How to Win a Car Show


Attending a car show is a great way to pass the time, show off your favorite vehicles, and meet amazing people. But if you have a competitive streak, you’re probably also interested in winning a prize. How can you maximize your chances of winning your next car show?

Adopt the Right Attitude

First, make sure you adopt the right attitude. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, and it’s perfectly reasonable to want to win a car show – but it shouldn’t be your only reason for attending. Try not to take the competition too seriously, as the rewards are usually trivially small. With a healthy mindset, you’ll enjoy the car show more, and incidentally, you’ll probably be more likely to win favor from the judges.

Know Your Audience

Next, know your audience. It’s important to understand the context of this car show and the criteria that judges are going to use in the competition. This way, you’ll know what to expect and you’ll know how to prepare. 

If possible, figure out who the judges are ahead of time and see what you can discover about their judgment process. Are there any specific things they look for? Do they have certain proclivities that might steer you in the right direction?

Get Custom Plates

Custom license plates can help you give a distinctive look to your vehicle, showing off unique stylings from different eras or different areas. Depending on the car show, the car itself, and your personality, you might choose to spell out a clever message with the license plate or simply use an “average” vintage plate with random numerals to make the experience of viewing your car more immersive.

Build, Restore, or Modify

There are many types of cars that have the potential to win a car show. You can win by building a car from the ground up, restoring an older car to its former glory, or even modifying a car to exceed its original aesthetics and abilities. Your approach depends entirely on the nature of the car show and your personal objectives. There are rarely any right or wrong answers; instead, your results are going to be largely based on how well you execute the work. Accordingly, you should consider working with experts, acquiring as much knowledge and experience as you can, and genuinely trying your best.

Detail Everything

It goes without saying that you should thoroughly wash your car and apply a fresh coat of wax to make your car look as polished and professional as possible. But if you want to go a step further, it’s important to detail everything in and around your vehicle, including the smallest elements.

For example, you can clean and dress the plastic lining inside your wheel wells, clean and polish your brake calipers, remove debris from your door seals, replace old or ugly bolts in your engine bay, and even restore your headlights. Judges are going to be scrutinizing your vehicle closely, so don’t falsely assume that something typically out of sight will be beneath their notice.

Get There Early

Here’s an easy tip to follow: arrive at the car show early. This way, you’ll be able to claim one of the best spots (assuming spots aren’t reserved in advance or randomly assigned). You’ll also have more time to scout the competition, meet the judges, get a sense of the atmosphere, and apply any finishing touches you need to complete the picture.

Avoid Excessive Props and Signs

Some people, when attending a car show, are tempted to use props, signs, and other novelties as part of their presentation. There’s nothing wrong with including one or two secondary items to add more personality and flair to your vehicle, but try to restrain yourself. Overindulging in this area can be detrimental to your chances of winning; remember that the focus needs to be on the car.

Talk to the Judges

If you can, meet the judges in advance and have a simple conversation with them. Don’t attempt to persuade them that your car is the best (and certainly don’t bribe them), but do try to get on good terms with them and learn what their priorities are when studying other vehicles.

Even if your conversation with the judges doesn’t increase your chances of winning, it never hurts to build your network.

Apply the Finishing Touches

The last thing you’ll need to do is apply the finishing touches. Give your car a final once over, wipe off any dust or debris you accumulated on the way to the car show, and get ready to present.

These tips can increase your chances of winning your next car show, though it’s important to remember that your odds of success depend heavily on the competition. In bigger car shows, which attract enthusiasts from all over the country, even your best efforts may fall short. Still, car shows aren’t about winning; they’re about meeting and engaging with like-minded hobbyists. 

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