Too SLXY for My Shirt: RADwood 2019 Car Show in Los Angeles

Odometer (NSX): 116,405

Odometer (SLX): 140,616

Odometer (ILX):  221,578

Odometer (Legend Coupe):  572,261

Trip Distance:  353 Miles

“Hmm,” Chris said from the passenger seat as he shrugged his shoulders.  “Sounds kinda scary.”

I was pretty deflated.  I had just proudly pinned the accelerator to the floor in my red brick of an SLX and it did the best it could to get up to highway speed.  Moments later, he gestured the making of a cross against his chest as we both collectively said our prayers that the old SUV would get us safely to Phoenix, still about 250 miles away, across the barren desert at nighttime with intermittent rain showers.

We made it.  A bit of wind turbulence and poor visibility (one of my headlights is so dim it barely works at all) were about the only problems we had.  We got home to Phoenix at midnight local time after an exhausting day of celebrating the totally tubular 1980s and 1990s in cars & culture.  This was the third time I’ve attended the ‘RADwood’ show in Los Angeles.  In 2017, I took the Legend, and in 2018, I took the Integra sedan.  I always have a riot when being surrounded by such awesome people & cars.

And this time – in a perfectly orchestrated inconvenience – the event was held up a canyon with zero cell signal.  So, from about 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., I spent the day doing what we all did during the 1980s and 1990s:  Actually making real-life conversation with people.  It was pretty freakin’ awesome.

My trip to RADwood was by way of two very special collector cars:  a 1989 Dodge Lancer Shelby (Greg’s) and a 1998 Ford Contour SVT (Jason’s) – both with 3-pedal transmissions.  Unfortunately for us, and for all other show-goers on Saturday, Mother Nature felt like giving us a few rain showers.  While the downpours held out aside from a little trickle here and there, the mud left me wishing I’d brought my galoshes.  It was so slippery, in fact, that I fell down while helping push a Honda CRX with a dead battery into its parking space.  Good thing I had a spare pair of pants on-hand.

At least the 1986 Preludes owned by my friends Chris Hoffman and Chris Green looked spectacular.

The star of the show – at least for me – was a special project vehicle that I had a small role in bringing to life.  It’s right here, pictured with none other than RADwood royalty Bradley Brownell himself, and my friend & automotive journalist Steve Ewing.

You’ll probably remember my old “Fir Green” 1997 Acura SLX that I picked up a year ago from a friend.  It ran & drove okay, but the transmission slipped in third gear and the seats were thrashed.  I enjoyed it for a few months around town as a Home Depot cruiser.  Its life was about to change, however, when Andrew Quillin from Acura Public Relations asked me in late Spring if I had a lead on any SLXs for sale.  I didn’t know of anything decent offhand, so I said, “You can have mine.”

And so it happened.  On June 18, Acura’s fleet management representative drove away in the green beast from my house in Phoenix and I wasn’t sure if or when I’d ever see it again.  Not only did I see it again, but, it had been transformed into a completely different vehicle.  Over the course of the next several months, the SLX spent its summer in Marysville, Ohio, at Honda’s Research & Development facility, getting a cosmetic facelift and a full mechanical transplant.  Behold:

Engineers James Robinson and Jordan Guitar led a team of people who swapped the tired, 178,000-mile 3.2 V6 with a race-tuned 2-liter turbo out of the Pikes Peak RDX racecar.  But they didn’t stop there.  The transmission was replaced with a push-button 10-speed automatic and the vehicle was equipped with Acura’s signature Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD), plus a fully independent rear suspension.  The only subtle hint that this SLX is something a little different is the hue of Performance Red paint and the side exit exhaust forward to the left rear tire.

While official drag-race numbers have not yet been captured, I’m fairly certain the SH-AWD SLX would smoke my stock example in any performance event.  I haven’t yet driven it.  I only took a brief ride during a mid-November film shoot in the San Diego area.  The result of that film shoot is here, brought to life with the creative mind of Acura’s Zach Vlasuk.

As RADwood pressed on, I connected with friends and colleagues from near & far.  I also got to be the eyewitness (or even acting clergy?) for the official sale transaction of a white 1988 Legend coupe that changed hands from one owner to another during the course of the show.  The Acura representation across the show field was in fact pretty impressive:  Even the award-winning second-gen Legend sedan driven by Rob Pia was in attendance, and it won a well-deserved trophy at the conclusion of the show.

Congrats, new Legend owner Daniel!

I made it through the afternoon without any further mud-slides, and I had a great time rubbing shoulders with the leaders & engineers who brought the SLX project to life.  I even had about a dozen of them sign my dashboard with a silver Sharpie, including Executive Creative Director Dave Marek who drew me a picture!

As for the project SLX SH-AWD, it’s gone on to achieve all sorts of fame by way of automotive media outlets in every corner of the country and even internationally.  Here’s an example of one piece by Jalopnik.  And no, I’m not getting the vehicle back, but maybe I can sweet-talk Acura into a test drive.  After some race training, of course :).

Here’s my 5-minute video on this year’s RADwood, and a few photos follow.

