The best cars to drive to the Goodwood Revival

It's not just your costume that marks you out at the Goodwood Revival. So does your mode of transport – especially if you want to park in the exclusive Pre-73 zone. Here are Octane's top choices

Words: Glen Waddington. October 2014.

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CHARM ON A BUDGET

French rustic charm doesn't limit you to a Citroën 2CV. While the Renault 4 is less hair-shirted, in many respects it performs a similar task – basic transport for four people and a ride that means you won't break eggs when crossing a ploughed field – but it's a bit more modern and, well, hatchbackish. There's more power here too, even the earliest 1961 cars featuring a 747cc four-cylinder where the Citroën boasted a 425cc air-cooled flat-twin.

The popular 4L (or 'Quatrelle') is probably the most numerous and best-preserved of the pre-1974-facelift cars, especially in France, though some scoundrels have taken later ones (they were built until 1992) with big-block 1108cc engines and fitted early bonnets and grilles so they can enjoy relatively modern comforts with the daintier styling. Umbrella-handle gearshift is a well-known quirk; side-by-side torsion bars making for wheelbase inequality less so. Figure on £5000 and up for an excellent early example, though we found a fabulously preserved 1976 car for £10,000.

The Austin/Morris 1100 was Britain's best-seller until the flamboyant Ford Cortina prised people out of the technically more intriguing BMC car, and they used to crowd our roads as a talisman of that long-forgotten era. Dainty Pininfarina styling and chrome detailing have matured in a way that makes the 1100 seem so much less utilitarian than it did in its day, yet such is the car's down-to-Earth nature that you won't feel self-conscious rolling up and rolling out the tartan blanket and wicker hamper.

There's a choice of two or four doors, plus plentiful interior space, a comfortable ride courtesy of Hydrolastic suspension and the kind of charm that Austin crudely squandered when the 1100 (and the 1275cc 1300) made way for the All-Aggro in 1973. Morris had a more interesting dashboard; MkII lost the 1962 cars' tailfins in 1967; chrome grille disappeared in 1971; badge- (and grille-) engineered MG, Wolseley, Riley and Vanden Plas versions also available. And £3000 buys a belter.

WIND IN YOUR HAIR

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Want exposure to the elements? Triumph's Bonneville was one of Britain's greatest exports of the 1960s. Introduced in 1959 and named after the Midlands company's speed record attempts at the Utah saltflats, the Bonneville featured a thumping 650cc parallel twin for a top speed of 115mph. The perfect accompaniment if you want to don leathers for the ultimate rock 'n' roll look at Goodwood and, if you think you need to be hardy as a rider, remember your pillion passenger... Of course, you could always put them in a period Watsonian-Squire sidecar. Expect to pay from around £10,000 for a late-1960s T120, reckoned by many to be the best classic Bonneville for road-riding.

If two wheels definitely ain't your thing then go for the post-war charm of an MG T-series. While the TF ran until 1955 and incorporated much of the tech that went into the subsequent (and far more modern) MGA, we'd go for a TC: painted wire wheels, that upright chrome grille, and a low-key paintjob in flat grey or dark blue.

But there's more than just aesthetic appeal here: the MG XPAG engine is modest in capacity and power (1250cc, 54bhp) yet manages nearly 80mph – which will feel much faster when you're riding on those tall, narrow tyres, with your hips exposed and your bottom almost scraping the road. The TD (1949-53) trades less rakish looks for rack-and-pinion steering and coil-sprung front suspension. Pay £20,000-25,000.

LIVE OUT THOSE GT FANTASIES

Take a tough chassis, wrap it in mind-warping glassfibre bodywork, then stuff a Chrysler V8 under the bonnet. Voilà! The recipe for 1962's Jensen C-V8. Some have described its appearance as challenging, but to Octane's eyes it has matured into a startler the like of which you simply wouldn't attribute to a town as straightforward as West Bromwich in the English Midlands.

So that's the style question sorted. But the C-V8 has more to offer than its appearance. Four seats, for a start, so you and some chums can sit in leather-lined luxury; the knowledge that its plastic body won't rot (though you'll have to look after the underpinnings); and the thunderous grunt of that 5.9-litre (6.3 from 1964) V8. You might struggle parking, as there's no power steering, and fuel economy isn't a strong point, but against that you can weigh the approval of other Revival visitors. Expect to pay from £40,000 to £60,000 for a top example.

Greater subtlety comes from Italy, in the form of Maserati's first serious production car. With volumes of 1981 for the carburetted 3500GT and just 242 of the fuel-injected GTI, built between 1957 and 1964, this was still a bespoke car by many standards, yet it marked the point at which Maserati took on its near-neighbour in Modena, moving away from being solely a racing car manufacturer, and moving on from the tiny number of A6s that were the Trident's first road-car foray.

Judging by the number of people poring over the exquisite 3500GT in the Cartier Style et Luxe concours at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (see our report in Events), it's the kind of car that fits in well on Lord March's estate. Accommodation is limited to you and a close friend, you might want to steer clear of the troublesome fuel injection, and you'll need a big budget: while top coupés command £160,000, the rarer spider can easily fetch £500,000.

IF THE SUN'S SHINING

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Perfectly proportioned styling, everlasting build quality, a usable boot, folding roof (or removable hardtop): what's not to love about the Mercedes SL 'Pagoda'? If you're travelling no more than two-up, it could be the perfect car in which to turn up to the Revival. It can cruise the motorways with such disdain that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's two decades more modern than its early-1960s roots, but leave the straight roads behind and you can enjoy surprising agility on the twisties. And don't forget, these cars have long been prized for their combination of toughness and comfort in rallying, in historic events today and when the Merc was new (Eugen Böhringer won the gruelling Liège-Sofia-Liège in a 230SL in 1963).

