Car ShowsFeaturedMercury Spoiler II

Let’s Talk Car Shows

I recently received an email from Chris Vick regarding his experience at a local car show. If you follow this web site you know that Chris has contributed restoration updates and examples of the progress on his Cale Yarborough Spoiler II. It is readily apparent from his contributions that his work is superb and he knows how to do a good restoration. If you are also an owner of a Ford/Mercury aero car and have ever taken it to a car show you likely had a similar experience as Chris relates in his email.

Hear is part of what Chris had to say.

“Well, I finally am able to show my Cale car. It’s first outdoor show was at a Apple Valley Ford in Apple Valley, Mn. Hosted by the the local Shelby /Mustang club, it is an all Ford show. I entered  the stock midsize Ford/Merc class and they hand out 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in all classes. There is also a Sponsor  Choice and People choice. This show is participant judge, meaning all car owners get a ballot to vote all cars in each of the many classes. That means how many friends you bring to vote for you helps, they don’t vote with their brains. Now I built this car to win, so it is as close to a 100 point car as you can get. I don’t have Chip Foose’s skills or Jay Leno’s money but it did turn out nice. All parts have there correct plating colors, only natural steel part that is painted is the drive shaft ( too many pits ), all other suspension parts, under hood parts, nuts and bolts are all correct and brand new. Factory detail was the number one goal. So I show it with the hood and trunk open and mirrors underneath to show the detail. Time for trophies, they give out 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, also Sponsors Choice and Peoples Choice. I got 3rd. I was not happy about that but a little later it got better. It got Sponsors Choice, the dealers favorite car, not bad a Merc at a Ford dealer.”

Here is Chris Spoiler II getting prepped to show.

I think we can all relate. I have not seen Chris’ car in person but the photos look great. Neither do I have any idea of the quality of the First and Second place cars. Is Chris a bad looser or a victim of the Judging system? Sometime ago Katrina and I stopped taking our cars to local judged car shows because of uneducated judges. Let me explain.

I do not profess to be an expert judge or an expert at putting on car shows but I have been participating at indoor and outdoor car shows for over 50 years! I have shown everything from custom Corvettes to Mustangs, MOPARs and Ford Aero cars. Shows have ranged from mark specific like all Chevy, all Ford and all MOPAR to major Regional and National shows. I have sometimes went home empty handed and on others with Best in Show.

If you want to talk about car shows we have to first narrow the discussion a little. In my mind there are three categories of shows. First off is the bottom of the barrel yet most fun, the Cruise-in and Cars and Coffee where there is no judging. These are NOT really car shows. They are simply gatherings of car folks who want to talk cars, display their cars and look at cars. There are no awards and no judging. These events are growing in popularity and are very stress free. These can include a few cars at the local Dairy Queen or hundreds of cars at the big shopping mall in town. They usually take place once a week or once a month in good weather. You are free to come and go as you please and you will see a wide variety of car types from expensive exotic super cars to rat rods.

Check out the detail on this 3rd place engine!

Second are the more traditional local car shows that have sponsors and depending on where you live there may be multiples going on at the same time at different locations or there may only be one or two a year. Even as car shows go there are different variations. A car show, in my opinion, includes cars being judged against similar cars or against a point system.

The third variation of a car show are the indoor, regional and national events that are judged by highly accredited judges.

There are as many ways to judge a show as there are shows. Some standard methods seem to exist. I won’t go into detail about all the different ways but rather will generalize the judging methods as follows.


  1. Volunteer judges who may have never judged a car show before. There may be one or multiple judges. They look for what ever the Show Chair tells them to and what they “like”. They generally have little knowledge if any about whether a particular car is stock, customized, restored or a survivor.
  2. Participant judged is where everyone who enters a car in the show gets a judging sheet and picks their favorites. Such shows are generally more of a popularity contests than a real competition. At such shows participating club members usually control who gets a trophy by coordinating their votes.In fact, at some shows the judging is done by the spectators who often don’t know a Fairlane from a Malibu. Another variation of this is to have the Mayor pick his or her favorite car. That usually turns out to be what ever reminds them of the car grandpa once drove etc.
  3. Trained and experienced judges are the most stressful to show under but also the most rewarding to win under. You are most likely to find these at regional and national shows. This excludes such shows as the hot rod oriented Good Guys, Super Chevy and similar. However, shows put on by the Fairlane Club of America, the Antique Auto Club of America (AACA) and major concourse and indoor shows such the Muscle Car And Corvette Nationals (MCACN will most assuredly have well qualified judges.
    • While most shows still judge one car against all others at the show, the AACA and NCACN both judge every car by class but evaluates it against a full set of points. Every car starts out with the maximum points and then has points deducted according to incorrect or missing parts for the car as determined by the Judging Team. Depending on the final points after all the deductions are subtracted, the car is then classified or awarded by the total points it earned. The car is actually competing against itself. Once the show is over the owner has the ability to go home, make changes and to come back at the next show and attempt to earn a higher total of points and possibly a higher award. This is where the terms “100 point car” or “perfect car”, come from. There can be. in reality, multiple winners but some simply score more points than other winners. 

With this understanding of what the differences are in car shows and the knowledge necessary to judge all the different makes, models and years of cars plus customs vs stock and restored vs survivor it is impossible for any judge to be able to correctly judge every car at a show. The more unique, unusual and rare a car is the greater this challenge becomes.

