In this section I am going to outline a bunch of the best tips and tricks that I have found over my years doing this. These tips and tricks will not only help you out on the score sheet but also make your car show experience more enjoyable.
Quick LinksPart 1: Basic Info | Part 2: The Car | Part 3: The Style | Part 4: The How | Part 5: Car Show Tips | Part 6: Getting the Sponsors
Is the show indoors? If so there are strict rules as to how much gas you can have before they will let you inside. For most shows the rule is you have to have less than ¼ tank of gas. They are a pain in the ass about this, they will make you sit outside and burn gas. On a side note, sitting still and revving your engine will not burn gas effectively. Most likely you will just end up over heating your car. To burn gas you have to run the car. Drive around, accelerate a lot.
Just cruising on the highway doesn’t do much either. I am not condoning speeding here, but you need to do a lot of heavy foot driving to burn a bunch of gas. So make sure you think about your gas the week of the show if its local and plan you gas fill ups correctly if you are driving far.
The next tip I will give is to always know what kind of show you are at. Some of the local shows are based more off cleanliness and not on modifications. Too many times I have gotten to a show and looked at the score sheet and half the points on the sheet are based of straight up cleanliness. A lot of these shows take their score sheets from hot rod type shows where looking factory is the goal.
At shows like this spend all of your time until the judges show up cleaning every nook and cranny on the car, then clean some more. Some often missed spots are the inside of the rims, the inside of the exhaust tips and the wheel wells. A bunch of car show judges will run their fingers just on the underside of the fender wells. If it comes up dirty you get a crappy score. I have also seen judges check the backside of the face of your rims. If you’ve had to drive a great distance to the show don’t worry about waxing the car before you leave. Hit up a car wash when you get there and then put a nice coat of wax on at the show.
Now you need to take a whole lot of stuff with you for shows, cleaning supplies, bags, and other things. A lot of people just leave this stuff sitting behind their car. Guess where all this stuff shows up, in photos. It just looks tacky. If you haven’t been judged yet you also can’t leave it in your car. Even if your trunk is empty and has no system, they will still take points off when you pop the trunk, which they will make you do. Now if you are already judged, go ahead and tuck it in the trunk. If you don’t have that option try to bring one of those Tupperware containers, clean and simple.
Also if you are driving a long way to the show a great trick is to take blue painters tape and tape up your entire front bumper and the top part of your hood. A spot a lot of people miss is the mirrors, tape them up also. This tape is great and cheap. It goes on easy and comes off just as easy. It takes a bit of time but it will save you hundreds of dollars in painting your front end.
I am not a big fan of displays, I feel if you are going to spend money spend it on the car. Unfortunately its on the score sheet so to really compete you need to do it. One great little trick I have picked up is to take at least one wheel off the car and display it. You get points for display and undercarriage. A good way to support the car is to use a polished jack stand.
Prepare a spec sheet. Make a detailed list of everything you did to your car. Be specific with names of manufactures and parts. List everything of importance. Try and organize it logically.
If you have photos of work being done on your car that is not obvious or easy to see attach those too. People think that you can tell a judge that you have a ton of motor work and since they can’t see it they have to give you points for it. Not true. You either have to have photos of the parts being installed, or a dyno to prove the improvements over stock. Better yet have both.
Now just because you have your own sheet that doesn’t mean you don’t have to fill out theirs. Fill out as much that fits on theirs and then write see attached spec sheet.
Once you actually have a judge at your car what do you do??
Well first off introduce yourself and hand them the paperwork. Let them know you have attached a spec sheet. Ask them if they want you to walk them through the car. Have a copy of your spec sheet for yourself too. You use this as a checklist. Follow the setup on the sheet. Don’t bounce around. Don’t start with engine then go to suspension, go all through each category at a time. Once you are done ask if they have any questions. Be polite and answer any questions they have. Then leave them to the car. Don’t forget to thank them at the end either.
Once the judge has left that doesn’t mean you can close your car up and go party. If you are really interested in winning and think you have a shot you need to keep your car open and on display until the awards ceremony. Many times when judges are having a hard time picking winners, or best of awards they will come back and check out the contenders with the other judges. If you car is all closed up they can’t effectively judge it.
Now all that is left to do is wait around and hope you got an award. Even if you did everything I told you to do nothing is ever guaranteed. Judging is unfortunately subjective. A lot of shows due to their size do not allow for one judge to judge all of one category. Meaning multiple judges with multiple styles and likes and dislikes are judging the cars from that group. Just because they are using the same score sheet doesn’t mean they judge the same. One guy could give higher scores on average than another. Meaning if you got the tight judge and another car got the loose one they beat you, even if you have more mods and a nicer car.
Take a look at the stage after a car show, you will undoubtedly see a large group of people standing there waiting to talk with the show staff. These are people who can’t believe they didn’t win. Everyone loves their own car and think they should win. There is nothing you can do to change their minds, plus once its been announced its all over. Even if they gave you a trophy nobody knows it.
If you fell like you have been slighted your best bet it to politely approach your judge and ask them what you could do to improve. Yelling at them will get you nowhere. You can also ask to get a copy of your score sheet to see for yourself. I have been beaten by many a car that “should” not have. It happens, there is no reason to freak out about it, unless there is money involved.
In the 6th and final part of the series we go over how and with what you should approach sponsors once you are ready.