Car shows are a fun activity for everyone in the family. There are usually many other activities you can find at them with all sorts of delicious food and drinks you can choose from. It’s no question that attending car shows has been a popular pastime for many during the past few decades.
Whether it’s your first time entering in a car show or you’ve entered a thousand times, you probably know that the way you show your car in a car show is pretty important. If you’re hoping to win a trophy or simply just want to impress your passing audience, these car show presentation tips are for you.
I have owned several classic cars and have been able to attend hundreds of car shows as well as organize a few. These are tips I’ve seen and tried myself and they can help you improve your car show experience.
Detail Your Car
Detailing your car may be an obvious tip, but a lot of people don’t understand the true meaning of dealing a car. If you’re wanting your car to be judged and haven’t done a true detail, the judges will notice and it can cost you.
Aside from the regular wax and wash you’ll need to do for your car, you’ll also need to pay attention to the nitty gritty details. 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.
If you’re unsure about how to detail a car, you can either look up a few videos or simply take your car to a detail shop and have someone else do it for you. Cleanliness is important during a car show so people can see it’s true beauty without smudges getting in the way.
Bring Basic Cleaning Supplies
You’ll need to do most of the car cleaning before you actually take it to the car show. But the drive from your home to the car show can put a few dirt specs on your car.
It’s always a good idea to bring a few basic cleaning supplies with you to the car show. Such supplies should include Windex, microfiber towels, and some polish. You can use the Windex to clean your mirrors and windows and use the microfiber towel and polish to touch up any smudges that may have gotten on the exterior on your way over.
Remember to check inside the wheel wells as well as the front bumper and grill to make sure there aren’t any dead bugs on them.
Shine The Tires
In addition to bringing basic cleaning supplies, you should also bring a bottle of tire shine. Shining your tires can give them a brand new look and really make your car appear to be cleaner altogether.
You should always shine your tires after you’ve parked your car at the car show. If you do it before and drive with them already shined, you risk eliminating all the work you put in to it from driving over to the show and you’ll probably have to do it again once you get there anyway.
Shining your tires is a simple task and only requires the tire shine solution and some towels. It shouldn’t take you too long, so don’t worry about putting aside a lot of time to do it.
Bring Extra Coolant And Oil
This is something I wish I would have done the first time I went to a car show. I had a great time and was able to display our 1968 Chevy Pickup. We even got a few ooh’s and ah’s. When it came time to pack up and leave, I noticed we had a few leaks with the coolant which risked eventual overheating.
Car shows are usually held in the summer, so it can get really hot. Older cars have a tendency to overheat so do yourself a favor and bring some extra coolant in case you run into that problem. Bring some extra oil, too because oil leaks are also pretty common. That way you can relax and enjoy your car being displayed at the car show knowing you’re covered.
Park Under The Shade
If possible, try your best to park your car under some shade at a car show. Sometimes it’s not possible because the car show associates will tell you where to park. Arrive at the car show several hours early; this will almost guarantee that you’ll get a good spot.
Parking under the shade will keep you comfortable as it’ll keep you out of the sun. You’ll also have more people look at your car because it’s under the shade and people tend to linger a little longer because it’s cooler. The shade will keep your car cool, too.
Bring A Canopy Tent
Whether or not you’re able to park under the shade, bringing a canopy tent is always a useful item to have. Canopy tents are easy to set up and take down and can fit into a portable bag, so taking it anywhere shouldn’t be a problem
Canopy tents come in handy if you’re parked right under the sun because it can provide a lot of needed shade to both you and your car. It’ll also entice more people to come and look at your car because of the shade. They’re also useful to use if you’re parked under the shade. A lot of trees emit sap or some sort of pollen during the summer which can make a nice little mess on the body of your show car. The canopy tent can prevent that from happening.
Don’t worry too much about the tent blowing away in case of wind because they usually come with stakes so you can fasten them to the ground. If you’re parked on concrete, you can use sandbags to keep them down (some tents already come with some).
Bring A Folding Chair
Car shows often require a lot of walking and standing around as you gaze and other people’s beautiful machines. If you’re planning on standing next to your car during a car show, having a folding chair can be pretty handy so you don’t have to stand around all day or sit on grass or concrete.
