On Saturday the world’s premier ‘80s and ‘90s era automotive festival—that’d be Radwood for the uninitiated—returned after a 19-month hiatus. Thanks to a high percentage of vaccinated locals, a huge outdoor venue, and sentimental value as the home of Radwood since 2017, the San Francisco peninsula was the site for a return to Rad. And what a rad show it was. Maybe the raddest one yet!
[Disclaimer: In case you don’t already know, I am one of the co-founders of Radwood. I will directly materially benefit if you buy a ticket or some merch. I am absolutely biased in favor of this show continuing to be a roaring success. It’s important to me that you know this information. But aside from the company being successful, I’m just so grateful to everyone who came to the show and made it a smash success]
Held at the San Mateo events center, the vibe was decidedly 1980s high school with boring beige municipal buildings and a big grass “quad” providing the setting for some of the most colorful and exciting cars of the era. Bright colors and eye-popping box flares were the name of the game that day, and it seemed like the entire world came out to see not only the cars but each other. The pandemic definitely isn’t over, but for many of us in attendance it was a nice opportunity to let our guard down for the first time in what seems like forever. We got our jabs, now we can party.
And party we did. This was officially the largest Radwood in history with a sold-out show field and literally thousands of spectator attendees. The enthusiasm was so fervent that the parking lot outside the event was perhaps even more full of era-appropriate cars than inside!
People came from all over the country, including a Jaguar driver car-camping across the country, running a zig-zag 6,000 mile trip to arrive at the entry gate, a Ferrari with a roof rack and Pennsylvania tags plus a cross-country-trip worth of road grime, and a pristine Volkswagen Scirocco shipped out from Chicago.
About a year ago Todd Lappin picked up this cutesy little Daihatsu Hijet fire truck from the port, and since then he’s been puttering around small bay area car shows playing music, sound effects, and a pre-recorded warning about an impending Godzilla attack (in Japanese) as an attempt to get people to smile with his diminutive lights flashing. True to form, he did exactly the same thing at Radwood, drawing cell phone captures from the gathered crowd and lighting up the faces of children and adults alike. Not only was the truck a smash hit with the crowd, but Todd’s infectious positive mental attitude earned him the prestigious Raddest In Show trophy. I’ve long said that you can’t buy a Radwood trophy, you can’t just bring an insanely rare and expensive car and expect to win, there has to be a story behind it, and this win typifies the result. Thank you for helping us deliver the good times, Todd!
Speaking of Good Times, Radwood’s infamous DJ of record has been spinning the tunes at West Coast car shows since the very beginning. This dude knows exactly the right time to play Send Me An Angel from the Rad movie soundtrack, and the right time to drop a sound effect during the trophy presentation.
As always, Radwood was a celebration of the obscure and incredible. With dozens of cars that make you wonder how they are still intact after all these years, or why someone felt the need to preserve them, the show is packed with moments that spin your head at the pure absurdity of it. How on earth does a clean Eagle Premier still exist?
Obviously I’d be at Radwood regardless, but the things like this are what keep my enthusiasm high. As someone who has been to every show, it’s easy to get jaded by high end sports cars or pristine Corvette ZR-1s, but I still geek out over a nicely kept Cavalier RS convertible or a beautiful 22R-TE-powered 80s Toyota Pickup running MKIII Supra turbine wheels. A gorgeous Maserati Biturbo with period-installed HRE mesh wheels gave me reason to salivate.
Of course there were homologation specials like a Ford Escort Cosworth or a Renault R5 Turbo II. And yeah, of course that stuff is cool, but when was the last time you saw a Fiat Ritmo convertible?
And that Ritmo has the best idiot lights in the game.
If this is indicative of what the rest of the Radwood show season is going to look like this year, I don’t think I’ll have a problem picking out some truly incredible cars from every show.
One of the show’s co-founders got a little choked up while thanking the crowd for making the show a great one during the trophy presentation on Saturday, and I can’t help but echo the sentiment. Radwood is all about the people, and it’s the people that make the cars great. We couldn’t do these shows without people actually coming out and having a great time, so that’s a testament to the community. We all came together to keep the enthusiasm alive.
We’ve all been through a lot in the last year and a half, and there were times that the Radwood crew didn’t know how we would keep the show going. I’m not going to lie to you, it got pretty dark. But now that we’re back we’re pretty sure there’s nothing that can stop us now! You people rock!