 million.

Returning to Friday, following completion of all practice sessions, Goodwood is clever to schedule one of the undoubted highlights of the festival to make this, first day of three, equally exciting as those in the weekend itself. Historically titled, the Kinrara Trophy, this where slightly more modest powered Jaguar E-types and Cobras, to the ‘hot rods’ of the RAC TT, compete on similar terms with the early ‘60s Italian aristocrats in the form of Ferrari 250 GT SWBs. Two or three together can regularly be seen at some other classic events abroad but, uniquely, Goodwood attracts and invites a whole squadron where the count reaches double figures. Even with an occasional mechanical malady, the audience will be treated to eight or nine of them, with the aforementioned supporting cast, plus other show-stoppers, home grown Aston DB4GTs and the most thoroughbred of the planet’s Austin-Healey 3000s. As daylight turns to dusk, the hour-long affair takes on an even more evocative air with flashing headlights and glowing brake discs.

Entertainment continues long into the hours of full darkness, with singing, dancing, cinema, funfair and shows. The bars and eateries are full, both inside the circuit and outside, ‘over the road’ amongst a village of open air shops, selling fashions, food, art and books as well as all manner of automotive goods, from squeeze activated brass airhorns for your vintage carriage to fully restored masterpieces that could be driven away if you spent a generous six figure (perhaps even seven digit) sum. And, of course, the outlying carparks are full of them, already owned and brought along for the fun of it by the visiting masses. In fact, the spectator car parks alone are a unique and fascinating moving event in their own right, especially in the mornings upon arrival when their doors open and the immaculately dressed occupants alight. It’s like entry to a vast Concours d’Élégance extravaganza, especially when in bright sunshine, windows are open and the hoods of all the cabriolets and convertibles are already down.

Contrast this with a spectacular sight where all the hoods are most definitely up. Not only myself, but I’d bet every single person present would never have seen it before. Around thirty vintage Bentleys, all pre-1932, with their roofs raised, and ready to race. All Bentley owners I know, lucky enough to experience 3 litre and 4½s on a regular basis, wouldn’t dream of being seen with canvas above their heads, even in tropical rain storms. I imagine the bespoke trimming and upholstery industry got an incredible boost in turnover during the months prior to Goodwood, as many of the cars no longer had them, either restored or in original state.

However, in an absolute masterstroke to celebrate Bentley’s centenary year, the Brooklands Trophy race - exclusive for the Cricklewood cars this time - stipulated that where originally fitted all entrants had to begin the challenge with their roofs raised, just as they did at the Le Mans 24 hours in the mid 1920s. Only after a designated 20 laps on track had elapsed would the rules permit the cars to come into the pits and fold them down for the rest of the marathon. Even the hitherto harrumphing stalwarts of prewar Bentley culture had to admit that the - unique in our lifetime - spectacle looked amazing, in agreement with everyone else. It also treated those who could see the pitstops, and the majority viewing on the big screens, to a silent film era show, this time in colour. It was a mixture of original French Farce, the Anthill Mob (from ‘Wacky Races’ - look it up!), a semi-orderly panic of Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton types leading Al Capone style gangster pit-crews to launch bullion filled ‘getaway’ cars, all fleeing from the chasing Keystone Cops. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture?

Never before had anyone seen so many old Bentleys in distinctly un-aerodynamic guise go that fast. All eventually morphed into a slightly more streamlined shape, except for one which, with a Park Ward saloon body, kept its fixed upper structure in place. To many this remained the favourite and, retaining the slippery profile of a house brick, still came home in 4th place, though applause right round the circuit greeted all drivers on the slowing down lap.

Another celebration, this time spanning both fashion as well as motor cars, was the Mini. The 1960s optimism celebrating the ‘peace and love’ revolution, The Beatles and The Stones in music, and bold, colourful, clothing was epitomised by ladies in skirts above the knee and little front wheel drive cars only 10 feet long. These, even with four adults aboard, could zip around urban streets, get through narrow gaps and navigate across cities far more efficiently than any big-engined traditional sports car.

And it was with similar intensions that the writers and producers of the cult road movie ‘The Italian Job’ must have been thinking when planning the escape scenes through the congested streets of Turin, while being chased by an army of Carabinieri in their more boxy Alfa Romeo saloons. This, of course was the celebrated late ‘60s robbery caper starring Michael Caine, with cameo supporting roles from other familiar names such as Noel Coward, as the chief mastermind, Mr. Bridger. It was in 1969 that the film was originally released, with not only a triumvirate of red, white and blue Mini Coopers but, earlier on in the film, a Lamborghini Miura, two E-type Jaguars and an Aston Martin DB4 convertible. All four of these classics met a sticky end, being crushed, and then deposited over a mountainside high in the Alps, courtesy of the Mafia.

