Rad Gear, Rad Cars At Radwood SoCal

Fashion trends tend to repeat themselves, but attendees of the 1980-1999 car culture movement Radwood pride themselves in ensuring nothing at the show could be mistaken for contemporary—and the result is like no other car show in the country.

While the Radwood movement has ballooned from a single event in the Bay Area to a national sensation, the halo event has always seemed to be Radwood SoCal. From the sheer automotive momentum of Southern California and its aching nostalgia for neon and Polaroids, to irreplaceable moments like last year’s famous BMX jump over a liveried Porsche 944, the event seems to capture the epitome of Rad culture, and while it continues to outgrow its previous locations, the event seems to become even more of a family year over year.

This year’s event was held at Oak Canyon Park, quite a ways from the Peterson Museum that hosted last year’s gathering. But being out of the city didn’t lessen the incredible caliber of vehicles—nor the impressive costumes that embrace 1980-1999 culture so spectacularly.

Vehicle-appropriate fashion is an essential part of the Radwood experience.

A street-legal Porsche 962 in the form of a Koenig-Specials C62, driven to the event by Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire.

The Radwood vehicle entry criteria is intentionally broad—anything produced between 1980 and 1999 (including vehicles that overlapped before or after that cutoff) are welcome—and as always, the variety leaves little to be desired, no matter where your tastes lie in the automotive universe. An obligatory name-drop is in order for these, since they included gems like a Mosler Consulier GTP, one of fewer than 100 units; the one-off “EXP” based on a Fiero and C4 Corvette, an Aston Martin Virage; and of course, a street-legal Koenig-Specials C62, a road-legal Porsche 962. Previous events have included a Vector W12 and a trifecta of Lamborghini Countachs, amongst other Rad-era legends. The caliber of Radwood cannot the understated.

Robert Crespo shows off his M50 in his E30.

And yet, the event manages to perfectly represent an attainable level of automotive stardom, too. Of the hundreds of vehicles in attendance, most were the product of long Craigslist searches and hundreds of hours in the garage, bringing frequently-overlooked classics into the limelight. In this class of attainable dream cars, BMW models from the 20-year span reigned supreme.

There were dozens of E30s, ranging from carefully-restored examples like Sara Nelson’s Bronzit 325i 5-speed, to heavily-modified and swapped cars, to preserved cruisers like E24 M6s and even a Cannonball-ready E36 M3.

Members Riley Koidahl and Matt Schwartz, regulars at Los Angeles Chapter events.

Whether concours-ready, or freshly-finished project car, the celebration was one of passion and enjoyment. Robert Crespo, who brought an M50-swapped, Hennarot E30, was one of the many participants happy to return. “The turnout at Radwood SoCal this year was impressive as usual and the BMW community had a massive presence as usual despite the rain in the forecast. But cars are only part of the event. I spent most of the time meeting new people and talking cars and connecting with friends from last year’s Radwood, the same time I made the connections that led to my joining the BMW CCA after last year’s event!”

Much like the BMW Car Club of America itself, the cars bring people to Radwood, but the people bring them back again and again. Appropriately, many participants also connected with the BMW CCA through Radwood, including Sam Deshler, who joined after this year’s event after bringing his E36 on OZ Futuras, pictured below.

The clean E36 of Sam Deshler.

Others, like Aaron Guzman, founder of @e30_collective_oc and owner of a 300k-mile 325i 5-speed, are familiar with local BMW CCA events, but have developed a special affinity for Radwood outside of their BMW passion. “Radwood is a must attend event,” says Guzman. “I got to see some cars I thought I’d never see in person.”

Then we get to the category of attendees who made the pilgrimage to Radwood SoCal from across the country, myself included; this is my third event, the last two being Austin, Texas, and last year’s Radwood SoCal. One of the repeat visitors was Alan Dummett, a National Capital Chapter member who drove Los Angeles Chapter member Kyle Van Hoften’s Estoril-on-Dove E36 M3.

Los Angeles Chapter member Kyle Van Hoften, representing both the 1980s and 1990s.

“I went to Radwood Philadelphia and knew I had to make it out to Radwood in SoCal,” says Dummett. “This was my first time to California and it and Radwood did not disappoint. I love the community at Radwood. I’m a huge BMW fan but it is so great to meet people outside of the BMW community and Radwood—even with all the BMWs—definitely provides that.”

First-timers included Johnny Valencia and Aimee Shackelford, who went all-out with their first-time costumes. Says Valencia, “This was my first Radwood and I’ve gotta say I’m hooked! I was torn between walking around and seeing all the dope rides, and hanging out by my M3 and having conversations with others about the build. With so may BMWs in attendance, including several BMW CCA members, it made for a perfect weekend.”

Members Aimee Shackelford and Johnny Valencia—in character.

Mike Perlman’s Hennarot Euro, M90-powered 635CSi.

Sara Nelson brought her 1989 BMW 325i, one of the most original E30s at the show.

Sara Nelson, who brought her aforementioned Bronzit E30 from La Jolla Independent, was also impressed with the culture of her first Radwood event. “I’ve been going to car shows my entire life, quite literally, and this was nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. The atmosphere of Radwood was more inviting than what I’ve experienced before.”

“It felt so refreshing to be somewhere that felt inclusive to everyone. It’s not a car show so much as a car meet, where everyone hangs out and talks about their cars. There is no competition or need to be better than anyone; each car is unique and everyone appreciates them. I am so thankful to have had the chance to go and meet new people, not to mention show off my car. But I think I was most excited for the ’80s and ’90s outfits.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many. At the end of the day, Radwood is still an event about the people and the passion for automotive and cultural history, celebrating enthusiasm no matter origin, wealth, or vehicle—especially amongst the BMW contingent. As Alan Dummett put it, “It’s great to see how the BMW CCA community extends nationwide. I was welcomed here as if I had always been here.”—David Rose

[Photos courtesy Kyle Van Hoften.]

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