'80s and '90s Nostalgia Fuels RADwood Car Shows

Andrew Koole
Jan 19, 2022 · 3 min read
For a long time, collecting cars was associated with the Boomer Generation. People (mostly men) who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s restored and modified classic cars from their younger years as a way to keep the good ol’ days alive. 
That’s changing. As the following Gen X and Millennial generations get older, they too want to look back on their heydays by tinkering with and showing off cars from their childhoods and early adult years. Naturally, that means looking back on more recent decades.
These younger generations are changing car culture. Some traditions like car shows and drag races live on while others—drive-ins, van murals, hot rods—are being replaced by new customs and rituals. It’s all on display RADwood events across the country.
A blue convertible on display on the side of the road.
Cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s are hitting a peak point of nostalgia.

What happens at a RADwood event?

If you’ve ever been to a car show—not a corporate event showing off new models but a car culture show—there are certain things you know to expect. Popped hoods, rockabilly style, unique paint jobs, and diner food are among the most common sights and smells.
Most of these events mix models from all eras with a heavy emphasis on cars, trucks, and motorcycles from the ‘50s to the ‘70s. At RADwood, things are a little different. The show is only for vehicles made from 1980 to 1999, and the clothes must match the era.
The event combines the classic car show with the cosplay conventions made popular by these younger generations, like a Comic-Con for fans of ‘80s and ‘90s car culture. The New York Times says RADwood events have sprung up in cities across the U.S.

What types of cars show up at RADwood car shows?

Rather than your Thunderbirds and Bel-Airs, RADwood car shows highlight models that harken back to the time of neon colors, sharp corners, and pop-up headlights.
The crown jewels of this era reveal the current shift car collecting. A Lamborghini Countach, which has been praised since its inception, will compete for attention beside the Delorean from Back to the Future or the Ford Explorer from Jurassic Park.
Like most car shows, supercars like Ferrari Gran Turismos and McLaren F1s create a lot of buzz at RADwood, but so will a particularly well-preserved Honda Accord or a lowered Chevy Blazer. 
One participant who talked to the Times got a lot of love for his highly angular 1986 Subaru XT Turbo coupe.

Participating in RADwood car culture

If you just want to come (dressed up, of course) and look, admission to a RADwood car show is only $15. Registering a car is $30 or, for entry into the “RADwood Royalty” showcase, $100. But before you register anything, you need a vehicle.

Will you need special insurance for these cars?

Vehicles from the designated era are right on the cusp of the “classic car” definition. Anything from 1996 or earlier should be eligible for classic car coverage, but owners of newer models might have to shop around for a provider that offers specialty car insurance for their vehicle. 
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