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SEMA - Take Home The Trophy

Car Show Judging 101

Mar 14, 2007
0401_impp_z+sema_mazda_rx8+front_view Photo 1/1   |   SEMA - Take Home The Trophy

So you've acessorized your car with a set of 19-in rims, a pimpin' paint job, and one dope-ass body kit. Feeling pretty cocky cause your car is looking tight, you decide to step into the limelight, entering your first car show, fully confident to kick some ass and take some names. Sorry to break it to you buddy... but you don't stand a chance of winning!

Now settle down students. My name is Professor Showtime and for the next portion of this article I will be conducting a full analysis into the show car industry and what it takes to win awards. In order to grasp the concepts of what it takes to win a car show we will break down a typical judge and his viewpoints on what he or she looks for when scoring a show car. Now I know most of you students have attended or competed in a car show sometime in your lifetime but do you really know what the judges want? What do they look for? And are certain events rigged? (Silence in the classroom). Exactly my point. Well let's begin with the basics and get you started with some key pointers on preparing your ride for a show.

Cleanliness Is The KeyA show car should exemplify the "best of the best" when it comes to competition. Keep in mind you are competing at a show to win the hearts and minds of both judges and spectators. If your car looks like a complete shitbox, chances are all you'll end up receiving is a sneer from the judges and sympathy hugs from your competitors at the end of the day. Cleanliness underneath the sideskirts, dash, doorjambs, engine bay, undercarriage and trunk lids are important when prepping any car for competition if you plan to win. Elton Lo, an experienced judge at various venues and tuner/owner of Raceline Development best sums it up by saying, "If your gonna clean a car, clean the f*cking car...hit the wheel wells, aftermarket parts like underbrace strut bars, suspension, etc. Don't just clean the body and nothing else." At any given event, a judge will run his or her fingers under the front and rear wheel wells as well as under the side skirts to see how much time and effort was put into cleaning a vehicle prior to competition. If grease or dirt is evident, it's a guarantee points will be deducted for uncleanliness.

Going With The FlowThe first impressions are always the lasting ones. Applying this to show quality cars is no different in the import subculture. One of the main pointers a judge often looks for is how well a body kit flows with the shape and angles of the car. Director of ICSA (International Car Show Association) sanctioned judges for Extreme Autofest and HypeRfest, Bill Montgomery, states, " the most important aspect to bodykits is having a smooth, easy flowing bodyline. Bondo, chipped or scuffed paint, and flaws should be paid close attention to." Most judges will agree if you install a crazy chin spoiler, chances are you might want to consider matching sideskirts, rear bumper, and whale tail to complement your front end.

Customization Is The KeyWhen competing at shows, it becomes a necessity to customize your vehicle to differentiate your ride from the rest of the class. Custom parts are very important because it shows the product was made exclusively for your vehicle, ultimately displaying the car uniqueness. You've heard it a million times, people complaining that there are no aftermarket parts readily available for their cars. "That's a bunch of crock," says Lo. "Anything and everything can be made. It's just a matter of who to contact, where your imagination takes you and of course funding to pay for the job. If your on a budget and strapped for cash why not do it yourself?" The serious enthusiasts overcome obstacles and do whatever it takes to get the job done while the complainers are the ones who don't win shows.

Sweet Parts! But Are They Really Functional?We are all too familiar with the term "faking the funk." For those who are oblivious to the term it basically means being a "poseur." Poseurs can front the products on their cars such as gauges and lights but when it comes time to turn them on they don't work! Make sure every product and component you install in your vehicle is in proper working condition and nothing is half-assed in the car. NOS is a popular product among show and race enthusiasts. A typical scenario that judges see among show cars is the infamous bottle in the trunk with no nozzles in the engine bay or Roll bars slapped in the day before a show and tucked under the carpet minus the bolt thinking the judges don't check. "What's the point of side vents on certain show cars if it serves no purpose? Where does it go? What does it do?" says Lo. "Those vents are nothing more than cosmetic deceptions."

Don't B.S. The JudgesPerpetrating is often a problem at shows. Judges have a keen eye and knowledge when it comes to differentiating between the real or fake products. Andy Goodman, coordinator of the NCCA (National Custom Car Association) has been affiliated with a number of venues including Hot Import Nights, Import Wars, Metro Autoshow, IAS (SEMA), and Funk Master Flex car show. Goodman understands it is critical for his staff to be updated and aware of any trends and changes in the import car industry. Classes, seminars, and instructional courses are all mandatory for judges or new prospective juges; those hoping to become a judge in the NCCA. "We go so far as to match VIN numbers on the side of the cars to see if the interior matches up with the correct color code. Our judges aren't messing around here. We take our jobs dead serious," says Goodman.

Know Your Role And Shut Your Mouth!Don't talk too much. Judges need time to look over your car with a fine-toothed comb to ensure a fair showing for all competitors. There is nothing more frustrating to a judge than a vehicle owner jumping in and out of his or her way or starting up a booty contest on top of the car.

Judges at times will ask participants how they obtained a certain product or ask questions if something is not fully understood, so be ready to answer any questions with full knowledge of your vehicle. Point out things that are only worth mentioning, not irrelevant. Don't start ranting on and on about a ported head, ported intake and pistons. Sure, they sound nice, but don't serve any purpose to the judge because much of the engine internals can't be seen. Rather, have dyno sheets or time slips available, proving your engine is more than a junkyard special.

