Put On Your Neon Windbreaker, We’re Going To Road Atlanta For Radwood
Story and photography by Kevin Barrett
Everyone has their favorite decade. For some it’s diner-era America full of Bel Airs, chrome, and hair product. Others might prefer ‘60s Italy and a red GT with a trunk full of wine. Then there are the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a decade plus of opulence, garishness, car phones, and triple-white AMGs. Netflix shows, synth-based pop music, “retro” clothing, and the so-called vaporwave movement have all paid homage to this era as of late, and when it comes to cars the buck stops at Radwood.
The event that began in California came east last weekend and brought a bevy of windbreakers and MTV music video style to Road Atlanta in conjunction with GridLife South. The car scene in Atlanta is a populous one, but outside of our Caffeine & Octane there isn’t that much in the way of a relaxed-atmosphere classic car show. We have the Mitty, Amelia Island isn’t far away, but those events aren’t exactly fresh meat these days.
Sprinkled across the oven-temp tarmac of the Road Atlanta infield, the fourth edition of Radwood brought all the ‘80s and ‘90s goodness and gaudiness from sunny California to sunny Georgia. Taking the standard car show format to a new level in a Goodwood Revival-style mixture of period correct fashion and music, Radwood builds a complete package, and if you squint hard enough at your Casio calc watch you could swear it was 1987 all over again.
Even those who didn’t bring their own car were dressed in their best ‘80s and ‘90s clothing. The bright pink palm tree shirts matched well with the Twin Turbo AE85 Corolla for instane. Sitting adjacent to that scene, a man dressed as Freddie Mercury leans confidently against his Curva Red Acura NSX. Parked behind it—my personal favorite of the show—is a crisp, white Porsche 964 Carrera 2. Who doesn’t love color-matched monoblock wheels? Just a few cars away from that Porsche were the “Keen Project” rally 911s, one of which was absolutely daubed with mud. Rally and Safari 911s have enjoyed immense popularity over the last few years, time will tell whether or not they have much staying power.
Even though those cars may not have been around on the street back then, they represent the “driver” status of the cars that come to Radwood; these are not the type that get towed here, and you’re more likely to find the same ones lugging groceries and dropping friends off at work the next day on your local college campus. The crowd is slanted to the youth here, as you might expect, but surely if Grandpa Local wants to bring his old Turbo Slant he’d be welcomed with open, gold-watch-wearing arms.
Toyota Supras, Nissan Skylines, the ever-present BMW E30s, Toyota Corollas, and Porsche 944 Turbos are sought after cars by those who grew up with them, but also by those born after their time who are looking for an analog driving experience without dipping back far enough to deal with Lucas electrical systems and finicky carbs—there’s a significant degree of separation between cars like an MGB, a Celica Supra, and a modern Whatever.
From my vantage point, a college-aged car enthusiast, shows like Radwood are the perfect answer to how the younger generations in the car community will progress the concept of the car show. Radwood celebrates the increasingly popular ‘80s and ‘90s automotive scene, and does so with just the right mixture of seriously cool cars and irreverence. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine my peers ever being interested in pre-war cars, but if shows like Radwood continue, I don’t think there will ever be a time in which hair bands, cassette tapes, and the Subaru SVX are forgotten.