Radical rides of the ‘80s and ‘90s get their own moment at Radwood

Radwood, a car-centric festival that highlights the good, bad and rad cars, clothes and culture from 80s' and ‘90s offers a wholly different feel than a traditional vintage car show.
Radwood Detroit 2019.

It may be 2019, but the ‘90s are slowly returning to the spotlight. Choker necklaces, fanny packs and neon jackets are now ubiquitous at shopping malls. Similarly, 90s cars are getting another chance in the limelight, thanks in large part to Radwood.

Radwood, a car-centric festival that highlights the good, bad and rad cars, clothes and culture from the ’80s and ‘90s offers a wholly different feel than a traditional vintage car show. Attendees forego the blazer and button-down look for multicolor track jackets and flannel.

Co-founder Bradley Brownell in his “rad” period attire. (Photo provided by Bradley Brownell)

Launched in 2017, the event highlights an often ignored and underappreciated period of cars – and its popularity has struck a chord, especially Generation X enthusiasts.

“We decided that the cars that we grew up with – the cars that we were familiar with – were the ones we were most interested in because they were, frankly, what we owned. There was really nowhere for them to exist in the car show sphere,” says Bradley Brownell, one of the show’s co-founders. “They were excluded from general car culture.”

The scene at Radwood LA 2018. (Photo by Matt Brown)

Brownell and four other co-founders – all self-proclaimed enthusiasts and automotive podcast creators – began laying the groundwork for the first Radwood event in 2016. After minimal promotion on social media and through word of mouth, the first event was held in June 2017.

Inspired by a popular three-day motor racing event in the United Kingdom, Brownell and company embraced the music and culture of the era, encouraged spectators to show up in “rad” period attire and awarded prizes to best-dressed attendees. “Back then, we held the show for ourselves and our friends at a local park in San Francisco,” he said. “As luck would have it, 250 cars showed up. That’s when we knew we had something on our plate.”

Radwood Detroit 2019.

The co-founders host on average one car show a month in different cities across the country, including Austin, Boston and Detroit, with an average of 300 cars appearing per show. They held their first international show in the UK this past year.

So why did Brownell and his comrades want to spotlight these overlooked models? “The reason we love these cars,” Brownell explained, is that “they are advanced enough to be reliable and easy to drive, but simple enough that you can still work on them in your own garage.”

Radwood Detroit 2019.