Return to the golden era of motoring.
Britain appears to have become established as the world capital of the classic car. California has its legendary Pebble Beach Concours, Italy offers the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este and France the biennial, classic version of the Le Mans 24 hours. But I struggle to think of a country in which collective classic-car fever has resulted in so many high-grade events in such a short space of time.
Much of the credit can be laid at the portico of the Earl of March and Kinrara, whose first Goodwood Festival of Speed jump-started what had previously been a rather moribund scene back in 1993. Now heading for its 22nd year, the festival is, unquestionably, one of the best-loved motoring events in the world. And its slightly younger brother, September’s Goodwood Revival (at which period dress is de rigueur) was recently described by Sir Jackie Stewart as ‘unique in the world of motor sport—or, for that matter, any sport’.
Goodwood’s success has inspired numerous other events targeted at the classic and luxury sectors of the car market and now the country’s various high-end automobile shows—most of which, it has to be said, take place in London and the south of England— are as much a part of the Season as Henley and Ascot. Whether it’s the oily-fingernailed nitty-gritty of the Beaulieu autojumble or the sophisticated finery of the ‘Concours of Elegance’ at Hampton Court Palace that cranks your engine, there’s no reason not to engage reverse and travel back to motoring’s golden era.
Donington Historic Festival, May 2–4, Derbyshire
Historic racing cars from pre-Second World War Bentleys to 1970s touring cars compete and guest drivers have included Sir Stirling Moss and John Surtees. For the best views, take a picnic—and ear plugs— and sit on the grass banks in the middle of the race circuit. (01728 684410; www.doningtonhistoric.com)
Wilton Classic and Supercar, June 6–7, Wiltshire
The Palladian splendour of Wilton House is the backdrop for classic vehicles and the latest supercars. Inspired by the Earl of Pembroke, a keen racing driver, it includes demonstrations, displays, lectures and live entertainment. (01722 746717; www.wiltonclassicsupercar.co.uk)
Brooklands Double Twelve Motorsport Festival, June 13–14, Surrey
Vintage dress is encouraged at this event at the birthplace of British motorsport near Weybridge. It evokes the inter-World War years with 1930s-style speed trials, a Concours d’Elégance (in which restored cars are judged on their appearance) and a hill challenge on formidable Test Hill. (01932 857381; www.brooklandsmuseum.com)
Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival, June 26–28 (Festival), September 11–13 (Revival), West Sussex
Historic racecars and the latest supercars are thrashed up and down the hill in Lord March’s front garden at the Festival of Speed. The Revival celebrates the circuit’s halycon 1948–66 period. Competitors and spectators dress in vintage fashion; there are market stalls and pop-up salons in which you can have your hair set. (01243 755055; https://ticketing.goodwood.com)
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone, July 3–5, Northamptonshire
It’s not a cheap day out—grandstand tickets start at about £200 and can be paid for in monthly installments— but it’s the ultimate high-octane experience. Base yourself at Stowe Corner (one of the fastest) or the tricky complex at Becketts and arrive early because the grandstands are a free for all. (0844 375 0740; www.silverstone.co.uk)
Start of the Mongol Rally, July 19, London
The exact location hasn’t been revealed yet, so check the website. Expect an assortment of colourful jalopies, reminiscent of Wacky Races. Cars taking part in the 10,000-mile road trip to Mongolia must be no bigger than 1.2 litres and cost less than £1,000. Previous participants have included an ice-cream van and a Mini with a red telephone box strapped to its roof. Entry costs £550 until January 31 and £600 thereafter. (0117–364 3402; www.theadventurists.com)
Silverstone Classic, July 24–26, Northamptonshire
This is the 25th anniversary of the original—and largest—race meeting devoted to historic motor sport, covering eight decades of it, plus a car auction, air displays, rock bands and a funfair. (0871 231 0849; www.silverstoneclassic.com)
CarFest, July 31–August 2, Cheshire (North) and August 28–30, Hampshire (South)
Devised by the Radio 2 DJ and petrolhead Chris Evans, CarFest North (at Oulton Park) and South (at former Formula 1 driver Jody Scheckter’s Laverstoke Park)—both a buzzing mix of fast cars, live music and food (buffalo burgers at Laverstoke, cakes and pies at Oulton)—are his concept of the perfect family festival. Most of the tickets have been sold, but, if you can bear to listen to Mr Evans’s breakfast show, the remaining 25% will be released in April or May. (www.carfest.org)
Salon Privé, September 3–5, London
Spectacular modern and classic cars line up in Syon Park at a more exclusive, less crowded, boutique event. On Thursday, supercars change hands for eye-watering sums—a one- off Ferrari F12 TRS worth £3.3 million was one of the 2014 highlights— and the organisers describe the concours (on Wednesday) as the ‘Crufts of classic cars’. (www.salonprivelondon.com)
Beaulieu’s International Autojumble, September 5–6, Hampshire
For the classic-car cognoscenti, this event in the grounds of the National Motoring Museum in the New Forest is an immovable date in the diary. They go to view the hundreds of classic cars for sale and rummage among 2,000 stands selling motoring parts and ephemera. (01590 612345; www.beaulieu.co.uk)
Aston Martin Owners’ Club meeting at Brands Hatch, September 5–6, Kent
You’ll see models from the DB4 through to the V8s and modern GT4s racing. This is gentlemen’s racing as opposed to modern motor sport—people want to win yet are conscious of driving round in a piece of history. (01869 247888; www.amocracing.org)
London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, November 1
More than 400 cars from the dawn of motoring take part and many are displayed at the free Regent Street Motor Show, London W1, the day before (www.regentstreetmotorshow.com). At dawn on Sunday, they drive to Brighton along the old A23. Watch from Hammer Hill outside Cuckfield, West Sussex; cars conking out and being hauled up the hills is part of the fun. (01483 524433; www.veterancarrun.com)
How to get the vintage look
- Watch the DVD of Genevieve, the charming 1953 comedy about two rival couples taking part in the London-to-Brighton run
- Red lipstick and seamed stockings are essential for ladies; flat cap, brogues and tweed jacket for gents
- Gentlemen should rest their Davida driving goggles (0151–647 2419; www.davida.co.uk) on the brim of a Bentley cap by Lock & Co (£139, 020–7930 8874; www.lockhatters.co.uk)
- A three-piece Edwardian-style tweed motoring suit from Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co will lend authenticity (020–7734 5985; www.henrypoole.com)
- Buy or hire vintage fashion from www.vivienofholloway.com, www.vintage-revived.com (01730 263094) or, for gents only, www.tweedmansvintage.co.uk
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