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5 Places Cars Lose Points On At Judged Shows

If you’re an avid car show attendee like me, you quickly learn that judged shows are a completely different animal. Participant voting car shows are fun, gets you and your friends involved, and gets you talking with other participants. But judged car shows are totally different because it’s the car that’s solely in control, and how you present the car can make or break the possibility of you going home with a trophy. And although most blame it on judging, the fact is that it’s mostly on you, and what you didn’t do that affects the outcome of any judged car show.

I can tell you from experience, there’s 5 places most people overlook and cause huge deductions on their judging sheet… and most can be easily addressed.  Here are a few car show tips we can give you for judged car shows:


When I mention wheels, I’m not talking about the tires, but the rims themselves. Don’t just look at the outside, take those wheels off and clean inside the rims. There’s a lot of brake dust that can build up over time and can really look nasty. That’s where a judge will look and see if a car is really clean and well maintained. And while you have the wheels off, give your brakes & suspension a good cleaning! You’ll notice a huge difference!!

Door Jambs

This is probably the second most overlooked part of any detail job. Your door jambs should be clean and shiny, just like the rest of the paint. Just take a microfiber and some spray detailer and give them a wipedown. And if you get some trouble spots, a little wax & tar remover, or a dab of fine rubbing compound will go a long way.

Frame / Underbody

A car may be clean and shiny on the outside, but a car’s underbody can make or break a car at a judged car show. They should be free of dirt, oil, grease, or even overspray. If they’re not, you’ll loose points every time! For minor stuff, take a bit of sandpaper to any surface rust and then coat with a flat black paint. That will take care of most issues on any frame rail.

Wheel Wells

Yes, we’ve seen a lot of great cars at shows sitting there with dirt, mud, and tar on the top of the wheel well. It’s a common thing to overlook, but an easy thing for a judge to look at with an inspection mirror. So take the time to look at the whole wheel well and make sure they are clean.

Engine Bay

I always can tell a true show car from a wanna be, and I can do so looking at their engine bay. If their hood isn’t even open that’s the sign they don’t even care, but even if it is open I’ve seen a lot of horrible engines. A judge is going to look for cleanliness, how the paint looks inside the fenders, if there are any tape lines on the top of the fenders, if the rubber items are cleaned and dressed, if the chrome is polished, if any raw metal parts are free of rust or calcium from water, if there are any stray or loose wires. The list can go on and on, but if you take your time and completely go through your engine bay it will make a huge difference when it comes to your score.

So in the end, a car that scores good in all areas of a judging sheet is going to do better than one that scores high in one area and falls short in others. It’s usually not about what you’ve done to the car, and what other car show tips you have… it’s about cleanliness and how well you present the car. So take your time, look at every conceivable part of your car, and make sure it looks the best that it can be!

P.S. Don’t forget your car show display board!  It’s essential for conveying important info to the car to judges!

Some Simple Car Show Display Ideas

I’ve been doing car shows for quite some time now (2002 was my first), and I’ve seen a lot of car show displays. From the elegant to the obscene, there’s a lot of ways people display their car. But the one thing I’ve always stood behind, whether it be car show displays or really anything in life, it’s always best to keep it simple.

If you look at any of the top-tier shows like World of Wheels, or Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals, the car show displays have one thing in common, they let the car do the talking and let a simple car show sign fill in the details. Whether you call it a car show sign or a car show board, it’s standard to have in your car show display. You won’t see any crying dolls or any idiotic stuff like that, but rather the best cars in the world. It’s the simple premise of having the car the main focus of the display.

What I’m really trying to say is if you have a great car, you will not need much to grab people’s attention. And especially when it comes to judged shows, the best car show displays let the car shine! There’s no distractions, no fake food on a tray or oversized stuffed animals… nothing to get in the way of the car doing it’s job!

So speaking of a car show display sign what should go on it?? Well there’s some different ideas. Some will just say that it should contain the year, make, and model, along with some specs and production numbers. But others will simply say it’s whatever makes the car special to YOU! It’s what attracted you to the car, how you bought the car or how you restored it. Let there be no mistake about it, it’s your car… share the story of how it became your car!

There are however some small things you can do to add to a car show display. Placing mirrors under the vehicle to show the undercarriage is a great way to show that your car is taken care of. It doesn’t have to be wet sanded and buffed to a shine, but just clean. Also don’t forget to make sure your wheel wells and inside the tires are clean. Take the time, take off the wheels and clean the insides. While you’re in there, clean up your suspension components. Making sure those are spotless will give you higher scores when the judges come around. Next I would take a good look at the door jambs and make sure those are cleaned, as well as any seals and rubber trim cleaned and dressed. Because after all, any good car show display should have a clean car in it!