Know Where To Draw The LineIs there such a thing as overkill for a show car? You'd better believe it! "An overly cluttered vehicle takes away from the cars natural appeal. I like to call those competitors the ones with 'identity crisis;' where they try to do too many things at once. Keep it sweet and simple. That's the key" states Le."

Whiners Will Never Be Winners No one likes a whiner! Bitching and crying at the judges that your car didn't place won't solve the problem. If you feel there was a problem in scoring or you feel your car should have won a specific category, don't go running up to the scoring booth demanding a recount. This isn't some California Gubernatorial election and the judges aren't using hanging chads. Sanctioned events will keep the judging sheets on all the cars for their records months after a particular show has ended. "If a show competitor wants to view their score sheets, they should feel free to contact us a week after the show and we will gladly fax over their score sheets giving them a breakdown of their points," states Mainstream Productions (Import Showoff) Coordinator William Law.

Are Shows Rigged?"We want to clear up any misconceptions that competitors or spectators might have on judging a show," states Goodman. Many of the top shows such as Extreme Autofest hire an outside source, namely the ICSA (International Car Show Association) to judge their year round venues. Obtaining an outside source to judge any particular show minimizes accusations that awards have been staged or rigged. Keep in mind, judging is a tedious job. At any typical show there are more than 200 cars present, vying to win the coveted first place trophy. Judges will meticulously look over each individual car to score and rank them according to the cars overall appearance and unique qualities that separate them from other show cars. The typical judge has been in the industry and has vast knowledge and would know each part accordingly.

What Do Judges Expect From Competitors?The more a car is well rounded in visual and aesthetics, the more points are awarded. But also keep in mind it's the judge's job to find as many flaws on a show car as possible. Don't give the judges any reason to deduct points from your score sheet. Many judges have stated they would like competitors to prep and clean their cars well before a show, rather than doing a full wax and detail job at the show. "A competitor expects the cars to be judged without bias so we as judges expect the competitor to be well prepared, not cleaning their cars five minutes before showtime," states Montgomery.

In closing students, pay attention to your surroundings. It's a good chance the same judges that scored your vehicle will be back to judge your car at the next show. Pay close attention to what judges are focusing on and utilize that information to better prepare yourself the next time you enter an event. Take the time to talk to judges after an event and study up on your scoring sheets. I guarantee if you follow the same rules and regulations that sanctioned events focus on, you'll be taking home first place in no time. Now your homework for tonight is to review each of these and pick up ICSA's rule book for free at the next car show. These resources will offer additional rules as well as revisions for the upcoming 2004 season. Class dismissed!

International Car Show Association (I.C.S.A.) Judging Sheet1) Paint-Overall Paint Job: 1-10 PointsPaint must be even throughout the vehicle and include inside engine, doorjambs, etc.Should not have scratches or dents that you can easily notice.Judges will feel your vehicle to check for a smooth finish. Be prepared!Custom paint must match the entire vehicle inside and out. We will check!Cleanliness overall: Must be clean from top to bottom for full points.

2) Body & Exterior Modifications: 1-10 pointsBody kits should be mounted correctly and match the vehicle's factory look.Lights must work and be mounted safely to your vehicle and match the car'soverall scheme.Dents or scratches should not be seen on entire car!Cleanliness overall.

3) Engine Modifications: 1-10 pointsChrome must be clean, not discolored or chipped. This includes mounting brackets and screws.Everything must function properly for max points, including the turbo, supercharger and NOS.Wiring must be clean and oil free: no dripping of any fluids whatsoever.Upgrades should include headers, intake, exhaust, throttle body, any extras, etc.Cleanliness overall: Must have hood open in full view of the judges before they start!

4) Suspension: 1-10 pointsUndercarriage must be clean and free of oil. Products must be bolted down.Chrome needs to be polished and maintained throughout the suspension.Bushings and bearings must be clean under the car and must function on the road.Removing at least one wheel for the judges to inspect is recommended.Cleanliness overall!

5) Wheels And Tires: 1-10 pointsWheels and tires must be clean. Judges will check for dirt and grease.Lug nuts and rims should match the car and should be mounted correctly.Should all match and have proper rubber (tread) for safe driving.Rims should follow the color scheme of your car and match your vehicle's style!

6) Interior Modifications: 1-10 pointsAll products should be mounted and secured to the vehicle.Carpet should be vacuumed inside. No fingerprints or stains on carpets or seats.Seat Upgrades and dash kits are recommended (carbon fiber, etc.)The color scheme of your car must match with the interior.Cleanliness overall.

7) Car Audio & Security System (ALARM): 1-10 pointsInstallation must be clean; no wires showing inside the vehicle.Should have a completed sound system: deck plus four speakers and amp for max points.System must be able to play and function when judges ask.Alarm system must be installed and working for max points. Cleanliness overall.

8) Trunk, Hatchback, Cabin Or Bed: 1-10 pointsMust be open or unlocked before judges arrive to score the area.Free of bags, clothes, and personal belongings. Not a storage area.Panels or materials must be fitted properly; not hanging or loose. Should be a proper fit.Must be vacuumed and free of dust and dirt. Shake out mats or carpets!Cleanliness overall.

9) Display Of Vehicle: 1-10 pointsHas your car been featured in a magazine before? Show us!Should have a photo album of pictures of your car. Show detail and some work that was done.Some type of display can earn you a point or two. Where is yours?Your vehicle must stand out. Do something different and special for extra points!Cleanliness overall.

10) Overal Appearance: 1-10 PointsThe overall quality of the car, based off the previous nine categories listed above.

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