How to Enter Your First Car Show

Whether you’ve been going to car shows for years and always dreamed of entering, or you’ve just restored your first classic and want to show it off, entering your first car show is an exciting milestone as a gearhead. Car shows are fun events that showcase some incredible vehicles. It’s a place to connect with other car enthusiasts, learn from experts about crucial car care and maintenance, and possibly win a prize for your impressive new car or restoration. Participating in an event like this is a different experience from simply attending one. You’ll need to do some preparation and planning to enjoy success at your first car show.

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Go to Cruise Nights

Cruise nights are a great way to connect with other car enthusiasts in a lower-pressure environment than a car show. You’ll be able to save on pricey car show entry fees and see if you enjoy showing off your vehicle. Check with your city’s local car club or chamber of commerce to see when and where cruise nights are happening. On cruise night, you’ll be able to chat with locals who have experience with car shows. The club members and cruise night participants can check out your car, giving you pointers and advice. Certain cruise nights might require registration or fees and offer contests and prizes. This can make them a great test run for a car show. Even cruise nights open to everyone with a classic car are invaluable resources for those just getting started.

Register for a Show

Commit to your first car show by pre-registering for the event. Even if day-of registration is allowed, pre-registration will guarantee your spot and encourage you to prepare for the date.

Read the rules online for when and how to register, as this will vary between shows. There may be guidelines for showing your car. If you can’t find the details you need online, reach out to the show’s organizers to get the information. Keep in mind that registering your car won’t always guarantee you’ll get to show it. For juried applications, only the best vehicles make the cut. If you’re curious about what makes a great classic car, consider brushing up on the best classic Mustang of all time.  

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Prep Your Classic Car

You’ll need more than just a basic wash to get your car show-ready. Vehicle prep for a classic car show requires cleaning and detailing your car’s entire interior and exterior. This includes cleaning under the hood. Many cars are displayed at car shows with their hoods up. If you’ve been diligently working under the hood of your car for months to restore it to pristine condition, you’ll know how much work you have ahead of you to clean the engine. Start by washing the engine and scrubbing away any persistent debris.

Once the engine and everything else under the hood looks good, move on to the tires and rims. Use the appropriate products to get your rims gleaming and your tires shiny. Then you can move on to washing the rest of your car’s exterior. Clean the interior of the car or have a professional detailer do this. Inspect and clean the trunk, removing everything personal and unnecessary. After thoroughly cleaning and detailing the car, you can apply wax or paint sealant. Ensure you protect your hard work with a custom car cover leading up to the show. Before you head to the event, pack a kit of quality cleaning items to do spot cleaning on the day of the show.

Add Presentation Elements

Competition can be stiff at car shows. Your presentation helps differentiate your car from the rest. Good presentation isn’t flashy or gimmicky. Think about how you want to showcase your car and what unique attributes you want to highlight. Mirrors are a simple but effective presentation-enhancing tool. Place mirrors to highlight interesting parts of your vehicle that would otherwise be difficult to see like the undercarriage. Photos and display boards that show the transformation journey of your car can draw people in with the unique story of your classic car.

Car shows can be long, hot events taking place during the day under full sun. Help your car stand out by bringing a tent to provide much-needed shade. You can also bring a cooler with drinks to offer refreshment to attendees. Participants will be much happier to spend time looking at your car and chatting with you when you make them comfortable.

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Show Time

After all the hard work and time spent preparing your car, it’s finally time to display it to the world. Plan to arrive at the show at least an hour early so you can get a great spot. Always opt for a shaded area if one is available. Whether you drove to the show or had the vehicle shipped, you’ll need to do one final detail before the event starts. If you shipped your car, carefully remove your custom car cover and store it away from your vehicle. Unpack your cleaning supplies for one final pass on the tires and windows. Check the car for any blemishes, buffing the exterior until it’s gleaming. To prepare your car for judging, leave the windows up. If you have a convertible, there’s no need to put the top down, as it won’t affect your score. When the judges are inspecting your car, don’t offer any help. Quietly watch them as they work. They will ask you if they have any questions you should answer about your vehicle.

 Prepare for Your Next Show

Entering your first car show is quite an accomplishment. You might not win, but you’ll gain invaluable experience that gets you closer to winning at your next event. Enjoy the journey and talk with other participants at the show. Ask them if they have any recommendations for other shows you could enter. Afterward, you can ask the judges for any feedback they have so you know where to improve in the future. Have fun and take what you learned home with you to prepare you for your next car show.

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