Just remember, the biggest part of a car show display should be the car! Don’t feel that you need to out-do anyone with your car show display, just let your car do the talking and your car show sign back it up! It really doesn’t get much more simple than that. Because when you try to complicate it, your car just gets lost in the display. And for god sakes, have some fun at the car show… because that’s why we all go!

Judged vs Participant Voting Car Shows

In all my years of doing car shows, I’ve found that when it comes to who takes home the trophies greatly depends on what the people running the show decide to do… have a judged show, or a participant voting show. Each one has it’s pros and cons, but for the most part they both can be fairly intriguing to see which cars get what awards.

Judged car shows are for the most part are the most fair shows, as long as the judges know what they’re doing and can objectively view each car. This of course can be rare, since what defines a judge depends on what the show organizers can get. Most are just volunteers, whoever they can get to walk around a car show field all day. I’ve seen great car show judges, and very bad ones. The good ones take their time, gives each car an equal amount of scrutiny, and goes by the judging sheet. The bad ones just scan the cars in each class, picks out a few that they like and just looks at those.

My best advice to anyone at a judged show…. Make sure every molecule of you car is clean! Interior, exterior, undercarriage, engine bay; make sure everything is clean and polished. Have a car show board out with the important specs of the car out so that the judges know what they’re looking at too! Unless you’re at a specialty show having correct items is not that important, but if everything is clean and looks the part you should do well.

More Car Show Tips for Judged Shows

Participant voting shows are both liked, and hated in the car show community. These shows are really the result of show organizers needing a quick and simple way to give out away awards without the hassle of finding judges. The downside to these car shows… the best cars don’t always win! It’s all a matter of who knows who. If a lot of members from one car club come, they’re going to vote for each other! If there’s people with a lot of friends there, they’ll pool together and vote for the same cars so they don’t have to get up and walk around.

The best way to break out of this is to be attractive with how you display your car. Use mirrors to show off the undercarriage, engine bay… whatever aspects that people wouldn’t otherwise see walking by. Have a car show board out front to highlight the major features of your car, this goes a long way for attracting people to your car! When you can draw them into your car for a better look, they’re more likely to vote for you!

In the end, you should be at a car show to have fun! Yes, it’s nice to take home a trophy… but it’s not everything. As long as you get some time to spend driving the car you love and spend some time with your friends, that’s what a car show is really about!!

The Long Road to SEMA

Concours Car Show Display Stand

It’s a 24 hour drive to Las Vegas from Chicago, and although I have made the drive several times this trip was especially nerve racking. Not that the drive worried me, but seeing how the 19 Concours Display Stands would be received by the thousands of people attending the 2016 SEMA show. This show, the biggest car show on the planet, is really a love fest of cars, car parts, and people that love cars! Anyone who is anyone is there, and we were so happy to be there!

Back in 2005 when I started making Car Show Signs, it was more of a passion project for me that expanded into the amazing business that I run now. Didn’t have a printer, or a laminator, just a computer and a brain full of ideas. And over time I built the business with the business… no loans from mommy & daddy, no begging a bank for credit, just re-investing what i made. Yeah, there were quite a few pieces of equipment that I bought DOA and brought back to life, but that’s called sweat equity!

If you’re looking to start a business that won’t fail, this is the way to do it. When it’s your own money, you really learn how to manage it quick!

If you ever get the time to make a drive like this, you’ll see some amazing stuff along the way. I guess that’s life in general. Just have a destination in mind, don’r fear a detour here & there, bring along some family and friends to share the drive with, and you’ll have one hell of a great time! By far, the Car Show Sign, business has blessed me with meeting some great people, some great cars, and a tom of stories that they share! I wouldn’t trade it for the world! 🙂

So to say the least, having our Concours Display Stands at SEMA is quite the achievement. To have so many there, and having so many people complement them really made the journey worthwhile. To start out as a graphic designer, throw in a tom of blood and sweat, and now a little MIG welding to fabricate the new bases for the stands… well that journey was quite the experience!

The beauty of it all is the journey isn’t over…. just a little pit stop on the grand road trip of life. I’m taking it as an opportunity to refuel, refresh, and look back at where I’ve been. Because the road ahead is clear… just keep on making the best Car Show Signs, on the market!