The 1980’s… what comes to mind? How about the Smurfs. Rubik’s Cubes. Atari. Day-Glo colors. Q-Bert. Madonna. Hair metal. L.A. Gear. Aqua Net. Slap bracelets. Garbage Pail Kids. Super Mario Bros. NKOTB (New Kids on the Block). He-Man. The Transformers. Fraggle Rock. The Lamborghini Countach. MC Hammer. Trapper Keepers. Super Mario Bros. Top Gun. The NES. Speak & Spell. Reading Rainbow. Cool Ranch Doritos. Run DMC. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Lite-Brite. Bon Jovi. The Breakfast Club. Alf. Oregon Trail. Mr. T cereal. Just Say No! What if, for one brief afternoon, a car show could channel all of my childhood nostalgia? Enter the
RADwood car show!
Twice a year, this car show celebrates the vehicles, and the lifestyle, of the 1980s and 1990s. Held on the West Coast (Los Angeles) and the East Coast (Philadelphia), owners of cars from that era gather to turn back the clock three decades. On an overcast and chilly fall day, my wife and I headed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard to spend a bodacious afternoon enjoying some totally tubular cars and listening to some righteous tunes. We were down for an illin’ afternoon. It was… rad!
Our destination for Sunday’s 80’s adventure… the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
For a trip to an 80’s car show, I created an 80’s music playlist on my iPod. Of course.
At the start of the 19th century, Philadelphia was a major center of shipbuilding in the United States. Beginning in 1871, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard built and serviced warships for the US Navy. It closed in 1991 at the end of the Cold War. Pictured is the amphibious assault ship USS Nashville, which transported almost 1,000 US Marines to hot spots around the globe during its four decades in service.
Although it is no longer an active shipyard, the facility still houses the US Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility… the “mothball” fleet. Ships housed here are kept in reserve in case of national emergency. The ships are maintained in the event that they ever need be reactivated. The thirty vessels kept in reserve here, including an aircraft carrier, guided missile cruisers, multipurpose frigates, and amphibious assault ships, are more capable than most other nation’s entire fleets.
We brought my wife’s 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee because I wasn’t sure of the parking situation, and wanted four-wheel drive in case we ended up parking on the grass (it’s been raining for almost two weeks here). Of course… every single parking space at the Navy Yard was paved.
I knew it was going to be a good show when I saw an Acura NSX supercar in the parking lot… I hadn’t even entered the car show itself yet!
The first car that caught my eye was this mint-condition 1987 Acura Integra. The Integra was one of two cars introduced to the United States by Honda’s luxury brand in the mid 1980’s.
The owner of this Integra obviously cares for her car… despite being 31 years old, the engine looks like it just came from the factory.
My wife spotted this display of promotional material on the trunk cover of the Integra. Little touches like this make a car stand out at the show.
Radwood is a car show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Check out the clothes! The bright neon (right) and the acid washed jeans (left) make you feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine!
No 80’s car show would be complete without a DeLorean DMC-12. I counted four of these in attendance, but this was the nicest one.
Anyone see Marty McFly or Doc? The owner of this DeLorean fitted a flux capacitor, the device required for time travel in the movie Back to the Future. 88 mph, here we come!
As seen in the movie:
This brought back a lot of memories… a 1978 Honda Accord. My parents’ first Honda was an almost-identical car, except it was beige, not blue. Aside from a new coat of paint, the owner told me that this forty-year old car has only required routine maintenance.
Forget Back to the Future, this Accord was my own personal time machine. When I was a little kid, I would sneak into our car (we didn’t lock car doors back then) and pretend to drive. Peering into the interior, I felt like I was five years old again.
My dream car… the Acura Integra Type R. The race version of the Integra sports compact car, the Type R, is rare in the United States. I’ll have one in my garage, someday. While white (left) is the more traditional choice, I want the in-your-face Phoenix Yellow paint. To quote the movie Wayne’s World: “It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.”
This stunning Mazda RX7 caught our eye. Instead of being powered by traditional cylinder pistons, the RX-7 has a rotary engine, in which an arrow-head shaped piston spins in a hollow chamber, converting gasoline and air into power.
Another unique car in attendance, the 1989 Honda Prelude 4WS. 4WS means Four Wheel Steering. Both the rear and front wheels turn, giving this car impressive maneuverability.
The car is owned by an acquaintance, Chey, who is a member of an online automotive club I belong to for Honda owners. From the time Chey bought the car, I have been able to watch its painstaking restoration by reading along on the club’s website. It was also featured on the automotive review website Jalopnik.
Speaking of noteworthy… this Mazda Miata owner had his car’s gas cap autographed by Tsutomo Matano, chief designer of the car.
A vehicle I had never seen before: the Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup. The truck is basically a Volkswagen Rabbit compact car with a pickup bed in the back.
How do you keep a 31-year old car in good condition? With lots of elbow grease. This 1987 Honda Accord hatchback looked like something belongs in a new car showroom.
The interior was immaculate. Hardly any wear was noticeable, even on the steering wheel.
