Totally Tubular: Radwood Austin
Radwood is back for 2019 with an inaugural event at Driveway Austin, a small motorsports park nestled in the farming hills of suburban Austin. The event had over 400 cars, all from the 80s and 90s era, and it was absolutely a joy to attend if you ever unironically try to browse for old tapes at a music shop or have more familiarity messing with an AFM than an OBDII port.
My weekend of radness began earlier than many. As a Houston resident, I had about a three hour drive ahead of me, so I wanted to leave the night before the show to ensure I arrived on time in the morning and could still clean and prep my Supra. Together, Alara Garage and I set up a fun roll-out premeet and cruise to Houston. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any rollers on the way out, because I had to drive my car, but I assure you the rural stretches of curvy Texas highway at 11 PM were plenty fun for us.
The most fun thing about Radwood, for me, was the fans of the normally unloved. A boomer car show in America is full of ‘69 Charger R/Ts, ‘57 Chevy Bel Airs, and ‘32 Ford Coupe 5 Windows - vehicles that we all agree we love, but have been elevated to the pantheon of “True Classic” - the untouchables for many of us, priced out of even owning a chrome door trim piece to hang on a wall.
Radwood is about the cars we grew up loving because we could actually dream of them. Many of the crowd was, like me, too young to have actually experienced or remembered the 80s and much of the 90s beyond some 4Kids redubs of Pokemon. We simply realized as we got older that the decades we were born slightly too late for held hidden gems of automotive history - powerful, legendary in their own right, but priced well enough they allowed us to actually dream of having them. So we immediately lept at the chance as soon as we had it.
The other great part of a show celebrating cars the rest of the world has overlooked is this: you want an Arizona sweet tea can as an intake, and the rest of your car paint-to-sample on it? That’s fantastic (and very rad), and no one will begrudge you it. Want to turn a Craigslist parts-car Porsche into a puffalump-hauling, absolutely ragged race machine for the 24 Hours of Lemons? You saved a good car and you’re a hero for giving it another lease on life. Building a Miata that’s not quite finished yet but clearly is going to be an incredible build when it’s done? We appreciate your WIP and we can’t wait to see what you do next.
The celebration of the imperfect - of the driven, of the loved vehicle but limited wallet - is what made this show, in my book, a cut above the rest. It’s easy to forget most people have to enjoy cars that are not perfect when you gaze at a line of McLarens at cars and coffee, that all cost more than the house you rent (because of course you can’t afford to buy the house - we have student loans, man). It becomes disheartening and discouraging to see other people buying a perfect car and having a crowd of 20-somethings flock to it like free samples at the food court, and sitting in the corner with the product of your blood, sweat, and tears unnoticed, because effort doesn’t flex like money does.
Then you go to Radwood.
And people who enjoy cars like you do are JUST as excited as you are to see a 240D that somehow doesn’t have a tear in the leather, or a Samurai that still has a factory brushguard, or a Z31 that hasn’t been drifted into a wall fifteen times. They revel in this just like you do. It’s an event set up to be a spectacle to the right crowd just based on its merits, without foolish behavior or influencers to help drive social media metrics.
That’s not to say the unattainable and the incredible doesn’t reside here - it also does, and I did revel in that as well. But instead of the new-money “just got my second Rolls #blessed” instagram post of a new car, built to flex from the factory, these classics have earned their respect. No one buys an F40 because they want to show off at cars and coffee. There are hundreds of more comfortable, less expensive, more manageable to drive supercars than an F40. If you buy an F40, you really like cars, just like we do, you just have more means.
Here’s the other part of Radwood I loved to death. I’ve never seen so many dirty supercars in my life. So many filthy, nearly priceless vehicles, all thrashed through the rural highways of East Texas to come show them off at one of the best gatherings of enthusiasts America has to offer, like cars built to be loved and enjoyed rather than museum pieces to soberly discuss.
Radwood, of course, is also famous for making period-correct dress and fashion part of its ethos as well as an awardable category. The crowd lived up to the 80s hype just as much as the cars did. This grassroots spectator level of enjoyment is just another way Radwood allows people at any level of the car scene or show become an active member of the community and feel engaged, and I love it.
Of course, my night didn’t end at the show. I, and a crew of people who all still somehow had energy, all rolled out to R.O.C. Austin Studios, and shot the raddest possible pictures on their 30’ x 20’ cyclotron automotive studio wall, the only one of its kind in the USA open to the public.
This event only furthered my love for Radwood, because getting to shoot oddly well preserved quirky 80s and 90s cars like they were brand new models for a magazine felt like a rare and special opportunity. I hope to share more work from the studio soon.
In the meantime, if you desire more radness, my full event gallery is available here: