Best In Show: How To Win Your Next Car Show


While the average person looks forward to warmer weather for a different wardrobe, sports, or trips to the beach, car enthusiasts look forward to the warmer weather for one thing: car shows. Winter time, especially in states that see inclement weather, is the temporary death of car culture, which is centralized around shows, meets, and races. Salt on the roads leaves daily drivers perpetually dirty with a chalky white appearance, while the more fortunate Mustangs stay stowed away in the safety and protection of a covered garage.

Come the first signs of warmer weather, which for most folks is temps higher than 45 degrees, your local car enthusiasts come out of hibernation. All of the vehicles that were in storage and off the road for the long winter season begin appearing in masses. Freshly cleaned Mustangs take to the roads all waxed and sealed, cruising around with the windows lowered, despite the often still chilly temperatures.

As the ground becomes thawed out so do our builds; wish lists of parts that sat dormant for months begin to dwindle down as your Mustang becomes more built up. When asking a fellow gearhead where they are at with the build in the beginning of warmer weather, it usually results in the same answer. “Ah, ya know, I’m just getting her all cleaned up and ready for racing season/car show season/summer cruising.” Despite the varied intentions and goals for the wide-spectrum of car enthusiasts, which ultimately dictates their build, car shows manage to unite all of them at specific places and times.

Whether it is the Friday night car hop and cruise, your Saturday morning cars and coffee, or the Sunday car show at the local dealership, car shows manage to unite all of your assorted car enthusiasts through the shared love of our automobiles. For fans of the blue oval, we are especially lucky. Ford only car shows are almost more abundant than any other manufacturer specific car show, let alone Mustang only events.

The shared passion for the Ford Mustang that is apparent and present amongst all enthusiasts that have owned, currently own, or desire to own the legendary pony car has given way to a slew of Mustang only car shows and events. For enthusiasts, year after year the calendar becomes riddled with dates and locations of Mustang shows, such as our own AmericanMuscle Car Show.

Despite the multitude of car shows that exist each year, there is one question that continually pops up; how do you win a car show? While the answer to this can be quite subjective (especially depending upon whom you ask), there are certain attributes that every judge looks for when grading a car.

Regardless of how modified or stock your ride may be, there is specific criteria judges use to grade your individual car as it sits. We have compiled a comprehensive guide of that criteria so that you know what to do to win your next car show.

Keep It Clean

If you have a stock Mustang and enter it into stock class show fields, it is just as important (if not more so) to have a clean ride than if you were modified.
The quote, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” in the car world is a quote to live by. The cleaner and more detailed your Mustang is, the better it will score with the judges. One of the quickest way to get a low score on a judging sheet it to have a dirty car, or one where the bare-minimum was done to clean it. Dried water spots, dirty wheels, brake dust, quarter panel/rocker panel grime, and streaky windows are all a quick way to end up with a low scoring judge’s sheet.

Cleanliness does not just apply to the exterior of your Mustang either. Keeping the interior clean of trash, empty bottles, and any litter is imperative for scoring well at a car show. Although it may be a strange thought, keeping the engine bay clean on your Mustang is very important as well. Regardless of whether or not it is a daily driver, at a car show the point is to show off and admire everyone’s car, including the engine bay. When you pop the hood, if there is dirt and wires going everywhere you will be penalized for it.

Few cars are scrutinized more at car shows than stock vehicles. In stock class show fields, you have to pay attention and pick apart any detail that appears off or out of place. Cracks or tears in seats, sagging headliners, mismatched exterior pieces as well as peeling window molding will all take away points
from your Mustang.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself how your vehicle has all of those and possibly more, fear not; this is why Mustang restoration parts exist. No matter if it is a ’14 Shelby GT500 or a ’79 Fox, fresh OEM parts are available to fix those otherwise minor imperfections. Restoration parts can restore any Mustang to showroom quality and can also take any Mustang
to the winner’s circle at the next car show.

When stock just doesn’t cut it or you have already been bitten by the modding bug, you venture into a whole new spectrum of car shows: modified classes. Modified classes are graded upon the criteria already mentioned, as well as even more specific qualities.

Modding With A Purpose

A big factor in judging a modified Mustang is looking for overall continuity and togetherness. It doesn’t matter if you own a ’95 Cobra with mild bolt-on’s or a 2013 Boss that is slammed, cammed and blown; if your Mustang looks like it was a random mix-match of whatever you could buy and install, then it will not score well. It is important to have some sort of theme or direction with your car. A build that looks well-thought out will score better than a build that was
just loaded with whatever the owner could get
their hands on.

Unlike the hard number-driven data and scoring of racing, car shows are judged on their style. A large part of your Mustang’s style is highly dependent upon its curb-side appeal. Setting your ride apart and making it stand out from the rest of the Mustangs in the show field will help you score better with the judges. The two best ways to tastefully personalize your Mustang are to upgrade the wheels and the exterior.

Despite the dashing good looks of the Mustang lineage, when your stock Ingot Silver coyote is lined up next to 2,500 other ‘stangs, it is hard to stand out. A good place to start is by looking at any of the vast offerings from MMD. MMD’s huge selection of pre-painted parts provides Mustang owners with a plethora of options to set their Mustangs apart. Through various combinations of pre-painted parts that match your factory paint, your Mustang can grab the eye of all those who see it, including that of the show judge. From side view mirrors and window louvers to spoilers and headlight splitters, MMD has a diverse collection of sleek and aggressive parts to give you that edge at the show. Depending how much you want to make your Mustang stand out, a set of vinyl stripes will help to really give your Mustang an aggressive, retro-inspired look.

Roll in Style

One of the most crucial modifications you can make to help your pony win a car show is by upgrading the wheels. The wheels you have on your Mustang work with the rest of the vehicle to really send a message; they are part of the total appearance package of your car. Unlike other modifications that can be more stand-alone in their presence, wheels can either make or break the appearance of your ‘stang.

As mentioned previously, whatever wheels you choose should look like they belong on your Mustang; they need contribute to the overall continuity of your ‘Stang. Forgestar makes a wide range of high-quality wheels, in various fits and finishes. A great wheel that you cannot go wrong with is the Forgestar F14, as mentioned on page B4. The F14’s are a great wheel to use and will look amazing rolling or parked.

The main thing judges look for in your Mustang is to see if you care. Although it may seem silly to some, judges look for how much you care about your Mustang and how much you pay attention to detail. The build itself and how much money does not matter as much as the fact that you care about your Mustang and that you treat it with respect. These things matter and they can often be easy to spot. Hopefully after reading this guide, your Mustang will be spotted by the judges for being the best in show.

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