By on September 1, 2021

Tim Healey/TTAC

This past weekend, I braved the oppressive heat and attended Radwood Chicago.

For those that don’t know, Radwood is a car show that focuses on vehicles from the ’80s and ’90s.

It also apparently has a lifestyle component, as some folks attended in period-correct dress, and a cover band belted out ’80s and ’90s tunes. When the band took a break, the music didn’t, as studio recordings of hits from the era played over the loudspeakers.

(A note on disclosures: Radwood did NOT provide me or TTAC with any considerations — I decided to attend on my own dime. I wasn’t even sure I’d write a post on it. Now that I have, maybe my bosses will let me expense my attendance…Ahem. Also, I found out that I know at least two folks who showed cars at the event.)

This won’t be your usual car-show story. It’s not a write-up of who won awards — I only remember a clean Ford Taurus SHO taking Best Domestic and a Chrysler Cordoba winning the whole thing.

Tim Healey/TTAC

No, my argument here is that we need more shows that follow in the footsteps of Radwood and tap into a niche that doesn’t get as much love.

I am not saying I don’t love car shows that include the same old muscle cars and chromed sedans the Boomers grew up with or shows that round up really old iron like a Model T. Those shows are great, too, and I hope younger generations keep those cars show-worthy.

Tim Healey/TTAC

That said, how many cars did I see at Radwood that would also show up at, say, Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals? Not many. Maybe one or two.

The range here included a Buick Riveria, several RHD Nissan Skylines, a Mitsubishi 3000GT, an old-school Toyota Supra, one or two Acura NSXs, a stock Honda Prelude, a Chevrolet Celebrity — if it was built in the 1980s or 1990s and driveable, apparently you could show it. Regardless of condition or aftermarket modifications.

Tim Healey/TTAC

That was the other cool thing about the show — the bar for entry seemed low. As far as I can tell, with one exception — a curated event upcoming in Greenwich, Connecticut (where else?) — if you have a car from the ’80s or ’90s, you can show it. I’d love to see that ease of entry at more shows, too.

But regardless of whether a show has a low bar for entry or a high one, it’s interesting to see a new niche explored.

Tim Healey/TTAC

So for Radwood, it’s all about the Eighties and Nineties — Fox bodies and Nissan Zs and Japanese sports coupes and Jeeps. Maybe the next show could revolve around cars from the Aughts? Or even mine some rare gems from the otherwise malaise 1970s?

The categories and eras don’t matter — I am just glad to see a car show that went beyond chrome and Corvettes.

The more car shows that cover more genres and/or eras, the better, I say.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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33 Comments on “Opinion: We Need More Niche Car Shows...”


  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Radwood?

    More like “Acme Malaise”.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      That should be a question of the day.
      What’s the ultimate malaise car?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        If it were a “worse car”, I’d say Vega, but as far as just being the automotive embodiment of the period, I’m going to say the Ford Granada. The name alone makes me think of ugly, wide ties and news stories counting how many days the hostages had been held in Iran.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        @Lou_BC, saw your comment in the “Recent Comments” section and the first thing that instantly popped into my head was the Ford Futura. [Then came here and saw Art’s Granada nomination – very strong.]

        Would want to ponder more before voting. (Poking around looking up Futura details, Mercury Zephyr in the right model year would also be a strong contender. So homely.)

  • avatar
    ajla

    “I’d love to see that ease of entry at more shows, too.”

    Are there a lot of restricted shows around you? Most of the ones I’ve gone to in my life are open to anything as long as you pay some nominal entry fee.

    “It also apparently has a lifestyle component”

    I’m not sure if Millennial 80s Cosplay Weekend is major improvement over Boomer Jimmy Buffett Cosplay Weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Hey, as a Parrothead, I resent that! Lol.

      Maybe I was wrong, but I thought a lot of shows were curated.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      I own a 1977 Chevelle…. the forgotten one.. yeah the one you never hear about. A lot of the ‘Chevelle’ groups only cater to the 64-72 crowd, or they’ll do 64-72 and 78-87 Chevelle/Malibu only.

      Or some events are pre 72 only, or post ’80.

      When you have a Disco-rod it gets kinda annoying to have to be told your car doesn’t fit the show. Now I have shown it, and it gets a lot of looks especially since it’s a 4 door and I let people sit in it and marvel in it’s 70s glory green interior. I’ve even won my class with it, which is delicious when it pisses off some perfectly restored pony car or muscle car with my ratty sedan that carries no pretense of sportyness…. like the vast majority of the daily drivers of the time did.

      I would do Radwood if I had my 86 Pontiac 6000-STE and it’s Darth Vader bathroom digital dash, heck, I’ve won 1st in class with my 95 Explorer at one show… I entered it for the hell of it, getting ready to head out for a week long vacation to Colorado so it was packed and ready to go after the show. 1st and only time I ever showed it.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    I think this is why ‘Cars & Coffee’ type events have sprung up all over the place. Formal concours and marque specific events are fine, but the informal, weekend morning events (which, to be frank, did start as mostly classics and exotics, but quickly moved into ‘anything interesting’) really broadened the reach of car shows. And with events like Radwood and the now locally long-running Japanese Classic Car Show, those previously underserved genres have enough momentum to have their own shows.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Look what they’ve done to my car!”

