Hooniverse Asks: Have You Ever Gotten Screwed Over at a Car Show?


I have served as a Concours d’Elegance judge at a number of events across Souther California, but there’s one event where I will never judge again. That’s the San Marino Motor Classic, a young event just celebrating its fourth anniversary this year. Youth doesn’t excuse the incredibly poorly handled trophying system that took place a couple of years ago however, and that was what  ended my association with the event.
A Concours trophy is an important accolade for a show car’s owner, and their accumulation can help in increasing a car’s value. That means accurate and honest judging is a must, and in the case of the San Marino show, neither attribute was maintained by the chief judges. What happened was that a major error was made in the rules, which allowed a car that had trophied the year before to be eligible for a trophy this year. That resulted in a number of cars repeating their performance of a year prior, and the head judge literally running after owners after they had collected their trophies demanding their return. In my case, I had my 1st and 3rd place winners in the Morgan Class flipped because the 1st-place Plus 4 Plus had won the year prior. Needless to say, I was livid, and vowed never to participate in so Mickey Mouse an operation again. You may not know it from reading all my crap all the years, but even I have my standards.
I bring this up to ask if this event might be an isolated occurrence, or if you’ve found other instances of car show shenanigans that have possibly affected you. With a heavy preamble, that’s our question for today: have you ever gotten screwed over at a car show?
Image: ©2017 Hooniverse/Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved

40 Comments

  1. At a church I used to attend (this isn’t the reason I left, we moved), they had a car show every year. The one year that I helped out with the show, and I think I might have even entered my Z3 M Roadster Clone, a Nissan 280ZX based Spartan II won or at least placed in one of the “People’s Choice” categories. Needless to say a majority of the attendees were not car people.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Spartan_II_von_links_fcm.jpg

      1. Yep, I think we were grouped in the “Import” category or some such. I remember that a DeLorean and a Ultima GTR were also there. I think it also beat out the Ferrari 308, owned by a guy that takes it to EVERY car show withing 100 miles.

  2. I don’t know that I would call it “screwed over” because a win is a win, or in this case, a tie is a tie, but the category had prize money and a fancy trophy. With money, it’s pretty easy to split the pot, but what do you do about a trophy that was made before the winners are known? The other guy’s name was called first, and he got the big trophy. I went home with a much smaller trophy the organizers brought as a spare.

    1. Did you also pay $4-5 for it? The vendors at these events think they’re movie theater concessions.
      Sorry, if your event is in Bartle Hall, there are a dozen great restaurants just walking distance away. Ain’t nobody got time for $5 “meat”sticks.

      1. It was Bartle. When you have a seven year old in tow, expedience often trumps quality.

  3. A judged show of my car seems like a good way to take the fun out of the hobby. They seem either inherently subjective (De gustibus non est disputandum) and thus not worth getting too worked up over, or are focused on pointless minutae of rarity and replication of originality for its own sake, which I can appreciate to some extent, but getting the right shade of orange grease pencil mark on the control arm mounting bolt doesn’t really translate in to what I like about cars.

  4. First failed to read the “over” bit of the question and was just about to answer “no” on behalf of probably everyone in history.

    1. Unless there is some group out there with a Hawaiian shirt and cargo short fetish, I suspect you are right. Car shows are about as sexy as dental work.

    2. “Everyone in history” is a bit of a stretch. You must have overlooked the 70’s, when sex came without consequences, and most car shows (and spectator parking lots) were 50% custom van “shaggin’ wagons”.
      I do remember when (female) nudity wasn’t discouraged, and after a certain late hour, models would pose with displayed cars–one price with a bikini, and a higher price to remove it.

        1. Young men, (and often just men), with money always attract young ladies of negotiable virtue.

    3. But, but they say that if all the girls who have been picked up in a Corvette were laid end-to-end…well you couldn’t lay them all end-to-end… *
      Or so I heard… I don’t own a Corvette.

  5. “A Concours trophy… can help in increasing* a car’s value.”
    *Offer valid only at participating concours locations. Not a guarantee of future performance. Hooniverse and its affiliates are not responsible for the outcomes of any investment strategies based on this advice. Doubling down by purchasing a second KV was probably not a good idea for a number of other self-evident reasons anyway.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a8ce9652a7c79537b38c61a0b9b7a4be624a402ea2edafb146735d020fd64b9.jpg

    1. And the winner of the Concours d’Lemons is the KV owned by mdharrell!
      Thanks!…I think?

      1. It also won the Fright Pig Supremo award sponsored by Sports Car Market, so there’s that. Strangely enough, SCM withdrew their Cd’L sponsorship shortly thereafter.

    2. Come to think of it, yes, I have gotten screwed over at a car show. Despite being a concours [sic] winner [sic], my KV was thrice rejected from participating in the Bastille Day display of French cars at the Seattle Center. The organizers had some sorry excuse about wanting to celebrate French culture in a positive light but I’m not buying it.

      1. Surely it highlights quite clearly the importance of free thinking and the unorthodox in French thought?
        And how poor some French people were?

        1. I like to believe I eventually could have persuaded them to let it into the show but in the fourth year they stopped holding the event altogether, which I still think was a cowardly way out.

  6. Not personally, but the biggest car show I attended last year has given a few of my friends “Worst of Show” awards. It was quite rude and wholly uncalled-for. Poorly done, indeed.

  7. My pal has a mint 1966 Mustang convertible with a Sprint 6 and automatic.
    Maintained for decades, literally as new.
    I asked how many trophies it’s won – none. He said the car is always overlooked for the GTs. The Sprint 200 cars don’t get the attention.
    Robbed, I say.

