Radwood, the car show that celebrates the ’80s and ’90s, is proof that car culture is alive and well beyond the muscle car era. With more than 300 vehicles set against the backdrop of the Detroit River, the first Radwood in the Motor City exhibited the greatness that happens when gearheads of all stripes assemble. Any car from qualifying years is welcome with paid admission, from Fiestas to Ferraris, and perfect preservations to beat-up daily drivers. Take the easygoing vibe of a Cars and Coffee, make it a lot bigger, and add in neon clothes and hairspray, and you’ll get idea of what Radwood is like. For the rest, we have a bunch of photos taken on the scene to help paint the mental picture.
Now closing out its third year, Radwood has expanded from a pair of shows in 2017 to 10 this year including a trip to the United Kingdom. If there’s one thing that’s helped bring about that success, it’s the egalitarian nature of Radwood compared to other car shows. You can pay a higher admission fee for “Radwood Royalty” if you car is deemed interesting enough to warrant high-visibility parking (in this case, right next to the river). Everyone else lines up in order of arrival in the main paddock. There are no classes, no special sections, and no credence given to a car’s value. You park wherever, next to whatever. There was, perhaps, no better way to illustrate this than a Dodge Dakota pickup — that looked downright scary to drive — parked in front of a Ferrari 456 GT and next to a Ferrari 400i.
The intermingling is intentional, explains Radwood co-founder Bradley Brownell. “We don’t want people to stay in their own groups. We want the Subaru SVX owner next to a Camaro so they’ll both see something new, and probably realize they have a lot in common.” It makes the show better for attendees as well, because the variety keeps things fresh as you walk through the field, with a new discovery in every row. Towards the end of the show, awards are given by the organizers in several categories with “Raddest in Show” being the top honor. Here, too, Radwood was refreshingly casual. The winning cars lined up near the DJ tent, awards were handed out to minor fanfare and applause, and everyone continued about their business.
If there was one surprise from Radwood Detroit, it was the under-representation of local metal. Nissan Skyline GT-Rs outnumbered Fox Body cars. The Detroit Metro area has plenty of gems manufactured by the Big Three during these two decades, as any trip along Woodward Avenue in August will demonstrate, so it’s puzzling why so few showed up to Radwood. Dodge Vipers were out in force, however, bolstered by official representation from FCA, which brought out the original Viper concept and the M4S Turbo Interceptor made famous by the movie The Wraith. Volkswagen also joined with the corporate support, sponsoring a Corrado Corral in honor of the coupe’s 30th birthday.
Another other big piece of the Radwood experience is fashion, much in the way that owners dress in period clothing at a more traditional concours event. An unexpectedly hot September day meant that the flannels and torn jeans of ’90s grunge were scarce, while ’80s short shorts were just a little too common. Some pieces of the past, like overexposed hairy legs, are better off forgotten. But for everything else, even the humble Plymouth Reliant station wagon, Radwood is here to keep the automotive dream of the ’80s and ’90s alive.