Therefore, in celebration of the Mini’s 60th anniversary, an elaborate re-construction of the film set, complete with actors and action scenes, plus the famous cars themselves, was constructed in a building replicating the old London Earls Court MotorShow venue. Most of the vehicles were exact copies to those used in the film, but at least two of them were the very same machines: Firstly, one of the E-type Jaguars, painstakingly restored, but most notable was the silver Aston DB4 drop-head which had been driven by Michael Caine in the film, on his way out to Italy. This car wasn’t in fact flattened and sent down the mountainside but (with a bit of trick photography) substituted by an old Lancia Flaminia losing out rather drastically as the real victim. So this particular pristine convertible (a recent Villa d’Este invitation), being one of only 70 made, was undoubtedly the real thing.

Various audiences were entertained several times a day with Director and film crews shooting the action scenes of the Minis hurtling down narrow pedestrian streets, sending restaurant tables flying and narrowly missing customers and shoppers in their bid to escape, laden with boots full of gold bars. And this was the most appropriate choice for one of the films shown in the outdoor cinema - over the road - where audience members could actually view in comfort from big old 1950s American cars, mimicking what would be part of a traditional evening’s entertainment during the bygone period.

For once, having spent the majority of three days at Goodwood, I found time to actually sit and watch some quality racing for a lengthy spell on Sunday afternoon. And, oh my goodness, did I choose the right afternoon to view it. This was from a grandstand looking back towards the Woodcote chicane and earlier from the viewing platform above the Pits, to which I was generously granted access given the time of day meant it was heading towards the event’s conclusion.

So, returning to the track action, and very much live in three dimensions, were some really terrific races on the Sunday afternoon. This included the earliest Can-Am period ‘big bangers’ of the Whitsun Trophy, typically the fastest cars of the whole weekend, including Lola T70 Spyders and McLaren M1s, with their closed cockpit contemporaries, the first built GT40s. All participants being of pre-1967 vintage and, as such, they were in keeping with the last days of original Goodwood competition. Both this battle and the equally frantic RAC TT Celebration Race had drivers at the front showing considerable handling skills, pushing their vehicles to the very limits of capabilities, as well as boundaries of the rather unforgiving track. Not surprising then that amongst them were several multi-winning Le Mans drivers from both the modern era and dating as far back a far as 1970, in the persona of Richard Attwood who (with Hans Herrmann) crossed the finish line victoriously in a Porsche 917 nearly half a century ago. That said, many more participants filling the grids, could more accurately to be described as wealthy gentlemen drivers. But they, too, demonstrated consummate skill and respect for the cars they were most fortunate to own and with which they continually battled at the edge of adhesion, lap after lap.

However, a far more sedate way of circulating the perimeter was to take one of the complimentary tractor train rides, free for spectators and very useful for seeing some of the outlying corners and bends of the 2.4 miles of tarmac. And, given the participation of so many in appropriate costume, it is not every day you see a three-star Russian army general, sitting patiently on a log at a makeshift bus stop, waiting for the next rumbling tractor carriage to pick him up. No doubt soon returning him to quite an opulent Officers’ Mess into which very few others would be permitted to follow. Surely the very best Vodka and Caviar would have greeted him once he got back to corporate civilisation in the most expensive hospitality suites this rural venue could provide. All part and parcel of the imaginative features, unique to Goodwood.

Perhaps fifty yards away, back at the sharp end of proceedings in the Pits, was where serious race management continued taking place. This the focal point for lap boards being hung from the wall and timing signals given out graphically. Even the pit crews threw themselves wholeheartedly and indulgently into the spectacle, maintaining a group presence of period costume. Not only were the majority in clean white overalls, under which were collared shirts and ties, but some of the female members of the teams were dressed in finery suitable for an evening out at a dance, or dining in a top hotel. Where else in the world would you find that? Even accessorised with earrings, necklaces and expensive white gloves, which no one viewing thought at all out of place, though perhaps pleasantly unusual.

It was whilst watching from the elevated position, that I viewed a packed grid of mostly small, and mainly British, 1950s saloons for Part 2 of the St Mary’s Trophy. Up at the front were mid-sized Jaguars, an Alfa Giulietta and larger American machinery, such as a 7 litre Thunderbird and Silver Hawk Studebaker. However, midway through, and towards the back of the pack, were a variety of cars very seldom seen at speed in their heyday on the road, let alone in any competition: Standard Vanguard, Riley One-Point-Five, Ford Prefect and Morris Minors, for example. The audience near me were standing against - or rather leaning over - the gantry barrier, shoulder to shoulder, and along most of the line, it was two or three people deep.

However, such was the camaraderie that those at the back would also get a decent view, in their turn. For, after a couple of laps watching the whole grid pass by at speed, several of us made way for those behind to get an uninterrupted view by stepping aside for them. Of course, it only seemed fair to do such a thing, and the well-dressed lady behind me appeared more overjoyed than most. She graciously thanked me, but there was no need. This was just a matter of common decency and fairness, as far as I was concerned and others, also originally at the front, thought the same.