Remember, most of the car folks out there have no idea of what a Talladega really is and even fewer have ever heard of a Spoiler II! One of our Team Members has said he was docked points at a show “because his Fairlane’s hood was still in primer!” The judge had no idea it was a Talladega and that the hood was correct.

I have found it is much more rewarding and far less frustrating to take our rare cars out to cruise-ins, cars and coffee events or other display only shows. Why? Because we get lots and lots of people who want to ask questions and have no idea what the cars are or their history. One of the most heard comments is: “I have never seen one in person before! Thank you for bringing it out.” That is far more rewarding than any trophy.

With that being said, we also thoroughly enjoy showing at the major shows mentioned about. If you and your car are up to it, go try one of the big shows with knowledgeable judges. These shows can be a bit more stressful and you will still get the same kind of comments from spectators and you will, more often than not, know you were judged fairly.

What are your experiences and recommendations to those taking their recently completed show worthy cars out to shows?

Have you put on a show? What have been your experiences?

Have you been a judge? What car you add?

Leave comments below.




Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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  1. I was one of the driving forces to get a Car show started in this town, later I talked the powers to be to allow the car club to block off a main street and we had drag racing right down town and in 1994 was given the Citizen of Year award for my work in both the car shows and drag races. I have formed classes for the shows judged in other towns and judged both Mopar and Ford shows at dealerships so I have a little history in this area plus I have restored cars, trucks and bikes for over 40 years now as a business.
    I have seen and been to the Cars and Coffee events and feel these are the best for reasons Richard pointed out.
    I have been and won 1st.awards in the past in the people vote car shows and it is true some go home happy and others go home never to return not a good way to go.
    Judged show’s are tough first of all do the judges Know the brand I always had guys who knew Chevy’s do that brand and so on.
    Than you have the 100 point group and this is where problems come into play 1 does the judge or judges know the model ? Do they understand date codes, trim tags, paint codes, what kind of paint was used in factory and what is on car now ..look at it this way if the car was painted with a single stage enamel from the factory and now it has a cut and buffed base clear paint job is that 100 % correct ? Or the car was built in January or February of 1969 and the intake cast date is April of 1969 may be it could be period correct ? is it 100% correct ? Than again you have the owner(S) did the Man or Lady go out and say I want a Talladega and buy one from some dealer, e-bay, that is said to be 100% or did the Man or Lady bring home a beat down shell and cut and replace panels…study the date codes and make sure all were correct to date car ran down the line at the factory ? The man or lady who just wrote the check may find out their 428 C.J is just a 390 or that their 440 from 69 has a cast crank and 915 heads on the block. but the man or lady who broke his skin taking off nuts and bolts, studied the books, internet or original untouched cars of the same brand to see what was what and took pictures of makings that were on parts as they cleaned them with care are the people who can build 100 point cars. Sure you can write a check to a shop and have someone do this for you…..but unless you know also you don’t know.
    So for the man or lady wanting to bring home the 100 point award they have to do their home work as they do the work or have the shop they writing a check to take pictures and make notes as they restore their car…put it in a note book or 2 and take it to a show that has a judge or judges that know that model by the book, show the history of their restoration and be ready to prove what their car is.
    One of the hardest things I had to do was at one of the first shows we put on here, was we had an all original class and this man enters his truck in this class at start of the show…about a hour later this group comes over and they start “That truck is not all original” now we had allowed for tires, but had to be stock size, battery,hoses as long as they were same make as new.The groups fight was over paint… so I opened the hood of this GM truck and looked at the paint code looked the truck over and could see the group was right, I told the owner his truck was not original paint…man it was like he was ready to throw down on me…ok how am I going to end this…he told me he bought the truck from a State Cop and he knew this guy would not lie ? Ok I said 100$ is on the table … I will go to my shop get a GM paint code book and if it matches the code on your tag for paint on your truck I pay you 100 dollars if it does not you pay me 100 dollars which will go to Shriner’s and you change class. We did a hand shake I went to shop got book came back and proved his truck was gold from factory and not the black it was now..he bitched me out left and never paid me the 100 bucks…thing is he bought the truck with out doing his home work and just taking the word of seller..was I happy no…point is have your stuff together and have a judge who knows your car and may-be you can get close to 100 points.

  2. Most local car shows are for a charity (Lions club, local high school etc). It is much easier for these type shows to be popular vote. Most reasons are that the hosts don’t know how to judge the variety of vehicles that show up. Plus it takes any hard feelings towards the host as they had nothing to do with voting. If you are going to show at these events you need to enter a Mustang, Camaro or Corvette. Make sure you have a lot of chrome under the hood too! If you think that any of our club cars would win at these events , you need to lower your expectations. Just go to the show support the local charity and move in. You do have the opportunity to tell the public about our special cars and educate them. If you want to really know how your restoration turned out, take it to a National Meet! FCA, AACA are great venues to show your car. AACA is a great club and the Judging is a little more liberal. The FCA is more in depth (judging sheet is on this website) and you get to go over the major deductions with the judges plus you get your score sheet back. In the end it’s all about attitude & expectations at the local shows

    1. Marty,

      Well said. If you want your car judged, take it to the national meet for your car and have experts such as Marty judge it.

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