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On the ground at Radwood Detroit

Published in blog.hemmings.com

All photos by the author.

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.

Dodge Dakota parked next to two Ferraris Radwood Detroit 2019

Yes, a Ferrari behind and next to a Dodge Dakota with a rusty A-pillar is one reason why Radwood is great.

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.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Subaru SVX Chevy Camaro

You don’t see to many Subaru SVXs any more. Seeing two next to a 3rd-gen Camaro is even more unlikely.

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.

Radwood Detroit Dodge Viper Concept M4S

Dodge brought out several museum cars, including these two very different concepts.

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.

Plymouth Reliant K Radwood Detroit 2019

If you can find a better wagon, buy it!

Saleen Mustang Nissan 300ZX Radwood Detroit

The hair metal wig completes the period-correct look of the Saleen Mustang.

Camaro Mazda Volkswagen Radwood Detroit 2019

A rare Camaro sighting amidst representatives from Japan and Europe.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Peugeot Volkswagen Alfa Romeo Chevy Nova

Another picture illustrating the eclectic array of machines at a Radwood.

Radwood Detroit 2019

Radwood doesn’t care if your paint is faded or if you shipped your car from Japan. Just show up and have a good time.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Top Gun Tribute motorcycle

Bikes are also welcome at Radwood, like this Top Gun Kawasaki Ninja tribute.

Toyota Matster Ace Surf Radwood Detroit 2019

Whether it was the “Master Ace Surf” name or the skylight roof that drew people in, this JDM Toyota minivan got plenty of attention all day.

Toyota Tacoma Radwood Detroit 2019

A Toyota Pickup this clean is both amazing for surviving and sad for not being used.

Toyota MR2 Pontiac Fiero Radwood Detroit 2019

A Toyota MR2 parked next to its domestic rival, the Pontiac Fiero. Only this Fiero contains a V8 swap.

BMW M3 Radwood Detroit 2019

Despite the excellent condition, this pair of BMW M3s seemed almost ordinary compared the rest of the weirdness at the show.

Dodge Stealth Toyota AE86 Radwood Detroit 2019

Another pair of cars rarely seen in modern times: A Dodge Stealth and a Toyota Sprinter Trueno (also known as a Toyota Corolla in the U.S.)

Nissan Skyline GT-R Spec V R34 Radwood Detroit 2019

This R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R Spec V is one of the 14 modified for legal importation by Motorex in the early 2000s.

BMW M6 Jagermeister Radwood Detroit 2019

Completing the look with genuine three-piece BBS wheels.

Toyota Century Radwood Detroit 2019

The Toyota Century is the Japanese equivalent of a Rolls-Royce.

A Shelby GLHS and a Lotus Espirit are given equal treatment at Radwood.

Dodge Viper Chevrolet Camaro Mitsubishi Galant Wagon Radwood Detroit 2019

Yet another example of the strange and exciting mix of cars you’ll see at Radwood.

Autozam AZ-1 Suzuki Alto Works Radwood Detroit 2019

A few Japanese micro cars showed up, including this Autozam AZ-1 and the Suzuki Alto Works next to it.

Isuzu Vehicross Radwood Detroit 2019

Yes, that’s an Isuzu Vehicross.

BMW 325i convertible Ford Bronco II Radwood Detroit 2019

This pair makes a pretty good two-car garage.

BMW M3 lightweight dominos pizza radwood detroit 2019

A Domino’s Pizza delivery light on top of a BMW M3 Lightweight.

Oldmobile Achieva Honda Beat Honda Odyssey Radwood Detroit 2019

I was genuinely excited to park my Honda Beat next to an Oldsmobile Achieva.

Ford Mustang LX Nissan Skyline GT-R Radwood Detroit 2019

Proof that horsepower is a universal language.

TC by Maserati Chevy Celebrity Pontiac Grand Prix Buick Roadmaster Radwood Detroit 2019

A quartet of American iron stood out in a show that had a surprising amount of European and Japanese cars considering the setting.

Yamaha XT motorcylce Buick Roadmaster Radwood Detroit 2019

When you need to bring a car and bike, the Buick Roadmaster is an excellent choice.

Radwood Detroit 2019 C4 Corvette For Sale

Even the spectator parking lot got in on the action, with the Corvette sporting a Radwood-themed For Sale sign.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Pontiac 6000 wagon

Excellent wheels on a Pontiac 6000LE wagon.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Lincoln LSC

A hot rod Lincoln can take many forms.

Radwood Detroit 2019 Volkswagen Corrado

A corral of Corrados.

Radwood Detroit Honda Acty Jeep Cherokee BMW 5 series Mini Cooper Dodge Daytona Iroc-Z

You never know what you’ll see at a Radwood show.