Speaking of immaculate, this Mercedes-Benz 300 sedan was in terrific shape…
…considering that it hasn’t exactly been sitting in a garage its whole life. It has 203,512 miles on it! The owner had placed a certificate on the driver’s side from Mercedes-Benz, welcoming this car to its high mileage club. As an aside, I really wish Honda would do something like that to honor owners who achieve high mileage in their vehicles.
This Mitsubishi Delica van was not sold in the United States. One clue that it was never offered here?
The steering wheel was on the right of the vehicle. There were several such cars and trucks at the show that had been imported directly from Japan for use here.
It’s Tokyo in 1984. You drive your Honda City Turbo compact car to your destination. Parking your car, you realize you are still about a half mile away. You could walk. Or, you could take a large box out of the trunk, unfold it, and drive your Honda Motocompo moped! The ultimate add-on for a car purchase, the Motocompo was only available in Japan.
In case my description isn’t clear, here is a great explanation of this quirky little moped. It’s a five-minute video, so if you want to see how it fits in the car, fast-forward to the 2:30 mark:
And speaking of unique… how about uniquely awful? The Yugo GV, named the Worst Car of the Millennium by NPR’s Car Talk. Sold in the late 1980s in the United States, over 126,000 of them were recalled by the Environmental Protection Agency due to abysmal failure in pollution testing… which is impressive, because the car had to run in order to pollute, a not insignificant challenge when breakdowns were frequent. As one of Car Talk’s readers said: “At least it had heated rear windows – so your hands would stay warm while you pushed.”
And speaking again of unique… the Sterling 827i. British car company Rover, interested in breaking into the American market, licensed the Acura Legend from Honda, gave it new body panels, and sold it here as the Sterling 827i. Unfortunately, the licensing did not include Honda’s build quality – Sterlings suffered from interior trim falling apart, electrical systems not working, and body panels rusting away prematurely. It was impressive that this particular car was in such great shape.
Across the river in Cherry Hill, NJ is Subaru of America’s corporate museum. They loaned four of their historic vehicles to Radwood, including this beautiful XT Turbo with Four Wheel Drive. Built from 1985 to 1991, this car screams “80’s design.”
In 1980, the Audi Quattro revolutionized motor sports. The first mass-market four-wheel drive sports coupe, the Quattro dominated the sport of rallying from its inception. Now valued by collectors, if you want to purchase one of these machines, expect to spend at least $20,000.
2018 is the 70th anniversary of the automaker Porsche. It was fitting, then, that there were many of these cars in attendance, including this gorgeous 911.
“I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight…” Fans of the TV show Miami Vice will instantly recognize the Ferrari Testarossa as Crocket and Tubb’s vehicle of choice.
One of the more unusual cars I saw. I spoke with the owner of this Nissan 300ZX who said the inspiration for the unusual bodywork was the WWII-era A6M “Zero” fighter plane from Japan.
Some car owners went all-out trying to recreate the 80’s. The owner of this BMW 325i added an old-school car phone, cassette tapes (including Enya!), a radar detector, and a can of TAB cola.
The souvenir stand had lots of cool ways to spend your money, including Radwood stickers designed to look like different 80’s-era logos, Rubik’s Cubes, miniature video games…
…and t-shirts. I ended up buying this one, which I will wear with pride!
So engrossed was I in the souvenir stand that I would have missed E.T. if not for my wife pointing him out to me.
Speaking of unusual vehicles, back in the 1980’s Jeep decided to take their venerable Cherokee SUV and turn it into a pickup truck. The result was the Comanche.
No 80’s car show is complete without an El Camino…
…and no 80’s car show in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area is complete without at least one Pontiac Firebird or Trans Am in attendance!
After spending a fun morning at the car show, we headed to the nearby Philadelphia sports stadium complex (where the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers all play) for lunch at Chickie’s & Pete’s. Originally a small family seafood restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia, it has grown to a chain of 12 restaurants in the greater Philadelphia area. It was voted the #1 Sports Bar on the East Coast by ESPN.
Although known for excellent bar food and seafood entrees, the must-have item on the menu are the crab fries. Crinkle-cut french fries that are coated with a mix of seasonings are brought to your table piping hot, with helpings of white cheese sauce to dip. So good! No trip to Chickie’s is complete without it!
Home, at the end of a fun day. The Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to roll along without complaint. With about 89,000 miles less than what is on my Accord, Grace isn’t even broken in yet!
If you want to attend this one-day celebration of 80’s and 90’s culture, the prices are reasonable. Spectator tickets are $10 per person. If you have a car from the 80’s or 90’s that you would like to enter, the fee is $30 per car. Radwood Royalty, which gives you a premium parking space for your car and covers the entry of a driver and passenger is $100 per vehicle (not a bad deal if you are looking to sell your ride and want a nice spot to advertise it). The Philadelphia show ran from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm, and the Los Angeles show, scheduled for December 2nd, will run from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm. What struck me was how approachable the car owners were – every person I talked to was happy to take time out of their day to share the story of their car. My recommendation? If you like cars, or 80’s culture, or both, get yourself to Radwood. It’s like, totally bitchin’.
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.