Sitting in a chair next to the car you’re presenting in a car show can be inviting for a lot of people; you’ll be able to meet a lot of individuals and share a conversation with your fellow car enthusiasts. You’ll also get to see all the reactions people have when they look at your car which is pretty fun to watch.
Sitting next to your car also gives you a chance to talk to judges in case they have any questions about your car. That can increase your chances at winning if that’s something you want.
Bring A Cooler And Drinks
Having a cooler with your favorite drinks inside is a good idea for several reasons. The first reason being that it’s hot, so staying hydrated during the day is important if you plan on enjoying yourself.
The second reason is that drinks in the car show are usually pretty expensive. Vendors hike up the prices of the food and drinks they sell because they know people will pay it because of convenience.
The third reason it’s nice to have a cooler with drinks is that you can to share a drink with a fellow car enthusiast. You’ll probably make a few temporary friends while at the show, so being able to offer a drink to an admiring looker while talking cars can seem very inviting to people.
The way you display your car at a car show can really make an impression on people. If you don’t take the time to make things open and accessible for people to look at, people or judges may not look at it.
Opening the windows to your car 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.
Some are worried that if they keep their windows open, people will reach inside and touch some stuff while you’re not present. There are some hooligans out there that do that, however you do need to remember that you’re among fellow car enthusiasts that are willing to protect other cars besides their own. You have a lot of people looking out for you. People are generally respectful though and would love to see what you have going on with the interior of your classic ride.
Bring Appropriate Props
Props are a fun way to attract people to your car at a car show and make your display a little more interesting than others. People love to see the creativity car entry drivers come up with and it’s a little more fun for the kids, too.
However, it is possible to have too many or inappropriate props. Don’t go overboard with your props to the point that people actually forget to look at your car (like the picture above). They can get distracting if used in the wrong way and defeat the purpose of why you are at the car show.
Any stickers, props, or pictures that are sexual, violent, or hateful in any way will automatically turn judges away. They’ll probably turn families away, too. As a rule of thumb, only use props that are family friendly that you know any parent would let their children see.
Straighten Up Inside
If you do want people and judges to see the interior of your car while at a car show, make an effort to straighten everything up inside. Aside from making sure there isn’t any smudges or dust inside, make sure the carpet is crumb free. Some people choose to remove their floor mats to make it look less crowded.
Avoid leaving any personal items inside including wallets, watches, hats, etc. Don’t leave any trash inside either, that’s definitely an eyesore for people who are looking. Straighten up the seat belts so they’re neatly placed on the seat.
Display What’s Under the Hood
The heart and soul of a car is what is found under the hood. Again, if you don’t open your hood, judges will assume that you don’t want your car to be judged.
But if you’re presenting your car at a car show and don’t really care about being judged, showing off what’s under the hood is still a good idea. Even if you don’t have the biggest or most powerful engine, people still like to see what’s going on underneath. You can help a lot of people who have the same or similar car with some ideas of what they can do under the hood of their car.
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. Take some time to detail it and shine up any chrome you have in there. If you really want to get fancy, judges love seeing minimal wiring in the engine bay. This will take days or weeks of prep work to complete, but hiding wiring can really give your engine bay a clean look.
Make sure you don’t have any cracked or brittle hoses. If you have used any electrical tape, make sure it’s in good condition and isn’t peeling off. Perhaps take a few minutes and wrap some new tape around the wires to give an even cleaner look.
When people are looking at your car at a car show, you want to make sure the area your car is parked in is clutter free. This means both the inside and out. Clutter can really disinterest people from your car and you probably won’t get a lot of visitors.
You’d be surprised at how many people just have stuff laying around their car while they’re presenting their car at a car show. It’s almost as if they’ve moved in. While it’s fine to have props, photos, posters, etc., having unrelated items laying around can really be an eye sore.
If possible, put as much of your items inside the trunk of your car. Most people aren’t interested in seeing the trunk of your car anyway (unless it has some sort of specialty). It’s even better if you or someone in your party brought their own personal car; put everything you don’t need in there after you’ve set up.
