If It Don't Go, Chrome It.

If It Don’t Go, Chrome It

Published On September 28, 2023 | By Spencer Hill | News, Top Posts

How to Prep for a Big Car Show: Part I 

Story and Photos by Reggie Tibbetts


For all of us car gals and guys, experiencing a car show with our vehicles can sometimes be a little mysterious and intimidating wondering how the process works in regards to judging and awards.  Back in the day, there was a saying about show cars “If it don’t go, chrome it”.  It was tongue in cheek that if a performance car can’t perform, doll it up and put it in a car show.  Well today, as we all know, car shows are open to all types of vehicles to include any make or model.  As we wander through shows we see Street Rods, Customs, Restored Cars and Trucks, 4WD’s, Motorcycles, Foreign Sports Cars and many more.

The following is a little guide to help you understand prepping and detailing your vehicle for the big show.

When a Judge looks at your car they look at 5 areas to include: Body; Paint; Engine; Interior and Undercarriage.  Many shows do not look at the undercarriage just because of the trouble in bending down or kneeling and some shows use the undercarriage as a tie breaker at times.  All the indoor large car show events almost always judge undercarriage and many or most of the cars display their cars up in the air with mirrors and lights to highlight.

In this article we will look at 2 areas to include Body and Paint.


The body of the vehicle is obviously the largest area of the car and issues are typically easily seen from a distance to up close.  Judges look at the overall condition of the body include the alignment of all body panels against each other.  They are looking for clean same size gaps between doors and fenders as well as the rear quarter.  As well they look at Panel gaps, hood to fenders, deckled to quarters and on a truck tailgate to bed and cab to bed as well.  This is typically called Fit and Finish by Judges and Car Owners.  Consistency of those gaps from the front to the back of the vehicle is important and can gain the owner points. If the bodywork  is custom or modified, all the modifications will be analyzed for the quality of the work, not just the quantity of work.  There are times where a car is heavily modified and has many cool features but the quality of the work is low level and a vehicle with much less mods wins because of their quality of work.  In addition, when judging the body on a vehicle, they are looking at the installation of parts such as all the trim, emblems, lights, bumpers and grille assemblies, glass, as well as the quality and condition of each piece.  Quality detail of emblems and the condition of the chrome and polished pieces is of utmost importance as these complete the work done on a vehicle and add the finishing touches to a restoration or modified car.


The quality of the paint is one of the most difficult and time consuming parts of any vehicle build.  The paint will be observed and reviewed from top to bottom and front to back including all the hidden areas such as door jams, rockers, hood and deckled jambs and hidden areas.  The paint will be evaluated to check for such things such as and not limited to orange peel, runs, overspray, metallic or pearl inconsistencies, etc.  Stripes and graphics will also be rated based on the quality of the work.  Graphics are usually applied prior to the clear coat and then are buried with several coats of clear.  Today there are now many brand new vehicles that enter events and as we all know most factory paint jobs have an abundance of orange peel on the vehicles.  Whether you have a modified car or a new car, they all can be color sanded and polished to perfection.   In fact when judging newer cars having a professional color sand and polish your vehicle can make the difference in winning the show as most new car owners do not go to this trouble.  Keep in mind that the body and paint are the largest areas and will give the car owner the most points when done well, so take the time and assure you complete this area with the utmost of care.


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