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How to Make Your Hobby Car Stand out at Your Next Car Show


Whether you’re heading up to the tristate ‘Stang show in your fully restored 1965 Mustang, or driving to your county car enthusiast’s meet up in your rebuilt 1976 Chevy Caprice, you want to leave a lasting impression with every visitor and/or judge that stops by your vehicle.

Step 1 Make the body gleam

Make the Body Gleam

Probably the most obvious one, yet one of the most important! Wash the exterior of your car from roof to bumper. Don’t use household dish soap or cleaners on your baby – you need the stuff specifically formulated for automobiles because other products could strip away the clear coat. If you’ve paid a lot of money in a custom paint job, you definitely want to protect that investment. Use a microfiber or lamb’s wool washing mitt to trap particles of dirt. If you can, wash it in a shady area so that the hot sunlight doesn’t dry everything and leave water marks. Use a soft, absorbent drying towel, and a soft foam or microfiber pad to apply your wax or polish.

Step 2 Detail the interior

Detail the interior

Seats and dashboard of a classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL with gullwing doors open
Dashboard and seats of a classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Series with the iconic gullwing doors raised

Attendees and judges won’t just be looking at your outside – they'll want a look at your interior as well, as they check out the dash, upholstery and seats. Leave a lasting impression by wiping down and polishing all of the interior glass and dash surfaces. Don’t forget about nooks and crannies! Clean around the headrests, wipe down the cigarette butt holder and any corners that are in plain sight.

Step 3 Polish up the engine compartment

Polish up the engine compartment

1950s hardtop two-door Chevrolet Bel Air with shined up Corvette engine
1950s two-door Chevrolet Bel Air with shined up Corvette engine

This is definitely an area you don’t want to skim over. Take your time, and it will make a huge difference at the show. Use old toothbrushes to really get into the hard-to-reach places, and microfiber cloths to gently buff everything when you’re finished. Never use WD-40, as dust and particles will adhere to it. Instead, use trim restorer. Take care not to get product on your belts either. As a final touch, you can use paint markers to make the colors pop on faded cap lettering, as well as covering up rusted screws so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb (if you choose not to replace them).

Step 4 Shine your tires once you’re at the show

Shine your tires once you're at the show

Classic cars with hood open at a classic auto show

If you plan on driving your baby to the show, then bring some tire shine with you to clean and shine them up once you’re parked at your destination. Store-bought or homemade, shine will make those blacks and/or whites pop!

Step 5 Roll down the windows

Roll down the windows

Chevy Camaro LS2 Series with windows down, hood up and trunk open at a classic car show
This Chevy Camaro LS2 is ready for action with windows down, hood up and trunk open

Especially helpful on a hot summer day, roll down your windows so that your freshly detailed interior has a chance to make itself known. Even though most car enthusiasts know not to put fingerprints on other people’s vehicles, there are always the newcomers who might not be aware of car show etiquette.

Step 6 Use props that are appropriate for the audience

Use props that are appropriate for the audience

Are visitors going to be mostly hardcore car enthusiasts, or is this a casual show that will see a lot of family attendance? Be mindful of the people who will at the show, and plan your props accordingly. Raunchy props might get a laugh from an adult audience, but be met with disapproval from the dad who just wants to look at cars with his 10-year son.

Step 7 Get creative with your display using mirrors, show rocks or wheel cribs

Get creative with your display using mirrors, show rocks or wheel cribs

If the show allows it, consider giving your car a boost by setting it on wheel cribs or stands. Don’t want to jack your car up? Drive up onto our Portable Pit Stop Ramps or Restyler Ramps, which offer more ease of use. For Jeeps and other off-road cars, display them like they’re meant to be seen by lifting a tire onto a Show Rock. Mirrors add to the fun by giving attendees a one-of-a-kind look at the underside of your car, and can show the judges that you even put effort into making the underside clean and memorable.

Step 8 Show off your hard work with before photos and history about the car

Show off your hard work with before photos and history about the car

Regatta Blue Karman Ghia 1968 at classic car show with hood open
This gorgeous 1968 Karman Ghia not only shows key information on plaque, it also credits all of the work done on the car

Knowing the hard work you put into your car and the personal connection you share can make all the difference to the judges and the attendees. If you have before photos, people will want to see them! Maybe your car was found in a barn, or survived a fire, or has been in your family for generations – share those stories visually and give everyone a chance to “ooh” and “ahh” over the transformation.

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