The Garage – How to Prepare Your Car and How to Show Your Car – by Jim Mills

This may sound like two subjects but they really go hand in hand.

Types of Shows

There are many types of car shows, so the amount of preparation ahead of time can vary from one type of show to another; and one also has to ask themselves, “What do I expect or want to achieve at the event?”

Casual Multi-Marque Shows

Casual multi-marque shows are more social than competitive.  Cars are parked randomly as they arrive and usually displayed the way they are driven and enjoyed.  The MG club show at Beaver Lake and the Father’s Day show at Beacon Hill Park are examples.  No prizes are awarded.  You will see everything from Concours cars to daily drivers, and possibly some project cars.  The level of detail is entirely up to the individual.  The car should be clean and shiny including the wheels; the interior should be tidy and uncluttered.  This type of show is a good place to display your restoration pictures, etc., and to enjoy a picnic with your friends.

Judges Choice Multi-Marque Shows

These are similar to the casual shows, but prizes can be awarded.  Winners are picked by an individual or a panel of judges.  The Mill Bay show and the OECC Car Affair in the Park are examples.  A real variety of cars at these events and there’s usually lots of glitz!!  If you are hoping for an award, your level of prep must be high in order to catch the eye of the judges.

Peoples Choice Multi-Marque Shows

In these shows, cars are parked by marque and model.  Each participant is given a ballot and the voting determines the winners.  Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver, The Washington All British in the Seattle area and the Portland All British Field meet are examples.  The detail level for this type of show is much higher and the winning cars are usually cars that are original or restored to a condition similar as to how they left the factory.

Peoples Choice Single Marque Shows

Similar to above but a higher level of detail; participants usually have more knowledge of the cars at a single marquee show and apply that when voting.

Judged Concours

This will be addressed a little later…

Preparing for Peoples’ Choice


If you’re looking for a trophy here, your exterior should be stunning as the first impression usually influences the people when picking their favorite.  This means shiny, no dents, scratches, overspray etc.  Exterior trim should not show any residue of wax or cleaners, and glass should be squeaky clean.  This should all be done prior to arriving; any detailing that is required on site should be minor such as a modern quick wax or quick detail.  Wheels and tires should be clean and tires should not be treated with a product that makes them shiny.  Hubs, rotors, calipers and anything visible through the wheels should be clean and free of rust.  Inner fenders and wheel wells that are visible should be clean as well. Full strength Simple Green™ will clean up these areas.  Chrome and stainless steel should be shiny, and any black trim should be treated with a product such as Mothers® Back -to-Black® Trim & Plastic Restorer.  There are products to clean and treat your top and side curtains as well, such as 303® Aerospace Protectant™.  The engine compartment should be as clean as possible and free of leaks, and open enough to show the best bits. A clean chassis is a bonus.


The interior needs to be vacuumed, clean and uncluttered, including the trunk.  I recommend that you show your car with the top on if it is a convertible, and have the side curtains available to see. Also, display the toolkit and glove box handbook if you have them.  Some entrants like to show pictures if the car has been restored and that is okay.  In my opinion, showing your trophies is tacky and also sitting around your car all day and talking it up—the car should speak for itself.


One downside to peoples’ choice events is the fickle nature of people.  Colours such as white, beige and grey don’t show like British Racing green and reds.  The light of the day can also affect how different colors show, and a well waxed dark colour car will show better in the rain than a white car.  Where you are parked can have a great advantage, so get there early so that you can be near the beginning of the line, where people pay more attention.  Having a lot of friends at the event can also sway a vote.

A Word About Judged Concours…

When your car has been judged by knowledgeable persons the mark it receives reflects the quality of the product. Judges are not too picky; it is the owners that are building better cars.  I have found this type of event to be challenging and very rewarding… a true reflection of the condition of your car.


If your club is putting a car show don’t be afraid to volunteer at the event. You will usually get a lot more out of the event by doing so.  And if you have an opportunity to apply your knowledge as a judge, jump at it. You get to meet some great people with similar or more knowledge than yourself—and you get to get real close to some great cars.