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Tim, I agree! I certainly love the classic musclecars from the 60s – even though I was really little back then – but if you go to as many shows as we have, the content can get repetitive. The cars of the 80s are important as they were the springboard out of Malaise. Some brands were at their apogee in the 90s (yeah, Honda I’m looking at you…Ford, too). Yet most of these cars are ignored at the typical show. I would gladly support a show like this. IIRC, the TV show “Overhaulin” was being relaunched with cars of this era…so either there is real interest building in these cars or they just got tired of fixing 60’s era rust…

  • avatar

    From nostalgia point of view I like cars from 90s. Automotive design from 90s was the best. And I don’t like muscle cars from 60s. Music wise I like music from 80s. 90s were Seattle era grunge – too depressing and dark for me though I like some bands from that era like Alice in Chain, Sound Garden and Pearl Jam.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I believe the 90s was peak car with respect to design. I’m also there on peak music. I assume most people feel that way about the period in which they spent their young adulthood though. The wall had come down, the internet was still this new thing and there was so much optimism…it was just a great time to be alive.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        As a high schooler from the late 80s a car show from that era appeals to me. While I understand the love for true classic cars I have no reference point for them and find most to be boring land yachts. Where as an ’89 Prelude Si was something I owned and drove, while still lusting after 300ZXs and Starions. So I would for sure attend an 80s/90s based car show.

      • 0 avatar

        “there was so much optimism…it was just a great time to be alive”

        Reagan era, not that darkness we sank into in 2020s..

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I love shows like this. At the last local show I attended some kid had a mint first Gen Saturn SC1. I don’t think I’d seen one since the 90s. He had even scoured eBay for an original Saturn factory CD player. That and someone had one of those McLaren turbo Pontiacs.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree Tim I like the 50s, 60s, and 70s cars but it does get too repetitive to see 57 Chevys, Mustangs, Corvettes, GTOs, Chevelles, and etc. Nice to see 80s and 90s cars that are survivors and the designs are not that bad. If I still had my 99 S-10 it would qualify for a show like this because it was absolutely original and cherry.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This isn’t a car show per se, but if you like the “bring what you got” events, it’s a great one:

    http://www.goldensupercruise.com/

    A little bit of everything, from hot rods and ’60s muscle to old family sedans, Detroit luxobarges, and Japanese stuff. Last time I went, the car that “spoke” to me was a nicely-kept Mazda 323 GTX. I lusted after those HARD back in the day.

    You can also follow the cruisers to their hangout spots and shoot the s**t with them.

    If you’re in Denver, it’s definitely a destination. Grab a hotel room (I’d recommend the Table Mountain Inn, even though it’s a bit pricey), hang out at the cruise, and enjoy Golden.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Here in Houston, I’d say yes and no. Yes because pre-Covid our monthly Cars and Coffee took place in a huge mall parking lot and pretty much anyone was welcome to ‘display’ anything. The downside was despite the organizers, police and mall owners’ best efforts, you still had quite a few pinheads who felt shredding their tires upon exiting was a form of self-eroticism, so much so that the 2/20 gathering was canceled for regrouping even before the pandemic became a concern.

    No because last month they tried a new format (after a few rain delays) where specific makes and cars were invited to display on the streets downtown where one had to pay paid for parking, etc. Maybe 100 cars on display, some very rare and most of them exotic. Personally it was a “meh” experience for me since Ferraris and Lambos are nice and such but carry very interest for me overall – I much prefer looking at 20-50-year-old daily and weekend drivers that folks take pride in.

    Maybe that’s just me….

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    ’80s Minitrucks with Sound Offs and Wet T-Shirt Contest.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I think you’re got to be a pretty deep collector to keep an Olds Achieva clean enough for a car show.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would say the ultimate malaise cars of the 80s would be the Ford Fairmont and the Chrysler K cars.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “Malaise” to me would be a ’77 Cutlass or LTD II. Things were looking a little brighter once the Horizon/Omni came out…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree about the LTD II but the 77 Cutlass was a very good car for the times it was the last of the larger mid size GM cars which were very good for the times and were top sellers. I had a 73 Chevelle and 77 Monte Carlo which were both good cars for the time. The 73 Chevelle was the best of the two when it came to reliability and performance. The LTD II shared the Fairmont platform.

  • avatar
    oldskooltoy

    Caffeine and Octane show is this weekend here in Jacksonville FL
    Last month, they featured British made vehicles.
    This month vehicle highlight-
    Toyota Supra & Chevy SS ( Super Sport )
    Sounds like an interesting combo!

    I own a few MR2s and I usually drive one to this monthly show.
    It warms my heart when the car gets attention from the younger crowd. ( I usually stand away from the car, but close enough to hear comments)

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I too get a bigger kicke out of seeing survivors. Sedans, station wagons, base models of ‘unloved’ our ‘unappreciated’ vehicles.

    The ‘classic’ muscle cars and exotics are not representative of what we drove, rode in our saw.

    Type III and Type IV, VW’s are vehicles rarely seen or mentioned.

    The big brown Ford sedans that dominated suburbs in the late 60’s to mid 70’s.
    Country Squires.
    Mid-range Chevs, without v8 engines.
    Mid and late 1960 Pontiac sedans.
    Cordobas.

    Those are among the vehicles that I fee nostalgia for, yet rarely see or hear about.

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