When you’re past the gate at the Goodwood Revival or The Quail or Villa d’Este, you find yourself in the presence of automotive nobility. An internationally curated collection of design and engineering that has achieved consensus designation as artistic machined royalty. Much like the art world, such documentation is important work - and these shows excel at cataloging the classical ideal form given a certain set of parameters set about a theme. Saoutchik’s voluptuous pre- and post-war coachwork. Pininfarina’s hammered aluminum on wooden bucks. Bertone's wedges. Fangio’s or Hill’s or Ickx’s pedigreed and pitted competitors, their tobacco-sponsored liveries stained with oil of expired competitors and sticky from decades-old podium champagne.
These cars often find themselves as the muse, or taproot, or origin story for global inspiration shared as a common language among gearheads and even some ordinary folks far outside those borders. However, the classical ideal is just that - an ideal, often more conceptual than tangible. It is a playground for those qualified and paid to operate museum pieces and those who are playing with house money.
This isn’t an indictment of those dancing and transacting in one-of-none V12s and straight-sixes. I believe it is possible to have a spiritual experience at Bruce Canepa’s shop and in the halls at Retromobile. But the classical ideal isn't one for slamming on RS Watanabes to go sideways with your sketchy friends.
There is a difference between being in the room with greatness and living it.
Consider for a moment: this show featured both Lemons and Le Mans competitors. Retired Japanese fire trucks and air-cooled Porsches and Iacocca's finest New Yorker. Cars complimented with gold-plated AK-47s, first-generation Escort radar detectors, tube-amp head units, and JDM wheels so unobtainable their production numbers ran in the negatives. Unremarkable exteriors hiding brilliant engine-swaps accompanied by absurd dyno graphs. Ratty, worn, loved, and immaculate specimens with owners beckoning you to come and sit and experience cars that lived on your bedroom wall.
After trying over the course of the past 12 months to distill The Radwood Effect into words, I found myself in the most glorious traffic leaving the event when it happened upon me the magic that the organizers have captured in a bottle.
Automotive culture has, with the unwitting assistance of the Internet, become fragmented and barricaded down rabbit holes so deep it can be hard to find oxygen. For decades we have been drowning in niche and suffocating in semantics.
The Pontiac Club and the Oldsmobile Club and the Cadillac Club and the Buick Club all hold their own separate national meets despite raiding the same parts bin for nearly a century. Stance Nation has been at war with various factions since originally declaring independence from the greater lowrider community. At one point in the last year, I had someone look me dead in the eye and tell me that "the politics in the hearse community are weird."
We find ourselves in fortified bubbles, possibly wrapped up in a greater cultural, generational, and economic division that I simply don't have the talent or expertise to enumerate here. Even now, gazing upon the precipice of a tectonic shift across the entire automotive community as the sun begins to dip below the horizon on internal combustion and human driving, we have been in our own independent orbits, only crossing paths to spar.
Radwood - with their simple age limit rule and pervasive reach - has taken all of these bubbles, thrown them into a smelter, and minted the output. It’s a playlist on shuffle and it's not just the genres you know and love, it's the obscure on full display in all the wonderful spotlit glory that might be absent in any other atmosphere.
This show ends up being a party for people who don't otherwise enjoy car shows. It is as much an omnibus of automotive subcultures as it is your Craigslist search history parked on a racetrack nestled in Texan Hill Country. It simultaneously consists of participants immature enough to imbue their selected deathtraps with absurdly tasteful modifications and mature enough to save that sort of we-regret-to-inform-you-that-this-was-the-last-cars-&-coffee-for-the-indefinite-future behavior for another time and place.
The owner of an impossibly clean Celebrity Eurosport VR (Eurosport! VR!) summed it up as he accepted his award for Raddest Domestic: in the ten years he had owned the car, it had never left Dallas and never attended a car show of any sort because he simply didn't know where he could find an audience that would appreciate it until this weekend at Radwood.
What is on display in the warm leap year sun is the practical ideal. Alpine V6 Turbos that get taken on multi-state jaunts across the country until they run out of land to cover. Starions that - after the show - will be driven 1,000 miles home with no clutch and a leaky rear brake caliper. Angle-kitted drift missiles that just 24 hours after the show will be full-opposite-lock sideways in competition. C4 ambassadors with Callaway Supernaturals trying to spread The Good Fiberglass News. Volvo and Mercedes wagons fresh from lacrosse practice. Hell, the Coutaches (plural) were driven in under their own power. Even that Repsol 962 has been enlisted back into service for vintage racing duty.
In the weeks leading up to the show, as the registration list began to reveal itself, our coverage of the event began to shift and morph. What had been envisioned as some quick-and-dirty event coverage has become an archival documentation. So over the next few months, we are embarking on a project to take a core sample of Radwood-eligible cars that are eligible for in-state tuition. Meet the Texas Project.
What we are hoping to capture in the content to follow is not a complete encyclopedia of car culture, nor the cataloged consensus of ideal forms frozen with period-correct imperfections sold to bidders who paid for the whole tach but won't even use half. We seek to capture the new-old-stock eBay snipers, the backdated SEV Marchal mafia, and the otaku who can articulate the difference between bosozoku and kanjozoku without looking up from their KyushaShoes bookmarks.
When this is all said and done, we will only rest when we are confident that we have enshrined the stock, swapped, and slammed slices of of Texas in written and visual media, preserved for future generations decades past when doing any of this driving thing becomes wildly illegal. This is the part of the piece where I make a call to you, dear reader.
While we met dozens of folks - got some names, email addresses, Instagram handles, phone numbers, and about seven dozen (well deserved) recommendations to drop by a certain coffee shop near the I-45/I-10 intersection in Houston on Sunday mornings - we certainly would love to hear from y'all if we didn't have a chance to meet already. If you know someone, have heard about someone, or even have an ancient riddle to which the solution of which will lead us to the last stock 240SX in existence, we'd like to at least take a crack and maybe find ourselves in your neck of the woods.
Obviously, considering what all is happening in the world and right here in Texas, we're going to have plenty of time to plan and scheme. So don't be a stranger - once we get the all-clear from our local health authorities, we're hitting the road . And with that, I'm going to get coordinating our first efforts to bring Radwood to life for those who will follow. See y'all out there.