Among the many examples of 80s and 90s Japanese cars that populated Radwood NorCal this year, there were a few that really stood out to us. We hesitate to call them the best; except for the actual “Best Of” voted upon by the Radwood staff, these are merely our personal preferences. But much like 80s songs, there are ones that just bring a whole lot of joy, even if they aren’t technically The Best.
Case in point: There were numerous Acura NSXes at the show, but as a supercar it occupies a special status among car enthusiasts — namely, one where it is already beloved and well preserved. There are well preserved Miatas as well, but many more are often reduced to beater status, so it’s great to see one in excellent condition, especially a 1997 M Edition.
Honda Preludes, great as they are, are even harder to find in clean tick. This particular example, an Si resplendent in Phoenix Red, somehow managed to survive the Tuner Era in tact.
And then there was a Nissan 240SX convertible. Because they were converted in the US by ASC, the interior bits are extremely prone to disintegration, and it was refreshing to a clean example with the “original” door towers, tastefully lowered on Enkei 92s.
Some of these greatest hits are here because they capture the spirit of the show. Lounging in the back of a pickup truck — a turquoise one, no less — that’s not the size of a cement mixer, in trucker hats and flip-flops, cool drink in hand, just seems like a very retro thing to do.
Our favorite Japanese import of the show was a S13 Silvia K’s in trademark bluish silver. Miraculously, it has survived a drift missile fate to give us this snapshot from Nissan’s golden age.
One of the unexpectedly cool cars of the show was a custom 1984 Toyota Camry. Lowered on custom coilovers and powered by a 3S-GE swap, we liked it because it did something clever with an otherwise under-appreciated platform that didn’t butcher a classic. With a set of Enkei Aeronautics matched to 038 White paint, it exuded 80s-ness.
Continuing on the Toyota sedan theme, Rory Parham’s 1988 Cressida was an amazing example of the X70 chassis. Rory worked at a Ferrari shop, so he knows a thing or two about attention to detail and adherence to factory spec, and has applied those skills to a slightly upmarket Toyota sedan from the 1980s.
Dave, our resident Mazdafarian, loved this corner of the show because he goes absolutely bonkers for yellow cars and obscure vehicles from Hiroshima. The Sunburst Yellow 1992 Miata was as clean an example as we’d ever seen, and parked right beside it was an incredibly un-fussed-with Mazda 323 GTX. We’ll have more on this particular factory turbocharged AWD hatchback soon.
Nearby sat a small Nissan economy car, with absolutely nothing remarkable about it except for the fact that it was drop dead mint. The Sentra wasn’t even an SE-R, just a slightly-sportier-than-stock SE, but aside from the aftermarket wheels it looked as fresh as it did the day it rolled out of the showroom.
The owner of this FD RX-7 Touring said he’s owned it since new. It was impossibly clean and in excellent shape, with some ridiculously low mileage that we can’t remember.
One of the more curious vehicles at the show as a Dodge D50 Ram pickup. While it was a bit more well-used than other Greatest Hits, it was special because it was apparently used by the US Navy. Since the government typically has to buy American brands (unless the Big Three doesn’t offer that particular vehicle style), this was a clever way of procuring a Mitsubishi Mighty Max without upsetting the taxpayers.
Further afield, we came across one of the most stunning examples of a first-gen Honda Accord sedan we’ve seen in person. Its Hampstead Green paint positively glowed beneath the Californian sun, looking as new as it did in 1981. Soichiro Honda would have been proud.
We were also fond of Roger Aba’s 1991 Infiniti M30, which had been Leopard-ized with an arsenal of Japan-spec F31 parts, including its grille, headlights, taillights, badges, lip, and probably a lot more that we didn’t see. It was also finished in a fairly rare Blue-Gray Storm color, perfect for an unmarked car if you happen to be a cool, shades-wearing 80s detective.
From NorCal we go to Normal (Illinois, that is) for a fine specimen of a first-gen Eagle Talon TSi. Surviving the hands of Paul Walker wannabes and general build quality of DSM mechanicals, the lost sibling of the Mitsubishi Eclipse earned bonus points from automotive hipsters because it also happens to be a captive import and hail from a defunct Chrysler brand.
At the end of the day, awards were given out for the best, or raddest, in show. These are not our picks, but those of the show staff, and we thought it would be important to recognize the awards. The Raddest Japanese Car went to this Mazda RX-7 painted in IMSA GTU livery. We’ve seen it up close at SevenStock before, and it remains a favorite.
The Raddest Domestic Car went to a magenta Geo Metro convertible on lowrider wheels. The owner said he built it merely to put smiles on people’s faces, and to that end we say it’s a resounding success. But, as we all know, a Geo Metro is really a rebadged Suzuki Swift, so technically that’s another win for a JNC. Sorry, Fox Body Mustang owners.