There are practical cars ― and then there are show cars. Not every driver has the time, energy, and money to devote to transforming his vehicle into a big, bold, beautiful show car; after all, being a gearhead is a time- and resource-intensive hobby. However, if you are determined to drive an eye-catching, award-winning show car, you can accomplish your goal in seven (not easy, not quick, and definitely not cheap) steps.

Step 1: Research

car-researchNot all show cars take the same amount of work, and not all mechanics have the same level of skill or availability of resources. Therefore, it is imperative that you perform research to learn what kind of project is appropriate for you. To start, you can visit car shows in your area and connect with local gearheads. You should spend some time finding show cars you have a particular affinity for and learning what it took to build them. You should try to get as specific as possible, perhaps even contacting the cars’ owners for more detail.

Additionally, you should devote effort to learning the laws and regulations for your state and county. Not all car modifications are legal everywhere; in fact, many online stores sell mods that are forbidden across the U.S., like louder exhaust systems and underbody lighting. The better you understand your region’s vehicle code, the more accurately you can plan the creation of your show car.

Step 2: Acquire Your Car

To build a show car you can be proud of, you must start with a vehicle that already has a pretty high coolness factor. No matter how many mods you add, it is going to be difficult to transform a 2006 Toyota Prius into a hot car; instead, you should opt for makes and models that offer plenty of visual interest but don’t cost a fortune, like:

Step 3: Enhance the Engine

car-interiorBeauty doesn’t require functionality ― except in cars. Most show cars are as powerful as they are pretty, so it is essential that you get under the hood to repair and replace any old, broken, or ugly parts. While it may be cheaper to focus on performance, even working parts can detract from the aesthetics of your engine. Therefore, everything from the air intake to the couplers should shine. You should consider upgrades that add to both the look and feel of your engine, like the SR20 engine harness wiring.

Step 4: Doll up the Exterior

Everyone will see the exterior of your vehicle, which makes it among the most important fixes for show cars. However, it is easy to overdo exterior modifications, which will cause imbalance in the look of your car. You should remember that body kits should enhance your car, working with its existing lines. A body kit that overwhelms your car is off-putting and sometimes dangerous to drive.

Still, the brighter the paint, the better, as flashy colors and designs attract eyes. A major car show trend is to decorate newer makes and models with airbrushed graphics or intricate stickers, but classic cars usually demand more classic paint styles.

Step 5: Clean up the Interior

It is easy to spend time updating the exterior, but to win trophies at car shows, you need to spend as much time curating the inside of your vehicle. Your seats, pillars, floors, roof, and dash should have seamless style. Leather is always the best choice for upholstery, but adding splashes of color that complement your exterior paint choice is usually smart. Aftermarket add-ons, like steering wheels and gear knobs, are less-expensive ways to customize the inside of your car.

Step 6: Add Flair

Cars, like all major appliances, are getting smart, and even show cars are starting to learn the importance of smart tech. The more technologically advanced you can make your car, the better. Award-winning show cars tend to boast special features like DVD players, TFT monitors, SPL systems, and gaming consoles. You might also allow your car to connect with mobile tech, like tablets and smartphones, for added functionality.

Step 7: Get to the Show

Though these steps may seem straightforward, it could take years for you to complete your show car’s modifications. Eventually, though, you will take it to a show, and if you have done everything right, you could win a trophy for your efforts. Thus, as long as you follow sound advice, plan, and make wise choices, you will have a spectacular show car.