An auto show for Raddest cars from the 80s and 90s

Everything was awesome. The music was cool, the movies were great, and the hair was big. Cars? Rad, yesterday and today. Maybe espec...


Everything was awesome. The music was cool, the movies were great, and the hair was big. Cars? Rad, yesterday and today. Maybe especially now.

Cars in the ’80s and’ 90s were boxy and wacky, futuristic, and often a little funky. Then came a new millennium and the Internet age, and the previous two decades quickly felt outdated. Eventually, all those “Back to the Future” angles gave way to cars with more timeless and slanted silhouettes. The coolest cars of the ’80s and’ 90s – the DeLoreans and Countachs, Audi’s Quattro and Nissan’s 300ZX – are gone like a Marty McFly photo.

But with time comes nostalgia, and Gen Xers and Millennials move on in their lives and careers, with greater ability to spend on a hobby like collecting cars. And so, the forgotten cars they grew up with gain new respect and drive up the prices.

A group called RADwood has tapped into that vein, hosting auto shows with a touch of cosplay costume throughout the year and across the country. The goal is to capture “the essence of a bodacious era,” as its website puts it. The shows, he says, are “a celebration of the 80s and 90s lifestyle, mixing proper period attire with automotive genius.”

Art Cervantes, founder and CEO of RADwood, said he decided to celebrate all cars from that era. “Things started with an announcement on ‘Driving while being awesome‘podcast (whose hosts are three of RADwood’s five founding members) in the spring of 2017, “he said via email. The name and concept are a game on the Goodwood revival, an annual festival outside of London that highlights a different era, from the mid-1940s to 1966, and another slice of the automotive world: British racing.

The RADwood team’s plan at the start was simple: “Take your 80s and 90s cars to a San Francisco Bay park and dress the part,” said Cervantes. (Think acid-washed jeans rolled up to the ankle; neon makeup; and huge hair.)

“To everyone’s surprise,” he said, “150 cars and 500 people showed up. “

This first RADwood in 2017 struck a chord. However, Mr. Cervantes was unaware at the time that they had helped initiate “a major generational change in automotive culture,” he said.

RADwood has expanded to many metropolitan areas in the United States, as well as a salon in Britain, and its average attendance is around 3,500 people, Cervantes said. The group has plans for 10 shows in the US next year, with smaller events appearing at other major auto festivals.

Its biggest event took place just before the pandemic hit, in February 2020 in Austin, Texas: more than 700 cars and 7,000 people. The pandemic has cut off momentum and this year’s events have been curtailed. The company has also held back its growth plans, including expanding its auction site for cars and memorabilia, which it intends to focus more on at the end of the year.

With all this attention, in some circles, “RADwood” is a slogan symbolizing the most popular rides of that time.

Colin Pan was at a RADwood show near Seattle in September. “When I was in automotive design school, major auto shows were either big budget product launch events or high end classic cars with a high entry level,” he said. declared. All of the shows focused on the RADwood era were “small gatherings of a particular group or brand,” he added.

Credit…Colin Pan

But at the September show and elsewhere, “most of the people who own these cars are my age, in the 20s-40s group,” said Mr. Pan, a 32-year-old industrial designer who lives in Paris. Gig Harbor, Wash.

“Many buy cars for nostalgic reasons,” he said. “But the cars of this era are just starting to be seen as classics, but still modern enough to be understood and worked on.”

Mr. Pan has owned several rad cars, including his current price, a 1992 Toyota Starlet GT Turbo which was sold for the Japanese market. He bought it, for $ 3,000 in 2020, in stock. The Starlet was Mr. Pan’s pandemic lockdown project, he said, and he rigged it to make it fit for racing.

The cars that turn heads at RADwood aren’t everyone’s cup of New Coke. Cody Redfern’s 1986 Subaru XT Turbo Coupe is affectionately known as “Wonder Wedge. “There are more angles than a high school geometry test.

Credit… Tuan Huynh

“When I first saw this car, it made me nostalgic,” said Mr. Redfern, a 33-year-old auto parts store associate and movie buff from Everett, Wash.

“Honestly, I love everything about cars from the 80s and 90s,” he said, “especially the JDM community,” for the Japanese domestic market. His first exposure, he said, was the movie “Fast and the Furious” in 2001, prompting him to grab a key.

Mr. Redfern likes the quirky mix of rad-era cars; he is part of a younger community of car enthusiasts who have a passion for these vehicles for their weirdness and unique characteristics.

“You can see cars driven daily, exotic cars and supercars,” he said. At RADwood, he said, “Everyone is there to show off the cars we grew up with with a little love.

Kyle Saito’s favorite generation of cars fits RADwood’s mission. He owns “a 1980 Datsun 720 pickup truck project vehicle and a 1995 Isuzu Trooper,” said Mr. Saito, who is 36 and lives in Seattle. It also has a custom 1991 right hand drive Nissan Patrol off-road SUV.

He started working on cars in his high school auto shop and has been passionate about it ever since.

“The 1980s ushered in the era of high-powered, turbocharged, fuel-injected racing cars,” said Saito, who spent a decade working on cars. He is now an engineer for Amazon’s drone delivery program and works at a start-up making gun accessories.

RADwood, he added, “helps preserve not only the vehicles of those eras, but also contributes to the preservation, education and sentiment of the times.”

While many vehicles from the ’80s and’ 90s can be bought for a song, Mr. Saito’s four-wheel-drive, shift-lever Nissan Patrol cost him $ 21,000 two years ago – in fair condition. Prices start to climb as these cars become collectibles instead of just ‘used’. And he did a substantial job to bring it up to modern standards. It cleaned and repaired its bodywork, added performance and suspension upgrades, and even outfitted the interior to get through the night.

“RADwood vehicles,” he said, “not only makes me feel nostalgic, but also a sense of pride and respect to be a part of these important decades of vehicle development and styling. “

Casey Rhodes, an aerospace technician from Portland, Ore., Had planned to attend the Seattle area show but was unable to. He said he supported the whole RADwood vibe.

“I have always liked cars built in the 80s and 90s,” said Mr. Rhodes, who passes by the krustykaddy on Instagram. “The ’80s just appealed to me with their looks and sound, not to mention the fat body look of those years.”

The RADwood era spawned long-standing classics like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Nike’s Air Jordans. “It was a classic decade for cars,” also said Mr. Rhodes, who at 26 comes to his nostalgia for a different age group.

“My first two cars,” he said, “were a 1986 Chevrolet C10 Silverado and a few years later a 1996 Lexus SC. The vehicles are 10 years old and worlds apart.

But soon the Volkswagen virus would bite the family. His father would share stories about his 1980s Volkswagen Golf Mk1. His older brother bought a 1983 Rabbit GTI. So, in March 2019, Mr. Rhodes bought a barely working 1981 VW Rabbit pickup for $ 2,700 – in a field where he was left to die.

Credit…Casey rhodes

“After the purchase I was so excited that I went to a local meetup,” he said. However, he forgot to check the oil, coolant, and other relevant items.

It turned out that the oil level was low and there was no coolant in the reservoir. In addition, only two lug nuts were retained on each wheel. The exhaust system quickly fell off on the way back.



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