Scenic Route Voices No.8 Title with an image of a line of sports cars driving.

The inception of the raddest show on earth

Welcome to the eighth installment of Scenic Route: Voices – a series spotlighting the stories of drivers and enthusiasts from all walks of life. This month, Kyle Fountain is winding the clock back to 2017 and looking at the humble beginnings of RADwood from the perspective of someone who was on the ground floor of this cultural juggernaut.

Kyle is a copywriter, amateur photographer, and car enthusiast whose love of car culture led him to write for Mobil 1™.

A look back at RADwood’s early days

Words and photos by Kyle Fountain and @mobil1

RADwood needs no introduction. The “RADwood effect” can be felt on the collector car market and car culture as it has continued to grow and expand, even having a show at its namesake, Goodwood. This year, RADwood and the Mobil 1 brand introduced Totally RAD Live, a concert experience to go with the amazing cars and culture. So, it seems like a good time to look back at the grassroots origins of this radical renaissance ahead of its latest evolution.
RADwood’s story starts with Driving While Awesome, a 24 hours of Lemons race team that spawned a podcast, at the epicenter. Frustrated by not being able to take their ‘80s and ‘90s cars on classic rallies due to their age, they decided to create their own rally. Their first event was the Coastal Range Rally, a single-day rally for their tight-knit community that was so successful it grew into multi-day drives with approximately 100 cars.
Image of cars parked in a parking lot
2010s internet car culture was dominated by YouTubers modifying expensive cars and then either selling or crashing them, or channels dedicated to stories of rare vintage cars and the owners that owned them for 40 years. It all made car culture seem like an exclusive hobby for those with deep pockets. As a 20‑something pizza transportation specialist in rural New York with a limited budget, DWA! showed me that you don’t need sponsors or generational wealth to have fun with cars. You could have a suspiciously cheap C4 Corvette and be proud of it. It was refreshing to see ordinary people with attainable cars doing what they were meant to do — have fun and bring people together.
Fast forward to Monterey Car Week 2016. Members of the DWA!, Cammed and Tubbed, and Clutchkick podcasts were lamenting that there was no show celebrating the cars they loved from the decade of decadence. They were either included begrudgingly at shows or excluded altogether. The idea for RADwood was born then and there.
Slideshow of a line of a man sitting outside a van, a car parked in a parking garage, a multicolored sports car driving.
Slideshow of a line of a man sitting outside a van, a car parked in a parking garage, a multicolored sports car driving.
Slideshow of a line of a man sitting outside a van, a car parked in a parking garage, a multicolored sports car driving.
From the outset, RADwood just felt different. Usually, car shows come in a few flavors. There are the “sit in a lawn chair while Mustang Sally plays” shows, the “listen to a DJ compete with a straight-piped Nissan while wraparound shades protect your eyes from vape smoke” shows, and the ever-popular “try not to get hit by a pony car at 8 a.m.” shows. And then, there’s RADwood. A time warp rooted in communal celebration and fun.
When DWA! announced the first RADwood, I knew I had to be there. There was just one problem…I lived 3,000 miles away.
RADwood 2 was scheduled for Saturday, December 2, 2017, at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, CA. The hype train was hurtling down the tracks, and I knew I didn’t want to miss out after a severe case of FOMO from watching pictures of RADwood 1 flood my Instagram.
So, I booked a Friday afternoon flight and set off. Touching down at LAX, I breathed in the thick L.A. air, and after getting my not-so-rad rental car, I endured a white-knuckle drive to my hotel in the infamous L.A. Friday night traffic. I also discovered that L.A.’s reputation for subpar pizza is justly earned. The next morning, I woke up and marveled at the palm trees outside my hotel window (the Northeast is known for many things; palm trees aren’t one) before making my way to the show.
 Image of man doing a BMX trick in-front of a white sports car with text reading “The next six hours still stand as the best car show I’ve ever been to.”

“The next six hours still stand as the best car show I’ve ever been to.”

The next six hours still stand as the best car show I’ve ever been to. Entering the gate, I was greeted by a gorgeous Audi Quattro. A Jurassic Park-themed Explorer and an obligatory DeLorean sat gleaming in the morning sun nearby. Porsche 911s sat steadfast beside Dodge Omnis and Subaru Brats. Volvos stood proud alongside BMW and Mercedes’ best. Minty-fresh Hondas, a one-off Miata Coupe, and SGS-modded Mercedes all vied for attention with a tribute to the van from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
I didn’t need the power of hindsight to realize I was witnessing something spectacular. And it wasn't just the BMX exhibitions that Jay from @porschepunx, or Martin Aparijo, one of the stunt riders from the ‘80s BMX classic, Rad, were putting on. There was a buzz and a palpable energy in the air.
Image of white sports car parked with its doors open
The crowd was a who’s who of internet automotive personalities. The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah brought his highly modified SSP Mustang, and Hagerty’s Jason Cammisa had his euro E30 wagon and a very short pair of shorts, and most of the Jalopnik staff were in attendance.
By show’s end, I was exhausted. My Vans were making my feet hurt, and my Thriller T-shirt was heavy with sweat. With my free Clarion T-shirt and a RADwood Royalty T-shirt that RADwood co-creator Bradley Brownell sold me (even though they weren’t available to the public. Thanks, Brad!) in hand, I made my way to the airport.
After a delayed red-eye and a quick layover in Philly, I was back on home turf. I bristled against the frigid New York winter, regretting my choice of shorts and a hoodie as I scrambled into my WRX and drove home. Despite the whirlwind trip, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that I had made memories that would last a lifetime and got to experience history in the making.
It’s good to know that all these years later, RADwood is still creating a community that celebrates the raddest of principles: being excellent to each other.
Image of people talking in front of cars in a palm tree lined parking lot.