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I was RAD Before RADwood

I was RAD Before RADwood

During a recent rainy day, I decided to go through my box of pictures taken during the 1980s. It was a fun journey as the 80s included my time in college, the start of my career at General Motors, my wedding and a series of friends’ weddings.  Ironically it is the only period that I actually printed pictures, aside from those taken of my kids in the 1990s.

box full of pictures

Not surprisingly, I took a lot of car pictures. These were new cars I bought after I started working at GM.  I was with the Chevrolet Motor Division, so all but one of my cars was a new Chevrolet.  As I looked at these pictures, I realized that I was living the RADwood life before RADwood was a thing.  RADwood is a celebration of automotive culture from 1980 through 1999, which I previously explored in the related article below.

Related ArticleThe RADwood Era:  80s & 90s Cars

How It Started

I wish I could say I have a picture of all of my cars, but I missed the first two:  a 1981 Chevrolet Citation and a 1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup.  The Citation was a college car that I bought after selling my 1979 Camaro Z28 (what a letdown!), but the S-10 was the first vehicle I bought after joining Chevrolet.

The S-10 was Apple Red with bucket seats and a manual transmission.  I had a ball in that truck, and it came in handy as I moved from apartment to apartment before I got married.  Regrettably, I could not find any pictures of that truck.

Red S10 Blazer and black Pontiac Grand Am

Picking Up Speed

Once I got married in 1986, I bought a new Pontiac Grand Am.  Back then the GM divisions were in competition with each other, so we were highly discouraged from buying “competitive” cars. I made that purchase on the down-low, and think I escaped any real scrutiny.

Or did I?

Shortly thereafter, I was transferred to the Chevrolet Zone Office in Atlanta.  My wife, Mary, took over the Grand Am and I bought a used S-10 Blazer.  Both are pictured above.

Bright blue Camaro Z28

The S-10 Blazer didn’t last long, as I was lucky to get assigned a company car.  The first was a 1987 Chevrolet Nova (a Toyota Corolla clone), which was a temporary car until the 1987 Camaro Z28 pictured above came in.  That was an awesome car and likely one of my favorites of all time!  

Chevrolet only kept company cars in-service for 3,000 miles, so I had a number of vehicles before getting transferred back to Detroit in 1988.  Those included several generic cars (Caprices), but also fun ones like a 1988 Silverado pickup and 1988 Cavalier Z24 convertible. 

Red converticle Cavalier Z24

Back To Detroit/Back To Reality

Returning to Detroit meant I lost my company car and needed to buy my own.  While I was in the middle of that relocation, this 1988 K5 Blazer was assigned to me until I could buy my next personal vehicle.  The K5 is one of my favorite vehicles of all time, and it got quite a workout in the two months I used it.  That roof was off more than it was on, and the Blazer performed admirably crossing a river in northern Michigan.

Black and red K5 Blazer

With the Blazer returned to the company car department, I decided to buy another S-10 pickup.  This time I got a four wheel drive model.  That truck was the source of much fun in northern Michigan, going off-road with my buddies on several occassions.  

This was also the first vehicle that I started my personalization activities.  During its short life, I tried several stripe patterns, and even played around with neon pink graphics (they were all the rage in the late 80s).  A buddy of mine talked me into painting the roll bar neon pink.  It was hideous, and never made it back on the truck.  That roll bar is probably still sitting in the attic of my former home in south Florida.

I wrapped up the 80s with a 1990 Geo Tracker.  This was the small four wheel drive convertible sold by Chevrolet dealers.  It was built in a joint venture with Suzuki (their version was the Suzuki Sidekick), and was a very fun truck.  The Tracker was surprisingly sure-footed off road, and was tossable on the road.  The convertible top was easy to remove, so drop top motoring was the norm in nicer weather.

Final Thoughts & Questions

Unfortunately, many of my vehicles didn’t get photographed; however, the really fun ones did.  Perhaps it was due to my age, but I really enjoyed the cars from the 80s.  They were relatively affordable and weren’t weighed down by airbags, ABS brakes and other driver assistance options.  Times were simpler, and cars were fun.

Let me know your thoughts if you have a favorite car from the RADwood era. Please email me at, or message me through the Vehicle Nanny Instagram or Facebook pages.

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  1. Glenn

    Great read Bill! Awesome pics!

    • Bill

      Thank you, Glenn. Some of the best memories come from our former cars.


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