And this lady seemed particularly enthralled by what was going on below us. She waved and cheered most specifically at an olive green coloured Jowett Javelin, which wasn’t exactly head of the field, but nonetheless maintaining a good pace amongst its group of similarly powered rivals. When I asked her about it she said that the Javelin was actually her own car, and I guessed it must be her partner or husband, on this occasion, representing her behind the wheel. She was justifiably proud to be the Entrant. This particular Jowett had undoubtedly never seen such speeds in its former life as a publicly registered road car. More used to a sedate pace, back in the days of black and white films, but now it had been being given a new lease of life which its early owners could never have imagined. However, it really didn’t matter if this, or any other vehicle in the group, never came close to a podium position or even perhaps the top ten, because each one had their own supporters. Collectively, they all contributed to the nostalgic spectacle.

In the final race of the weekend, the Freddie March Memorial Trophy, a majority of the honours became a family affair. Probably the most successful Goodwood campaigner of the modern era - since the first Revival in ’98 - was Gary Pearson. Expert preparer and engineer, especially for the Jaguar marque, Gary is a also highly skilled racing driver for all sorts of classics, including GTO Ferraris and the fearsome Group C prototype sports cars of more modern Le Mans fame, most recognisably the purple Silk Cut liveried XJR Jags. On this weekend he was in his own D-type, with his brother John, also an accomplished classic racer, close behind in another one. These siblings stayed out in front throughout, with the Italian marques and other Jaguars left in their wake. Whilst a Maserati 200S came third, it was a bright yellow Ferrari, half way down the grid, which caught my eye the most.

Throughout the year it had popped up regularly at the most prestigious events across the United States: From the Cavallino Classic and Amelia Island events in Florida, right across to Monterey, for the races at Laguna Seca and Concours at Quail Lodge in the summer. Its full title revealed it even had two fascinating original personas. Firstly, as a Factory 290 MM, winning the Swedish GP in 1956 and, a year later, participating at Le Mans as part of the Ecurie Belge team. But when a wealthy South American wanted to buy a Testa Rossa from Ferrari in 1959, he found there were no ‘customer cars’ available, so they converted chassis ‘0606’ into 250 59/TR spec. and swapped the 3,490cc engine for the slightly smaller 3 litre V12, for him to race back home in Brazil. After a catastrophic major accident, some of the remains helped to form a Ford V8 racing ‘Speciale’, which was frequently campaigned in the ‘60s.

Decades later, and rebuilt in England back into a red Ferrari, it appeared at that inaugural Revival Meeting in 1998. Finally restored again and painted in the striking Belgian colours of yellow and black, I’d seen it proudly displayed at the Hampton Court Concours of Elegance earlier in September. During the week prior, and also rather familiar to me, it had graced the circular foyer of the RAC in London’s Pall Mall. For more information about this car’s quite eventful life, look up ‘Ferrari 290MM/250TR Chassis 0606’. It even has its own website! The current owner clearly enjoys his car to the full although, at Goodwood in 2019, it was in the hands of Julian Bronson, the talented veteran of Gary Pearson’s driving calibre.

As the event was drawing to a close, and getting up from my privileged position in the Woodcote enclosure, I noticed a small leather purse had fallen between my own, and the next vacant seat along. There wasn't much money in it, or any identification, but nonetheless this was a wallet belonging to someone who had dropped it, so I naturally took the item along to the Media Centre and handed it in. And after this, a few more photos of the quiet paddock, free of people, in diminishing twilight. Soon fully dark I went back over the road for the last time, expecting a virtually empty area of shops and refreshment tents. However, whilst some had closed down and other shops were packing things away, there remained a good proportion of vendors still selling their wares. Live music was heard emanating from the bar areas with hundreds of people enjoying an evening meal, drinking and dancing prior to making their way home.

My camera was not good enough to take many satisfactory shots in only artificial light, but I managed to take a couple of the continuing free funfair. It was still a very warm evening and I thought about getting a last drink before returning to my car, although I knew there was plenty of rather tepid tap water stowed in the boot. I arrived upon some refreshments purveyors with heavily discounted small bottles of coffee and chocolate drinks. Some last remaining stocks which they were trying to offload and, while engaging them in discussions about how trade had been over the weekend, they very generously provided me with a sample, which was a refreshing little bottle of mocha coffee. Ambling back towards my car, sipping from it, I studied the label which proudly announced it was from the ‘Honest Organic Coffee Company’. Perhaps that was a bit of serendipity for handing in the wallet I had found.

And so these little memories and many others, rather disparate in nature, remain crystal clear. But Goodwood looks forward to welcoming another huge audience to enjoy the myriad delights and plethora of races, to be staged during the 78th Members Meeting, at the end of March, in 2020.

John Godley
Classique Car Conduits