This won’t come as a surprise to any of you, but cars from the ’80s and ’90s are a Thing, with a capital T but not a Volkswagen Thing although that is also a thing and also made up into the ’80s and we kinda want one and oh sorry, let’s bring it back to the point, Radwood. What is it?
You know what the Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed are, right? The retro automotive events held on the Goodwood estate in Sussex where original Ford GT40s and weirdo British racing cars from the ’30s with names like Bantam and Twiddlelark (we made that up) race against each other and people dress up and it is very charming? Well Radwood is like that, only with more spandex and derated engines. The first Radwood show took place in Brisbane, California in early 2017, and the second, Radwood2, was held in Anaheim, CA in the beginning of December. The show overflowed the bounds of the venue, with Deloreans, Datsuns, and even Ferraris lining the streets and parking lots outside. Inside was big hair, neon swoop covered sweatshirts, and all the plastic and velour interior trim pieces you could hope for. Car-wise, of course there were more Deloreans, and lots of BMWs, and an amazing wide-arsed turbo Renault. Volvos were well represented, including Jesse Coss’ off-road machine recently featured here on Roadkill. The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah brought four cars. Our favorite was the Fox-body Mustang with an interior made of weightlifter pants (not really, but maybe).
The crowd was about equally mixed between dressed-up and in regular clothes, although we have to admit to not being sure if some of the Porsche and Ferrari guys were in costume as gold-chain d-bags or just, you know, dressed normally. Music was full-on ’80s-on-8, and there was a killer BMX bike stunt-off that had all the little kids at the show as enraptured as we were seeing such things back in the day. Awards went out to best dressed (Roadkill.com contributor Lyn Woodward whoop whoop), best accessory (suitcase full of fake coke that got the owner a thorough pat-down at the airport), and of course best Japanese, best European, best American, and so on. Those were won by some great cars, although some of our personal favorites didn’t take home any official prizes. We’d give the Roadkill awards to the Subaru Brat, the K-Car Chrysler which still said, “the door is ajar,” at you, and the red and white ’93 Cummins Turbo Diesel. We need the transmission out of that for Elana’s truck.
The show was huge, and to the outside observer, blossomed out of nothing, but it’s been in the works for a long time. We spoke with one of the organizers, auto journalist Bradley Brownell to learn more about the development of Radwood.
RK: BRADLEY! DID YOU INVENT THIS? Sorry, no more shouting.
BB: I was one of the major driving forces. There are four of us pushing it. A friend mentioned that he wanted to see an American Goodwood. Sure. Radwood was started by myself, Rick Deacon, Art Cervantes, and Lane Skelton. We all host podcasts (Driving While Awesome!, Clutchkick, and Cammed & Tubbed). We’re all fanatics of ’80s and ’90s cars already: they’re modern cars that are still relatively simple to work on and provide an ‘analog’ driving experience, we gelled with that idea. The way I’ve been saying it, Goodwood covers an era that is very British. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, America was importing culture in the form of soldiers coming back from war, British invasion music, pop culture, etc. In the 80s and 90s, America was much more of a culture exporter. We had big and brash styles, color palettes, and more. What better era to encapsulate American culture than the Radwood era? The name is, quite obviously, a tongue-in-cheek play on Goodwood. We definitely revere what they’ve done with that event, and hope to one day be as big as that one has become.
RK: Do you think the interest also has to do with a group of car enthusiasts who have way less connection to the earlier stuff? The audience at the show was definitely youngish, although I saw plenty of grey hair in the crowd as well.
BB: Yeah. Aside from the fact that few folks my age know how to tune a carburetor, these are definitely the cars we grew up loving. I went to a Hot Rod show when I was 16 and was immediately bored by belly button 3-window fiberglass rods and 69 Camaros. We try to cultivate the show from wide sections of the era enthusiasts.
RK: There’s a big 24 hours of Lemons thing happening in it too, partially because so many cars of that era are (and I say this with love) total garbage, and probably also because there’s still an element of as you say, tongue in cheek, about celebrating the ’80s and ’90s. Do you think that will stay a part of it, or as it develops will we see more like, F40s and Group B Rally cars rather than wood paneled K-cars? Or maybe I should ask, would you want to see that happen?
BB: Well, we had two Testarossas at this event. I think that it would take the right owner who gets it. We would love to have Countach, F40, Porsche 959, etc, but if the owners are too uptight to enjoy the tongue in cheek aspect, we probably don’t want them there.
RK: We know the winners of prizes, but was there anything you loved personally that didn’t get an official award?
BB: I was a sucker for the Renault 5 Turbo, but he left before the awards were given out. Also, the guys dressed at the Wyld Stallyns were pretty great.
RK: What is next for Radwood? Will you do Radwood shows around the country or keep it SoCal only so it is a pilgrimage like Goodwood? Think there’s ever a possibility of adding a driving portion in?
BB: We’re planning to add a 500 Mile Touring Rally to the schedule next year. We want to find a location to host a hill climb in year three. We’ve discussed events in Detroit, Miami, and NYC, but nothing is finalized yet.
RK: Where can people go to find out more/send you annoying messages demanding you come to their home town?
RK: Last question. What car wasn’t there that you would love to see at a future event?
BB: Syclone / Typhoon
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