If you have any pictures of your car restoration or if you have any pictures of your car in awesome places and/or with famous people, plan on bringing those to display with your car. It’s even better if you have a photo album or several pictures put into one frame.
Spectators and judges love looking at the transformation of cars and their restoration process. They feel like they are getting to know the car a little better and maybe feel a little more connected. People also love cars that have any connection with celebrities, so flaunt that if you have it.
Judges also look closely at these, too. This may increase your chances of winning a trophy because you have further evidence of the mods you’ve done on your classic car. Don’t be afraid to show off all the hard work you’ve done.
Make A Poster With Modifications Listed
People can look at your car at a car show and assume a lot of things about it. But people won’t know everything if you’re not able to talk to every single person who looks at your car.
If you don’t have one made yet, try investing in making a poster board with all of your car’s modifications listed on it. Have it framed and display it with your car while you’re presenting your car at a car show. People won’t have to guess about anything on your car and will know exactly what your car is all about.
This is also great way to catch the attention of judges. If, for whatever reason, you’re not available when they come and look at your car, they can simply look at your mods list and get the exact information they need. It’s important to note that you should not lie about modifications you’ve done to your show car. Judges will be able to tell if you’re lying and automatically disqualify you.
Display Original Documents
When it comes to older cars, there are a few items associated with them that are hard to come by. Some of those items include original documents that went with the car when it was manufactured. Such documents may include the original paper advertisement, owner’s manual, and stickers with specs on it.
Because these are rare to come by, you should display these with your car at a car show if you have them. Paper is hard to maintain, especially over several decades, so people really appreciate that you’ve taken such good care of these documents.
Stickers with specs on them are especially desireable. You can usually find these either on the dashboard or inside the door of the glove box. They usually explain PSI, suspension, or other components of the car. These are especially hard to come by because people peel those off to do a new paint job without realizing how rare they are. Judges love to see these, too.
Put Mirrors Underneath Your Car
Most people, when they come to look at your car at a car show, wouldn’t usually think to get down on their knees and look at the undercarriage of your car. A lot of people would be more willing to look if there was an easier way to see it.
Try placing a few mirrors underneath your car so people can easily see the suspension and other components that are underneath it. This can be an extra wow factor if there’s a lot to show off underneath. This is also very helpful for judges because they don’t have to get down on their hands and knees to look underneath.
If you have a car you’re presenting that is low to the ground, you can try placing a block underneath each tire so it’s a little higher off the ground.
Use A “Do Not Touch” Sign
While people are usually respectful of other people’s property, you’ll still have that occasional person or two that doesn’t know how to keep to themselves. You will get some people that will touch your car and you may not always be there to watch it happen and stop them.
I understand that some of you don’t want to be a grouch about it, but you still want to keep your car clean and hand-smudge free. People may also be wearing watches or rings that could potentially scratch up the paint (that’s happened to me before). Use a “Do Not Touch” sign and display it in the window. While it won’t stop every single person from touching your car, it’ll still serves as a reminder to those who will actually listen that you don’t want your property touched.
If you feel “Do Not Touch” is too scrooge-like, try using a friendlier tone such as “Look And Admire, But Please Don’t Touch,” or “Please Look, But Do Not Touch.”
Use A Custom Made License Plate
license plates can serve as a large part of a car’s identity, both figuratively and literally. It’s no wonder why people like to collect them; they’re a pretty cool piece of metal and can take you down memory lane about a specific car you may have previously owned.
If you really want to add to the ambiance of your classic car, either bring an old vintage license plate you’ve collected or have a custom license plate made that you use specifically for car shows. You can have a custom license plate say whatever you want because it’s meant for looks, not legal use. A lot of people like to have a catchy phrase or put the year of their car on it. You can switch out your plates when you park your car and replace the original ones when it’s time to pack up and leave.
What is the number one thing judges look for at a car show? 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.
Do all car shows have judges? Not all car shows have judges. The advertisement for the car show will inform the public if there are judges at the car show. Sometimes car shows will let spectators vote on their favorite car and that is was deems the winner.