Westbound in the SVT Contour

Barrett-Jackson is one of many sponsors & participants in the growing RADwood movement.  Pictured here is Matt Ferguson from Public Relations.

If I were to cheat on Acura, it might be for one of these.  Love it.

Resto-mod SLX sporting custom floor mats, wood trim, reupholstered leather, and a push-button transmission.  But – don’t worry – the tape deck stuck around!

My co-pilots Jason and Chris

Acura senior executive Jon Ikeda was out enjoying the party, too.

Even the former owner of the green SLX, Wyatt, popped in to say hello.

And now – if you are interested – here are a few shots from the filming of the reveal video, and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the effort it took to produce.

Three SLXs in one place!  That never happens.

That engine is more than meets the eye!  And you should hear it!

Setting up a camera mount on my Radiant Red

“For sale by owner” – come and get it!

Actress Amy McRoberts

Andrew from Acura – one of the main brains behind the operation.

Old and new in a San Diego garage

And lastly, since I’m too lazy to put these in their own blog entry, I wanted to thank and recognize a few people who have visited my house in the last few weeks including automotive journalists Clint Simone from Motor1 and Sofyan Bey from Redline Reviews.

I also hosted some fellow Acura friends including my friend Leon who was in town from Los Angeles.

I hope all my readers had a nice Thanksgiving.  I spent it in southern Utah with my RDX-driving friend Shaun and with many of my family members.


Mom (and her 2016 RLX)

And the newest member – 1-year-old Ava Mae, inside her Escalade.

Have a great week!

15 Responses to “Too SLXY for My Shirt: RADwood 2019 Car Show in Los Angeles”

  1. So much goodness here. RADwood was a blast and thank you for all your help in making me feel welcome there. The drive there and back added to the whole memorable experience. Caravan with friends, scary dark canyon roads, LA traffic, gentle rain…all great. Need to do more of those! Cheers to the work week…

    • I know, I’m not ready to settle back into reality. Also – let’s start planning our RADwood 2020 wardrobe right away. And start growing out your hair so we can frizz it out with some Aqua Net hair spray.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this. I loved the video of the show and also the trip to and from with the Lancer, Contour and SLX — all such cool cars and great examples of what Radwood is all about! “Rainwood” was still pretty rad even if a bit soggy, and I’m glad no major damage was done (except a little mud on most of our cars and your pants!)

    • Haha, totally agreed! Even with 50% chance of rain, it was 100% chance of a good time. Glad we got to catch up, even if just for a few minutes. Your ’86 was looking as fresh as ever!

  3. I love second generation Preludes. I almost got one when I was younger. I did own a first generation Prelude with 5 speed manual. I loved that car so much! One of my favorite cars of all time.

    • I remembered you telling me about that gen 1 Prelude you owned! I think someday I need another Lude. Maybe a 1988-91 like I used to have.

    • Highmileage Says:

      What a crazy whirlwind trip for an East-coaster to endure but it was well worth it. Who knew some of the ugly 90s cars would eventually gain fame like a Pontiac Bonneville SSE…the same car my neighbors girlfriend used to drive? I was surprised not a single mid 90s F&F Eclipse didn’t show up. It spit some rain but luckily not a steady rain for very long.
      You failed to mention the Vegan Chicken-Un sandwiches we are. I’m not sure what we actually ate but it was good. Fingers crossed I’ll get my Legend to a Radwood close to home.

      • Haha yes, those chick-un sandwiches. I think I had half of mine. Was a good time all around. Now you have a more up close & personal perspective of Desert Center since I made us stop at the abandoned gas station. Too bad the pumps had been removed.

  4. autoscribe1974 Says:

    Brilliant post, so much good stuff in one place. It’s great to see/learn the background on the SLX project, which must have been such a tough secret to keep! And thank you for showing that beautiful 1GLC, because I haven’t seen a full photo of it in anyone else’s coverage!

    • Thanks Mark! I know, I wonder what kind of crazy ideas the Honda engineers have now – knowing what they are capable of. I’d love to be involved in any similar projects in the future. That 88 Legend was a beauty! Especially for around 190k mi!

  5. That post was like… totally rad. It was the illest Radwood post I’ve seen! 😀

    So very cool. It’s great to see Acura really embracing their heritage (which hopefully will also start to mean production of spare parts for their vintage vehicles). I always enjoy seeing the reports from other Radwood shows (the one in Philly I went to last year was phenomenal). The 2nd-gen Preludes were fantastic – are there any more in-depth photos of those two cars that can be seen online somewhere?

    • I’m not sure on any other Prelude coverage but that gives me an idea – I should do a combined “Reader’s Ride” article to highlight their 1986s. It’s interesting how different the two cars are, despite being the same year & model. Thanks for reading!

  6. I can’t believe that this modernized red beast of an SLX is your former rolling green brick. Perhaps they’ll give it back to you now? 🙂

  7. […] a few examples of this model remain on the road, including one owned by my friend Tyson, whose blog Drive to Five details his adventures and travels in his fleet of 1990s Acuras. Tyson originally owned two SLXs […]

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