Event Report – Radwood LA 2018 Part 1: Revival
Automotive enthusiasm inevitably skews towards opacity. The machines themselves are complex but their appeal is often similarly nuanced. A shapeless torpoedo with a leather helmet peaking out atop spindly bicycle tires might not impress the uninitiated despite creating ripples of influence, significance, and value for generations of collectors. A slab-sided and chiseled slice of car reminds most onlookers of a doorstop while only a select few see a triumph of engineering that adorned the walls of their childhood bedrooms and were immortally captured in daydreams.
Friends and family of enthusiasts have endured lectures on the historicity of an obsolete model or gushing enthusiasm for the potency of a notable gizmo bolted to a particular engine. Motorheads are grateful for the patience but wouldn’t it be better if we could share the hobby outside our insular community in more context and style? A solution: the revival car show.
Car shows have included period correct culture as long as oldies like Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys crooned over parking lots full of GTOs and Bel Airs. Classic car enthusiast have always scoured classifieds and swap meets for the right original accessories to match their rides. But these are mere concessions to ambiance compared to the transformative atmosphere of Goodwood Revival.
Since 1998, Goodwood Circuit has banned modern vehicles from their grounds for the long weekend of Revival and replaced them with not just the cars of 1948-1966 but all the trappings of the era they can bring to bear. Theatrical sets, antique airplanes, and a pedal-car race for the kids are enjoyed by merrymakers almost entirely dressed in vintage clothing. It requires the journalistic lens of a photog like Amy Shore to highlight the absolute transformation.
This legendary event was without rival in commitment until a challenger appeared in California, USA: Radwood.
As each successive generation grows into some disposable income the thrills of their youth become attainable. In recent years television, film, and music have all catered to the nostalgia for the ’80s through ’90s and the world of cars is no different. Previously controversial opinions are slowly muttered louder and less sheepishly:
“Maybe Fox-body Mustangs are cool.”
“I really wish I hadn’t sold that 240SX I drove in high school…”
“944s are real Porsches!”
One-time teenage beaters have now grown rare and are commanding eyebrow-raising prices. Formerly undesirable cars steal attention from their older brothers at many car shows and cars and coffees. Those of us who have harbored secret adoration for the boxy bombers of yestercentury couldn’t be more excited.
A group of these young enthusiasts committed their love for the cars of the 1980s and 1990s to a small car show in Northern California and called it Radwood. Spurred on by the virality of social media word spread and successive events were planned. Enthusiasts rescued ignored and preserved cars from the Nixon, Bush, and Clinton administrations to bring to the celebrations. Lovable econo-boxes lined up next to angular sport sedans with a healthy dose of vibrant tuner culture sprinkled about.
Radwood was immediately Revival-ized. Fanny packs and spandex still filled thrift shops and closets, why not wear them to add a punchline to the love for the era? A vintage bumper sticker, a boombox with dozens of little switches, or a BMX bike might all find their way onto or into the back of an ’80s Corolla or BMW on its way to a Rad event. The DJ spinning Gen X oldies guarantees the vibe. Radwood may be a car show but the vehicles present are just the nucleus of everything in the rad orbit.
Like Goodwood Revival, the theme lays out such a visual feast that you could ignore the cars and still be entertained. Some of the visitors almost do! Most people think it’s crazy to rise early on a weekend to stand in a parking lot discussing the finer points of mechanical fuel injection versus carburetion. But Radwood is different… Radwood has skateboarding, dancing, a costume contest, and more. These attractions aren’t distractions. It’s not as if two disparate events occupied the same space. The day is imbued with a gleeful surrender to the shared experience. Months of watching eBay or classifieds for vintage branded merchandise goes into Radwood costumes. A boombox that unnecessarily survived hundreds of dump runs is now a literal trophy!
Radwood’s Revival-esque attributes still pale in comparison to the total commitment of Goodwood’s homage to their own golden years. But each successive Radwood event has brought more participation and creativity to the thematic elements and even as the brand becomes more commercial the creativity is still grassroots. Radwood LA 2018 likely saw over half of the attendees in costume, an organized skateboarding area as well as unplanned BMX tricks, and spontaneous dance parties around a perfectly period mini truck with a kickin’ sound system. It was enjoyed by a great many car enthusiasts but with more variety of age, gender, and inclination than I’ve seen at any other event like it. I’m sure that Radwood will always gather some of my favorite cars in existence but I hope it embraces its Rennaissance Fair spirit and continues to bring in the car-agnostic spectators who love the colorful displays. Perhaps some of them will see these cars – or cars in general – in a new and more approachable light, someday becoming enthusiasts themselves. But if they don’t? That’s almost as good. Sharing our cars and passions in a more inclusive way will keep classic cars relevant and desirable for another generation.
Click on the gallery below for the images in this post and more. Follow me @merriman.motors for regular car photography!