RADwood and Why It Matters
RADwood is a new car show phenomenon that began in June 2017 with the first RADwood Car show in the San Francisco Bay area. RADwood celebrates the cars and culture of the 1980s and 90s and it’s making an impact on the enthusiast car community, quite simply, already, a little over a year since it began, RADwood matters. Since that first RADwood show several other RADwood events have been held around the country, most recently on the East coast, in Philadelphia, PA.
Organized by a handful of guys who wanted to do something different, they wanted a car show, no, more than that, they wanted to create an event celebrating the cars, clothes and pop culture of the 1980s and 90s. The name says it all. They used the quintessential 80s word “Rad” (meaning radical, or cool, if you were completely asleep, or not alive, during the 80s) and “Wood” as in Goodwood, Lord March’s place in the UK where the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Member’s Meeting take place each year. Goodwood participants, whether vintage racers, mechanics or just regular spectators, dress up in period clothing, from the 30s and 40s creating a sort of time-machine, vintage vibe.
RADwood events encourage people to not only bring a car from 1980 – 1999, that’s all that’s allowed, but to dress up in period clothing. Whether that’s dressing up as Magnum P.I. or Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice or just wearing random 80s and 90s clothing, it creates a fun, casual environment. Everyone can participate at RADwood, even if you don’t bring a car, if you just show up to walk around, you can dress up and be more than a spectator, you’re a part of it.
Since the first show in June of last year, there have been RADwood events in Orange County, CA, San Francisco, Atlanta and most recently, Philadelphia. I attended RADwood Philadelphia and wasn’t disappointed. I left the 1994 Mercedes E 320 Coupe at home (it’s waiting for a new radiator) and took my BMW 840ci, one of the finest looking cars produced in those two decades as far as I’m concerned. RADwood Philly was held at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, a nice venue along the Delaware River which is basically a big industrial park with tree lined streets and plenty of green space, on the location of the old Navy Ship Yard.
The cars that showed up to ranged from a Ferrari Testarossa to a Datsun 280ZX and just about everything in between. How about DeLoreans, lots of them, air cooled Porsches, water cooled Porsches, the nicest early 80s Honda Accord hatchback I’ve ever seen, all kinds of Toyota Celicas, Mercedes W123s a 190E 2.3-16v, a handful of W126 sedans and a killer 560 SEC with a Koenig body kit. I even saw a couple of Subaru SVXs. BMW E30s, E36s were well represented a couple of 1990s M5s, a Volkswagen Vanagon, all kinds of VW Golfs and Cabriolets, some JDM stuff including a Mitsubishi Delica van (I’ve posted a bunch of photos throughout this article and below to give you an idea of what was there). Also take note… at this show, it’s cool to show SUVs, pick up trucks too, from Toyota, Nissan, even Ford. While some cars were modified, clean, original, ‘survivors’ seemed to be the norm and the most admired pieces.
So Why Does RADwood Matter?
What showed up was interesting to me, but more than that, was WHO showed up. This was the first car show I’ve ever been to, ever, where I might have seen 3 people over 70 years old and less than 20 over 50. I attend Monterey Car Week every year, I regularly attend vintage, car shows all over the place and I’m usually one of the youngest people there, and I’m not as young as I used to be, now in my mid-40s. I feel like I was on the higher end of the age range of attendees at this one. Everyone who says younger folks aren’t interested in cars are crazy, they just aren’t interested in Tri-Five Chevys and the archaic British sports cars their fathers (and grandfathers!) might have driven to college in the 60s. I’m a child of the 80s, I fall right into the “Gen X” category. I lived the 80s, I watched “Footloose” “Breakin’” and “Top Gun” in the theater, but there were plenty of younger attendees at this show who weren’t even born in the 80s, yet they feel nostalgia and a connection to that time and the cars from it. That’s good news for the car hobby. Whether they came with a car or not, they were there, decked out in, often rather costume like outfits, I guess they’ve seen in movies or think that people wore in the 80s and 90s, and for the most part, they were spot on.