  8. I organized (but didn’t judge) a church car show for 10 years. There was no entry fee. We awarded nice pewter trophies, and everybody attending got a dash plaque and a free breakfast (breakfast burritos, coffee and juice). The judges were all experienced car guys. And let me stress again, it was all free. In those 10 years, I only had two entrants who though they got screwed over. But boy, did they let me know it.
    One guy was convinced we had deliberately changed the award categories from one year to the next in order to help a particular repeat participant win. I explained that we had actually combined specific categories that had traditionally been lightly contested into fewer, broader categories, so there would be more cars competing for each award and we’d save a couple bucks on trophies. The winner in question didn’t go to our church and nobody on the organizing committee really knew him.
    The other guy got runner-up for “Best Unrestored” but thought the winning car shouldn’t have been eligible in that category because the front seat had been reupholstered at some point. I told him I could see his point, but the judges had decided that that one refurbishment to a car that was basically original didn’t constitute “restoration,” and I was not about to second guess or rescind their call.
    I hope I am never the kind of guy who will scream, red-faced and with spittle running down my chin, in front of a crowd of people who’d just served me a free meal, over what number is on a $12 trophy that I paid nothing for.

  9. Just one man’s opinion: Unless managed competently and diplomatically, judging and bestowing awards at a car show can lead to the emergence of latent six-year-olds, participants and attendees included. Someone will feel slighted, someone else will feel ignored, and even the winners end up taking crap (they shouldn’t have won, what about that other car, why is that car even here, etcetera). If you’re not careful, it all just leads to heartburn and alienation instead of fun, and who needs that?

  10. I can’t say that I’ve been screwed per se, but I do have a sort of grump against my local club – they run a show of roughly a hundred cars every year focusing on the cars from a particular country
    Hey Stop looking at my Icon! I’m trying to be discrete here!
    Anyhow, the club also publishes a calendar using pictures from each year’s show. My car won its category, but instead they picked a rather worn example of a not particularly desirable year in an not particularly pretty color to put in the calendar. They did the same thing to my buddy who owns perhaps a dozen rare and desirable examples of our marque, and who was kind enough to bring four of them to the show, for the benefit of the club…. two won their categories but none made the calendar.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah…petty, I know https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e613d2205d6b5cadf06b083c0ef5f1b4e59e1c2c61f5da0422b2bc411cb60046.jpg

  11. I haven’t been to a judged car show in years but I guess in these times of promoting high self esteem everyone gets a participation award?

  12. Back in the early 90s my uncle had (he might still have it, I dunno) a custom 1932 Chevy sedan. For the time it was really nice, but my eye isn’t that great I guess because I didn’t think it was out of the world nice. Whenever he went to a show, he would win. It got to the point where he’d show up and other folks would pack up their stuff and leave. There were a lot of upset/jealous people we’d run into – and lots of passive aggressive comments.
    This was in New Hampshire though so it’s not like we’re talking about SoCal levels of competition, but people were serious about their cars.
    I went to a show last year that gave trophies to everyone who showed up just to avoid having hurt feelings at the end. I know the organizers and they did it as a bit of a dig toward the folks who complain. It may have been too subtle though.

  13. Don’t they publish the rules prior to the event or the judging at a Concours d’Elegance?

    1. Alan Galbraith, who runs both the Concours d’LeMons and Billetproof, publishes a very clear set of rules for each:
      “Judges/Judging: Guaranteed to be unprofessional, inattentive, capricious, and subject to bribery. (Liquor and food seem to be favorites.) Satisfactory bribes will earn the ‘Ribbon of Dishonor,’ to be placed on the car’s windshield. Don’t like their decisions? Check your ticket–you’re at the wrong car show.”
      http://www.concoursdlemons.com/index.php/participants/
      “I went to Billetproof and thought my car should have won a trophy and now I’m upset.
      Boo-hoo. Billetproof never has been a haven for trophy whores. The trophies are made and given out by car clubs. They are nothing more than the expression of what those clubs liked best. There are no ‘judging sheets’ or points systems. If you would like to make a trophy and
      present it at the next Billetproof show, contact us!”
      http://billetproof.com/index.php/rules-f-a-q/
      I like his shows.

      1. Any joking aside, there’s a big difference between any competition calling itself a Concours d’Elegance and one where trophies go to personal favorites. Local shows won’t last long if the same joker wins every year because they show up in a Tucker and everyone else is bringing Dodge Darts and MGBs. That “no repeats” should be a given. They could award a car some sort of “past champion” ribbon to explain why it was passed over.

        1. My solution is to bring a different vehicle (or vehicles) to the Concours d’LeMons each time, although at this point my garage and driveway are getting rather full.

          1. I hope your cars aren’t all French Blue Bugatti racers. That would be repetitive and tiresome. Sometimes if I find a pair of pants I like, I buy three identical pairs. You always have two on hand if one is in the laundry.

  14. My dad used to have a early ’80s Lincoln coupe. It was in amazing original condition with 18k original miles. Looked brand new. He used to take it to car shows, and in one of the local shows, he decided to enter it into the “survivor” category (unrestored original condition cars, supposedly).
    The only time he ever entered a car show, entered into the unrestored survivor category, he came in second place to a 1982 Mustang that had been repainted and had the seats recovered and the interior carpeted. The judges explanation? The Mustang was not modified from original, it was merely “freshened up.”
    Dad never entered another car show and sold the car soon afterward.

  15. I knew a guy who had a restored and customized 1960s mini-bike (it was Easy Rider themed but in mini-bike size) that took 1st place at a Harley Davidson show much to the dismay of the the credit card customizer crowd who had entered their $50k+,motorcycles. My friend read the entry form: American made road going motorcycles so the mini-bike still qualified if just barely since it had a headlight and tail/brake light…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here