Don the tweed and pomade. The Goodwood Revival is a living exhibit of Britain’s motoring past, but is this a positive for mechanical culture going forward, or an anchor keeping us navel gazing into the past?
Goodwood is a deep, involving experience at every level. Poodle skirts, tweed jackets, newsboy caps, and coveralls - the line between attendee and participant is non-existant.
Here, everything is from the ‘40s through the late ‘60s, the “Golden Age” of British and American motoring might. Of postwar prosperity and idealism. Jaguars, Jeeps, and vintage racing machinery swell the grounds and burst into the parking lot. Vintage motorcycles also have a presence as well as their own racing events during the weekend.
The grounds and surrounding area are everything best about english stereotypes. Tranquil, lush, simple, and quiet besides the piercing motorized wail of historic machinery.
Royal Enfield was our host for the weekend and had two displays, one, a showroom and owners area, and second a recreation of a vintage dealership with a weekend-long restoration of a 1940s model G. Everything was gorgeous, really. The sights, smells, and sounds of old racing machinery in such volume make for an awesome weekend in the English countryside.
You also meet some of the best gear heads on earth. Casual conversations quickly led to offerings to the devil Lucas; sports cars, chasing oil leaks, and road trips gone awry. It’s as much a celebration of cars as a communal consoling of the headaches they cause.
But there is an odd feeling that can’t be shaken. It glosses over history, favoring the comforting bedtime story that says CB750s, globalization, and Toyota never happened.
This gathering celebrates events and machines at their absolute youngest are half a century old. Machines that, not 5 years after their debut, would be deemed antique and outdated by Japanese counterparts. It was an industry sent reeling from a failure to adapt, but the attitude here is that things were just better back then.
One attendee I spoke with remarked on how he would go to MotoGP if only the sights and smells were the same as these old bikes.
I find this incredibly depressing. If given the option, the racer of an old Triumph would surely light it on fire for the adrenaline rush of a modern GP bike. Ton up boys would certainly trade in their Nortons for Busas.
This is not to take away from the efforts of those that have lovingly built, restored, and maintain these machines. It is critical to preserve some aspects of history, but that becomes detrimental if no context is given. The motive and events are more important than the fetishizing over the object itself.
However, as an interesting contrast, we made a side trip to the Ace Cafe. This is another historical site of Britain’s motoring past, but with an interesting difference. Here, in what I dreaded was going to be a ton-up boy cosplay fest turned out to still host the anti-social petrol head behavior that made it famous.
Dirt bike kids, stance, youth. It’s a historical home that still finds itself as the cultural base of getting down and getting wild. An antithesis from the lazy think pieces that car culture is dead. And, most importantly, a cultural link to those golden ages even if they machinery is different.
Taken with Goodwood, it’s an excellent contrast and complement. The best of motoring’s past, slammed against motoring’s present.
Check back next week for more from Joe on his experience abroad.
Photos: Getty Images and Bree Poland
Joseph Gustafson is Lanesplitter’s most loudmouthed contributor. His mouth is much faster than his riding acumen. He enjoys taking long rides on the road, short rides on the dirt, and finding new ways to use the term “voracious” in a sentence. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter as he butchers welding and words in the pursuit for hashtag glory.