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Reflections on the Goodwood Revival

October 12, 2012

Last month The Henry Ford participated in the Goodwood Revival, near Chichester, England. The annual festival is held on the grounds of the historic Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit, once one of Britain’s premier tracks, and it celebrates motorsport as it was during the circuit’s 1948-1966 operating life. This year’s Revival paid special tribute to legendary American race driver and builder Dan Gurney, and we sent our Ford Mark IV in which Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 Le Mans.

I could justifiably call the Goodwood Revival “beyond description,” but that wouldn’t make for a very satisfying blog post! Instead, I’ll start with the basic numbers. Some 146,000 people attended the three-day event, and they were treated to more than 600 race and road cars of every description. More than a dozen races pitted many of these cars against each other on the Goodwood track.

Beyond the cars, a sizeable collection of World War II vintage aircraft occupied another section of the grounds – when they weren’t circling overhead in tight formation. The planes weren’t so out of place as you might think. The Goodwood Circuit evolved from a Royal Air Force station built during the war, so a Submarine Spitfire was perfectly at home there.

A Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat dominates the vintage aircraft display.

Even with all of those cars and airplanes, the Revival’s signature element arguably is period dress. Visitors and participants alike are encouraged to wear mid-20th Century clothing and, from what I saw, the majority of them did so eagerly. (Conservation Specialist Robert Coyle and I wore replicas of Ford Racing’s 1967 Le Mans crew uniform, while Executive Vice President Christian Øverland wore a Mad Men-ready black suit.) The cars and clothing, combined with the wonderfully-preserved track, created a perfect time capsule. It was easy to imagine that the calendar had rolled back 50 years.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lawrence of Arabia – with real camels!

Revival visitors were extremely knowledgeable and many recognized the Mark IV on sight. While some were disappointed that it wasn’t running around the track under its own power (we keep the car in its original, as-raced condition, and returning it to operation would require replacing parts), everyone was grateful to The Henry Ford for bringing it back to their side of the Atlantic. It was a genuine privilege for us to participate in what may be the world’s most unconventional car show. I hope to return – but with a natty fedora next time!

By Matt Anderson

Curator of Transportation and newly-minted fan of steak and ale pie

Racing In America

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