If you haven’t heard of Radwood by now you’re missing out on a pretty significant movement that’s only partly driven by tongue-in-cheek nostalgia. The traveling car show celebrating the 1980s and 1990s might look like a big joke if you’re comparing turquoise leg warmers and Gullwing’d AMGs to the prim outfits and wire wheels that constitute the views at the Goodwood Revival that semi-inspired all of this, but once you look through the veneer of neon jackets and briefcases brimming with fake drug money you’ll find a group of genuinely knowledgeable people celebrating an important era of the automobile while managing to completely rid the party of all pretense.
In the past, one could always find a group of enthusiasts wanting to indulge in the less-than-serious side of the expensive hobby we call “cars,” but these scenes were mostly limited to local groups or required more involved undertakings to participate—body-rolling a Lincoln Continental around a track for the 24 Hours of Lemons takes more prep than driving to a parking lot show like this one.
Only at an event like Radwood will you find a Lancia Delta S4 adjacent to a candy-painted Suburban sitting on blades and packing a few hundred pounds of hi-fi. Literally backed up to one another, not ten feet between them; the Delta exposing a turbo-and-supercharged engine flanked by twin-shock suspension, the big Chevy displaying a fanned array of amplifiers mounted to a carpeted wall where the rear bench used to be. I’m not sure where else these two would find each other, and despite the obvious mismatch in purpose and provenance, I found it impossible to find an angle of the Chevy where it wasn’t blocked by the group of people perpetually gathered around it.
You might assume that this is a show for younger people—the type for whom the 1980s is a fun idea for a costume party instead a period of time in which people actually lived while not driving around in a Countach, but rather a malaise-errific Buick with three hubcaps—but unless a bunch of Silicon Valley whiz kids brought their supercars and their parents with them to the Petersen Automotive Museum’s rooftop this past Sunday, it’s safe to say this is not a crowd bound by age on either side. On one end are the more recently licensed enthusiasts among us who brought their Miatas and M3s and Integras into the mix, but then you’ve got the people who have owned these very same cars since they were new, or else have just acquired them after decades of longing for them. It’s not news to point out the growing popularity of ’80s and ’90s sports and specialty vehicles—easily expressed in price levels over time, but also by the existence of Radwood itself—but what’s interesting about this shift is the attitude that its wrapped in. It feels much more lighthearted, more prone to self-deprecation in place of boasting, less concerned with trying to outdo anyone and everyone else.
Attending the more established and prestigious classic car events might give you access to the 250 GTOs and the Porsche 917s of the world, but it can all feel a bit too serious, stifled by way of egos and histories that’ve been retread enough times to make even the most awesome machinery feel a bit boring somehow. This is not meant to cast shade on that world—cars like those mentioned above are revered for damn good reason—but it’s a world that stands as a perfect piece of contrast to Radwood all the same.