MORE than 150,000 visitors turned up to the Goodwood Revival Festival near Chichester in West Sussex, UK last weekend and Cycle Torque’s Dennis Penzo was there, as a guest of Royal Enfield and the marque’s Australian distributors Urban Moto Imports.
The Goodwood Estate, which also hosts the famous horse races and Festival of Speed, held earlier in the year, is like a giant time warp during the Revival Festival.
The site is massive, and the event has grown enormously over the past 18 years that it has been held. You could easily accommodate 10 Sydney Royal Easter Shows at the Revival site.
Exhibitors and visitors alike dress in 40s, 50s and 60s gear and the whole event is a celebration of classic motorcycles, cars and aeroplanes.
The visceral sound of four Spitfires regularly flying in formation above the Revival site is truly a stirring sound. If you love the sound of nice motorcycles then you won’t be able to help yourself at the sound of a Spitfire in action. Hurricane fighter planes also flew overhead, and, in reality, they were the most numerous fighter craft in the air during the Battle of Britain.
For most of the weekend, the historic circuit – whose halcyon days were between 1945 and 1966 for competitive motor sport – was again the scene of expensive, loud, classic action between cars, racing cars and motorbikes from the immediate post-war decades.
Mechanics in period overalls and owners in period gear fussing proudly over their D-Type Jaguars, Ferrari Dinos and McLaren MBs, with all the action replayed on giant screens for those relaxing and picnicking outside the race track proper.
Even the public carpark is choked full of E-Type Jaguars, Bugattis, classic Alfas, Triumphs and every possible vintage marque you can think of.
The nearby caravan park even sports Maserattis and all manner of serious machinery for visitors to this event. One of the funny memories I have of the caravan park was, on the way out of the Revival, one evening we noticed people on the side of the road holding up placards with numbers on them – they were rating passing exotic cars and bikes out of 10.
Royal Enfield had two displays at the Revival, the first being a reproduction of a 60s cafe complete with jukebox pumping out hits of the era and elsewhere on the grounds the company had a reproduction of a 1960s Royal Enfield dealership.
This was a great display, the dealership, far from being simply a static display also featured the rebuilding a 1949 350 Model G Royal Enfield and Rod Geskell had a job on his hands – he had to pull it apart, and then put it back together, then pull it apart, then put it back together – eight times as it turns out.
Rod works for Moto GB which is the UK importer for Royal Enfield motorcycles. Yes, importer. The marque was born in England in 1893 and was the name under which the Enfield Cycle Company made motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines. The legacy of weapons manufacture is reflected in the logo of a cannon, and their motto “Made Like A Gun”. Their first motorcycle was built in 1901.
In 1955, Enfield Cycle Company partnered with Madras Motors in India in forming Enfield of India, based in Chennai, and started assembling the 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras. The first machines were assembled from components imported from England. Starting in 1957, Enfield of India acquired the machines necessary to build components in India, and by 1962 all components were made in India.
The original Redditch, Worcestershire based company dissolved in 1971, but Enfield of India continued, and bought the rights to use the Royal Enfield name.
Back to the the Royal Enfield dealership display – Rod’s routine for three days was to strip and rebuild the 1949 Royal Enfield. In his role as Project Mechanic for the Royal Enfield 60’s Dealership display he had to basically do all the stuff that you would expect in a major service.
“I had to check the carby, fork seals, tappet clearances, new plug and gapped it, check primary chain tension and also strip and clean the magneto,” he said.
Rod’s hands-on contribution and that of his 60’s Dealership “boss” at the display added a real time warp factor to the Royal Enfield display.
“It was a great idea to have something actually going on as part of the display rather than just have a static looking set-up,” he said.
“The interactive aspect of pulling the bike down, reassembling it and then doing it all again attracted a lot of attention and encouraged passersby to step inside and ask questions and satisfy their curiosity.”
The shelves in the store were loaded with old stock, oil bottles, boxes of spare parts and a plethora of genuine bits and pieces as well as the tools that Rod was using for the rebuild.
My introduction to this year’s Revival festival kicked off with a convoy of Royal Enfields departing Lodon and making its way south to the area of Chichester where the Festival is held.The route incorporated the old Ace Cafe racers “run” to Brighton, 50 miles south of London, via the village of Box Hill.
The original Goodwood race circuit is built around a World War II airbase on the Goodwood Estate that was donated by the 9th Duke of Richmond, Freddie March to the Royal Air Force in 1940 to assist the war efforts. It opened its gates in September 1948 to host Britain’s first post-World War motor racing meeting at a permanent venue.
It was home to the British Automobile Racing Club as well as some of the most memorable events such as the non-championship Formula One races and the Tourist Trophy sports car race. It was finally shut down in 1966 when the owners did not want to modify the track to control the increased speeds of modern racing cars and thereby closing the door on contemporary motor racing at the track.
Then in September 1998, exactly 50 years since the first race took place, Goodwood Revival was born as Grand Prix cars from the fifties and sixties, historic saloons and GT cars made a comeback on the track along with 68,000 spectators. Since then, Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Sir Jack Brabham, Phill Hill, Derek Bell, David Coulthard, Barry Sheene and several other famous motoring legends have raced on the track.
The annual Bonhams sale of priceless historic cars and motor racing memorabilia also took place on Saturday afternoon. Invitation was by catalogue only, so naturally I didn’t attend that particular event!
New Top Gear host Chris Evans had 13 cars up for auction with an estimated price tag of £11million.
Sunday featured what, for many fans, was the highlight of the weekend’s racing: the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration race for some of the world’s most valuable racing cars. These are the beautiful GT cars that, in days gone by, contested the famous Tourist Trophy races.
Then the motorcycles were back out again, as were the saloon cars, along with an array of historic Formula 1 and sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s in an action-packed programme.
The day culminated in the prizegiving ceremony where Lord March awarded his much-coveted prizes and medals.
Charles Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara is a British aristocrat, eldest son and heir-apparent of the Duke of Richmond, and owner of Goodwood Estate in West Sussex is the founder of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival.
He is President of the British Automobile Racing Club, Patron of the TT Riders Association and an honorary member of the British Racing Drivers Club, the Guild of Motoring Writers and the 500 Owners Club.
Having had a passion for film and photography since the age of 10, March left school as soon as he could and at 17 worked for the film director Stanley Kubrick on the film Barry Lyndon. He went on to forge a world-wide reputation as a still-life photographer, producing campaigns for some of the world’s most famous brands.
For more information on the Goodwood Revival Festival or Royal Enfield check this out or www.royalenfield.com or Cycle Torque’s Facebook or www.cycletorque.com.au