An Appreciation for Forgotten Models
By providing a specific venue for cars from the 80s and 90s RADwood has brought attention to a lot of forgotten and even unloved models that the mainstream car community hasn’t paid a lot of attention to, given them a venue in which to be admired. Sure, there were air cooled Porsche 911s a couple of Ferraris 308s, a Testarossa and a 348 (which could all probably be considered unloved in most Ferrari circles), but many of the cars on display at RADwood Philly were survivor examples of just regular cars or unique enthusiast cars of that period that someone has saved, somehow, for some reason.
Could there be market implications for these cars as RADwood gains in popularity? It’s hard to say if it will have that kind of impact, but there’s no doubt, as collector cars that were financially attainable to most just a few years ago increase in price (just look at the ridiculous air cooled 911 market) younger enthusiasts can scratch their (collector) car itch with plenty of cars that are still affordable and still speak to them and the nostalgia of their youth. What appears at these shows, what’s valued by this younger demographic, may very well be the next generation of collector cars.
The RADwood Brand
It will be interesting to watch as the RADwood concept evolves. They have a powerful social media presence, via Facebook and Instagram, the DWA! Podcast was recording at RADwood Philly, plenty of articles about RADwood have appeared on Jalopnik and other automotive enthusiast sites (Link to a huge photo album from RADwood Philly at Jalopnik here). I think the guys who started RADwood are part of both of those things, Jalopnik and DWA!. They’re clearly making a business of it too, and more power to them. They’ve created a unique event for a hungry customer base who keeps showing up, all over the country. At RADwood Philly it cost $25 to show a car, plus some convenience fees paid Eventbrite, if purchased in advance, $35 on the day of the show. General spectator tickets were ten bucks in advance, $15 at the gate. You could pay $70 to be considered RADwood ‘Royalty’ and get special parking for your car and an event T shirt, but on the day of the show, I couldn’t tell where that area that was, nothing seemed to differentiate it than any other area, so I’m not sure what those guys were really paying for.
The merch tent was prominent and full of well branded RADwood trinkets and gear. The graphic design was excellent, with RADwood spelled out in various fonts and colors typical of the 80s – 90s. I bought a few stickers and promptly applied one, reminiscent of the pastel “Miami Vice” TV show logo, to the back window of the 840.
I do think organizers are missing an opportunity to build camaraderie and a community within the show however. While I heard a few announcements over a P.A. system that was playing 80s and 90s music all day, the only one I remember hearing was one thanking everyone for coming and reminding them to visit the merch tent. I think an opportunity was missed by not handing out ‘car cards’ at the gate, you know, the kind that you get at car shows where you write down the make, model and years of your car, your name and where you’re from. That’s a basic car show staple that I think makes walking around, looking at the cars more fun. Maybe that’s too old school for RADwood, but I’m just saying, and cards like that go into your car’s history folder for posterity. Making such a form / card available online before the show, maybe to be downloaded with tickets would make it even simpler on show day.
RADwood Philly was held on a Sunday that turned out to be rather cloudy and cool, but it didn’t dampen the Rad spirit felt all through the Navy Yard. I commend these guys for coming up with a new concept and taking the time and effort to organize these events from coast to coast. The next RADwood car show will be held on December 2nd at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. So if you don’t think RADwood had arrived yet, this event at the Peterson will certainly propel RADwood to the forefront of California car culture, and by default, the car culture of the rest of the country. And as I was just finishing this piece up, what did I see posted by the RADWood Instagram account? A post announcing the “2019 RADwood World Tour” with dates and cities for 8 more RADwood shows including Japan, Seattle, Detroit and England. Now, please excuse me while I go buy the nicest, low mile, Chrylser TC by Maserati, 1992 Saab 900 Convertible and Mercedes 300 E I can find, stash them away in a warehouse and wait for their values to rise.
(More Photo from RADwood Philly in the gallery below)