Most traditional classic car shows have loudspeakers blasting 1950s and ‘60s music from artists like Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, but one show plays a different tune. RADwood stands out from the rest by playing hits from Duran Duran, U2, the Police, and Cyndi Lauper.
This past weekend, American Honda’s campus in Torrance, California, kicked off the latest RADwood festival by playing the movie soundtrack from the 1985 flick The Goonies.
Pair that audio environment with visual cues like fanny packs, neon head-to-toe jogger suits, and stonewashed jeans, and the vision of RADwood begins to take shape.
Oh, and the cars.
Over 500 vehicles were present for this most recent program – encompassing makes and models from the 1981 through 1999 era. Quoting a line spoken from the aforementioned 1985 movie, show participants might say, “This is our time.” Finally, proud owners of vehicles from the 1980s and ‘90s can take pride in the fact that their now-classic cars are bona fide collectibles, as evidenced by soaring prices for rare, well-kept examples of cars such as the NSX, Supra, M3, and Buick GNX.
But where RADwood really shines is in recognizing the underdogs. The show brought out oft-forgotten cars like a purple Geo Metro convertible, a Dodge Caravan minivan, a Pontiac Grand Prix, an Isuzu Amigo, a Chevrolet Camaro IROC, and a Buick Roadmaster station wagon. Some of the most popular cars on display were those that 20 years ago were all over the roadways but have all but disappeared. The nostalgia was tangible, and the photo-ops were Polaroid-worthy.
RADwood launched in 2016 in the San Francisco Bay area and has gained momentum ever since, taking a hiatus as most in-person shows did in 2020, but back to hosting events around the country. The next is scheduled for February 26, 2022, at Austin, Texas. Registration is already open on EventBrite.
My journey to RADwood SoCal involved an 800-mile roundtrip caravan from Phoenix with friends in appropriate RAD-era sheetmetal: a Camaro IROC, Integra SE, Prelude 4WS, Ford F-250, and Accord SE, all from model years from 1986 through 1991. Our quick pit stop at the long-abandoned café in Desert Center, California, looked like something out of a ‘90s film.
One of the staggering achievements of the RADwood movement is the diversity of vehicles. Raddest in Show went to Brian Whalen, who earlier this year took his recently-acquired 1982 Ferrari 308 GTSi and drove it to the Arctic Circle and back. His Italian exotic rolled into RADwood wearing a proper coat of dirt, presumably carried back to the Lower 48 from the Dalton Highway north of Fairbanks. Whalen collected his award – themed in Nickelodeon-esque design — while the Come On Down theme song from The Price is Right played over the sound system.
The show sold out for exhibitor spots and attracted over 500 vehicles. Representation was strong from many regions of the world but, given the venue, especially for Japanese cars. Acura presented a “Raddest Integra” award to the owner of a modified third-generation “DC2” chassis coupe, channeling recognition of the Integra’s 35-year heritage as one of the brand’s pioneering models that is now set for a 2023 reboot.
Awards were also presented for Raddest Domestic (to a widened Fox-Body Ford Mustang), Raddest Import (Maserati Shamal), and Raddest Truck (Toyota pickup with a period-correct Honda 3-wheeler in the bed). To cap it off, there was a “best dressed” award allocated to the person who strutted their stuff most convincingly to Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy. Speaking of strutting stuff, RADwood also staged a break-dance competition.
It appears that RADwood has established itself and event leaders Art Cervantes and Bradley Brownell have enrolled sponsors and figure to roll out a series of sequels, sort of like Back to the Future, DeLorean and all.