RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad

There it was, front-and-center at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio: the very first DeLorean DMC-12 produced. The absolute perfect car to transport us back in time to the 80s and 90s, and a true automotive icon for the era. And the ideal auto to place under the banner announcing the exhibit RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad.

We all know about RADwood, right? It’s not exactly fair to call it a car show; it’s much more than that. Yes, most RADwood events are car shows. But they’re so much more than that. When talking about it to my friends and (very patient yet puzzled) family, I equated it to ComicCon but for cars from the 80s and 90s. A RADwood event goes beyond just a car show; attendees come dressed in their favorite fashions from the era, and the music is only from the 80s and 90s. These events somehow celebrate and poke fun of the outrageousness of the two decades.

RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad is a different type of RADwood event. The big difference is that it’s not a show at all, but a special exhibit at the Crawford. Log story short, Brad Brownell, one of the founders of RADwood, knows a Crawford board member, and he recognized what Brad and his RAD co-founders Rick Deacon, Art Cervantes (a VWVortex member), and Lane Skelton were doing and wanted to organize something similar at the museum. So they dug some cars out of their collection that hadn’t been displayed in years and contacted local private owners who were willing to give up their cars for a few winter months (which is not really a hardship in snowy Cleveland).

Altogether they assembled 14 or so iconic cars from the era. There are American, German, and Japanese cars. In addition to the DeLorean, other notables are the 1997 Porsche Carrera 4S, the Mercedes Benz 190 AMG, and the incredibly Chevy S-10 minitruck that was brought out of the owner’s garage for the first time in 20 years. Sadly, there were no Volkswagens in the exhibit (but we included a gorgeous Beetle from their permanent collection in our gallery). Brad and crew said they’d be swapping out cars throughout the run of the show; we’d say that the triple-white Cabriolet would make an excellent addition as one seemed to be in every teen movie of that time.

Sprinkled around the cars are memorabilia from the era like BMX bikes, board games, and boom boxes. The Western Reserve Historical Society, which the Crawford is part of, has an extensive fashion museum; they’ve coupled outfits from these decades with the cars. One genius pairing: a Dodge Viper and Stealth displayed with a women’s power suit. Nicely played, WRHS.

“Why the 80s and 90s? Why this era, why’s it important?” Brad said at the opening night party, “There are a ton of people that think that car collecting ended in 1973. And obviously that’s not true…our shows prove there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people that are really interested in collecting that kind of era of car. They love these cars because that’s what they grew up with. And that’s why we fell in love with them. It’s kind of that transition time between analog and digital where it’s modern enough for you to drive it on a daily basis, but it’s simple enough that you can work on it yourself.”

RADwood is definitely bringing attention to these two important automotive decades. And they’re doing it in a ridiculously fun way. No stuffy shows, no elitist intentions: if you have a 1980 to 1999 car, bring it, show it, and have fun. It’s what car shows should be. And RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad, an exhibit full of wonderful, wild, and even wacky cars are doing the same at the Crawford. Sure there’s an abundance of horseless carriages, Tin Lizzies, and large Gatsby-era sedans, but there are also some new collectibles that deserve their own space in the museum. This exhibit takes the Crawford back to the future. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.

RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad runs through the end of March.