Winning a car show is great satisfaction. The real reward, however, is having a group of knowledgeable people say that they respect your style, taste and hard work.
If you’re one of those people that take car shows seriously, here are a few tips that might help you win.
Before The Show
The Build- Restoring or Modifying Your Car
Some owners rack up their credit cards doing things to their cars for the sole purpose of “checking off that box” on the judges’ score sheet. The funny thing is, a lot of those guys end up losing shows anyways.
Building a well-rounded car is the best way to win over judges. Your focus should be on improving your car to the best of your ability.
Know Your Audience
Make sure you enter the right car show.The advertisement for the car show will inform the public if there are judges at the car show. Sometimes, smaller car shows will let spectators vote (i.e., "People’s Choice") on their favorite cars and determine the winners.
Going to an event that isn’t geared toward you is fine, but you’ll have to manage your expectations. For example, you aren’t going to win “best engine” at a Camaro show with your Challenger.
Remember, although you might be a hero at your small town events, going to a big, high competition show, with point-scoring and official judges, can be very humbling.
It’s All in the Details
Car shows and detailing go hand in hand. Aside from the actual car itself, proper detailing can absolutely make or break you. The number one thing judges look for at car shows is cleanliness and the extent the owner went through to get it that way. If a car owner isn’t willing to clean their car for a car show, most judges won’t bother looking at the rest of the car’s components.
For a serious car show, expect to spend the week leading up to the event getting your car ready. Every bit of dirt, dust, mud, bug guts and brake dust needs to be removed. Such details include using Q-tips to clean the air vents, using a toothpick to get out any crumbs in the dash, cleaning off stains from the ceiling fabric, cleaning wheel wells, and even detailing and shining everything in the engine bay.
Obviously, any damage like dents, scratches or rust will kill your chances of winning. Less noticeable repairs can go a long way too, like fixing paint chips, replacing missing trim pieces and properly polishing your paint.
If You Can See It, It Must Look Good
- Apply a quality wax
- Use tire dressing
- Clean and dress the wheel well liners
- Clean the inside barrels of your wheels
- Detail your brake calipers
- Clean the tiny pebbles out from your door seals
- Either replace or paint rusty bolts in your engine bay
- Clean all of your interior- not just the easy to reach parts
- Polish your exhaust tips inside and out
- Restore your headlights (if necessary)
At The Show
One of the worst things you can do is show up late. That’ll guarantee you’ll get the worst parking spot and no time to prep your car. Getting to the event early will give you a choice parking spot. This is important on hot summer days where parking in the shade will keep you comfortable and encourage more people look at your car. The shade will keep your car cool, too. Arriving early also shows the event organizers that you’re taking their show seriously.
It’s All in the Details Part 2
Unless you’re able to transport your car in an enclosed trailer to the show, it’s going to be driven and will accumulate some dust and bugs. That’s why you should bring a few basic cleaning supplies with you. Such supplies should include Windex, microfiber towels and some polish.
Remember to check inside the wheel wells as well as the front bumper and grill to make sure there aren’t any dead bugs or tar on them.
You may want to do a quick rinseless wash with a bucket, 1 gallon of water and a few microfiber towels. Don’t use a quick detailer or California Duster unless you love the way swirl marks look in your paint!
Straighten up the seat belts so they’re neatly placed on the seat.
Display Your Car
Lots of people overdo the presentation of their car with huge signs, stuffed animals, smoke machines, etc. Remember this is a car show, not a toy museum- let your car do the talking!. Here is a poster that highlights all of of a car's mods. This is helpful to attendees of the show and also the judges.
Position your car so that the light hits its good side if it has one. Turn your front wheels slightly to catch people’s attention.
It’s up to you whether you roll your windows down or not. If you have features you’d like to show off in the interior or if you have dark tinted windows, you might want to roll them down. It is a great way for judges and spectators to look inside at the interior of your car. If you keep your windows up, people will assume you don’t want them looking inside and won’t spend much time doing so.
The downside to rolling them down is that your interior could get dusty if it’s an outdoor car show. Otherwise, pick a quality product and get them looking like mirrors.
Whatever you decide, make sure to lock your doors to signal to inconsiderate people that your car's interior is off-limits.
Display your engine bay- the heart and soul of your car. If you don’t open your hood, judges will assume that you don’t want your car to be judged. Even if you don’t have the highest horsepower engine, people still like to see what’s going on underneath. If you do open up the hood to your car, make sure it’s clean inside. It looks incredibly out of place if you have a clean and shiny car with a dirty engine bay.
If you have any photos of your car in awesome places and/or with famous people, plan on bringing those to display, in an album with your car. If you have a restored car, bring photos of the restoration process
Especially, if you have an older car, its original documents should be displayed along with the original brochure advertisement, factory broadcast sheet, owner’s manual, and stickers with specs on it.
If you have new or custom suspension and exhaust modifications, you may want to put a mirror underneath your car. This can be an extra “wow” factor.
Another, optional thing is to post a “Look and Admire, But Please Don’t Touch,” or “Please Look, But Do Not Touch” sign. While people are usually respectful of other people’s property, you’ll still have some people that will touch your car and you may not always be there to watch it happen and stop them.
A custom made license plate or frame is a nice extra touch.
Talk to the Judges
Nobody knows your car as well as you do. Don’t be pushy or try to guide them though. Just make sure that you’re near the car when they come to judge it so you can answer any questions they might have and point out a few clever details they might miss on their own.
If the show you’re at is a “People’s Choice” event, mingle with them. Don’t be annoying, but it’s okay to share how awesome your car is. If people have legitimate questions, answer them. Make them want to come back and talk to you more. Your personality plays a big role in these types of car shows and being likable will go a long way.
Check Your Ego at the Door
Once your car is set up, take a lap around the show. Check out the competition and find other stuff that interests you. Talk to people. If they decide they like you, they’ll probably ask which car is yours. That’s a great time to steal a vote. You want people to like you as much as they like your car. You never know, one of them might actually be a judge.
Never bad mouth another car at the event- especially if you don’t know who you’re talking to. It could be the owner, their friend, or a judge at the show. Remember, car shows are about sharing our passion with fellow gearheads.
Car shows are a lot of fun so bring a cooler, a tent and a few chairs. Use it as a time to have a great time with family and friends. Some owners look at shows as a family outing. There are usually many other activities you can enjoy, along with delicious food, drinks and music. It’s no question that attending car shows has been such a a popular pastime.
After the Show Pointers
If you didn’t win a trophy, take the opportunity to ask the judges how you can do better next time.
- Bring a folding chair
- Bring a canopy tent.
What Really Matters
Great memories with friends and family- not plastic trophies.