Such talents don't come cheap, as the Pagoda is one of those cars whose inexorable rise in value has outpaced pretty much anything else you can invest in. Around £45,000 to £75,000 is what you can expect to pay for one of the better 230s or 250s, while the later (1967-71), more comfort-oriented 280SL commands an extra ten grand or so.

But while the Pagoda has been a highly fashionable classic car for a long time, Britain offers an alternative that's a little less, shall we say, obvious. The Alvis TD/TE/TF21 series was built from 1956 to 1967, with Alvis's own 3.0-litre straight-six, in tiny numbers (1528 in total, only 106 being the final year's TF21). They came as coupés and convertibles, with four seats, and styling by Park Ward (Swiss coachbuilder Graber was turned to first for the preceding TC108G, after Aston Martin acquired Tickford, which had previously built Alvis bodies). These are refined and tasteful cars and it's usually reckoned the later the better, as you might find TFs specified with automatic transmission and power steering. £70,000-100,000 buys the best.

TRAD-BRIT LUXURY APPEAL

In 1962, the iconic coupé bodystyle joined the MkII Rover P5 range. It still came with four doors and seats for proper adults, though the raked rear screen is a bit closer to your head. You sit in a surprisingly modernist interior, while those outside admire David Bache's discreetly bullish styling. Of course, if you're keen to stay true to the pre-1966 theme of the event, then you'll be driving behind Rover's whispering 3.0-litre straight-six, which some would argue is the connoisseur's choice – but it's hard to ignore the rumbling torque of the V8-powered 1967-on P5B. Coupé prices range from around £10,000 up to £20,000 for top V8s.

For a bit more, Bentley's MkVI factory steel saloon is a great driver's choice in spite of the patrician styling. The stately lines hide a bit of a hot rod: think of it as the BMW M5 of the day. Built from 1946 to 1952, the 4¼-litre straight-six-powered MkVI formed the basis of Rolls-Royce's first factory-built car, though Crewe put the Bentley emphasis more on the driver than the passenger. Yet you're still treated to the full leather and walnut interior, complete with picnic tables so you can show off with your hamper in the Goodwood car park. Our favourite detail is the quick-action crank for the driver's window: who needs electrics?

Good ones cost from £30,000 – and remember, with streamlined aluminium coachwork and a breathed-on engine, it became the Bentley Continental: the fastest, most expensive four-seater of its era.

IN CASE IT'S MUDDY

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Land Rovers aren't only for farmers, you know. Sure, they can do the mud-plugging thing like no other car, and they're as practical as you like for the home mechanic because they're basically just a big, petrol-powered Meccano set. But the appeal goes beyond that.

An early Land Rover is a design icon, a style statement – just as a Barbour jacket and Hunter boots can be, in certain circles. And while we'd never describe one as being sporty, it certainly fulfils a multiplicity of roles, from transporting hay-bales and sheepdogs to transporting you back in time at the Goodwood Revival just as well as any other convertible could. And come the winter, you'll keep on going whatever the weather (or the road surface).

While the Series Is have gone through the roof price-wise, and the slightly less charming Series IIIs offer possibly the greatest value, Series II and IIA models (1958-71) span the perfect era for the pre-73 car park, with prices for even the best cars below the £10,000 mark, rather than £30,000. A canvas tilt offers top-down motoring, or you could go for a long-wheelbase station wagon and take lots of friends too.

Feeling even hardier? If your idea of a classic to be proud of is something with lots of chrome to polish, then look away now. The WW2 Jeep is possibly the most no-nonsense of any classic vehicle, the kind of car that you wouldn't worry about getting dirty – so it's ideal if the going is soft at Goodwood, though you might want an umbrella. Luxury and refinement are off the menu; in their place, wartime ruggedness and a suprisingly light and fleet driving experience, thanks to 105lb ft at a lowly 2000rpm from the 54bhp 2.2-litre sidevalve engine.

Many were shipped to the UK during World War Two, and many more have arrived in containers since. That means supply is healthy and, while prices have certainly risen in recent years, even a mint example can be yours for around £15,000. Remember, it might have real military history behind it too.

NEED YOUR OWN SPACE?

Bedford's front-engined CA van lent itself perfectly to Dormobile's conversion, and few other campers (the more obvious, more expensive VWs excepted) look quite so evocative: the CA's ice cream colour schemes set off the ice cream van styling. The first conversions appeared in 1957, with stove, sink, cupboards and seats that converted into beds, plus a side-hinged elevating roof over the twin single bunks (propriety ruled, back then). Finding one won't be easy, though Octane located a complete, original and working if worn example on sale for £4000. Perfect for hardy campers who want to do the entire Goodwood weekend in period style.

If you don't mind driving on the left in return for some serious US cool, the De Soto Fireflite station wagon can be had with an optional third bench, upping the seating count from six to nine in full-size luxury (how about air suspension, push-button radio and transmission, plus swivel seats?). This was pretty much the end of the line for Chrysler's De Soto brand and the outrageous-looking Virgil Exner-styled 1957-58 models are most sought after, complete with 5.6-litre V8 and a 3.2m (or 126in) wheelbase. Import from the USA is the most obvious source, but even there the station wagons are rarer than the coupes and sedans. Expect to pay from £20,000.

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