Things to consider when displaying your classic car at a local show

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

(Editors note: During the month of June, the Journal is publishing a series of stories about displaying your car at car shows and concours. Today, Larry Edsall offers his suggestions for displaying your vehicle at a local show. If you have a story about showing your classic, please send it to us at

Only once have I displayed a vehicle at a car show, and it was pretty much by accident. It was back in the 1990s when I was an editor at AutoWeek magazine and my test car for the weekend was a Nissan Figaro, a cute little convertible with right-hand drive.

There was a weekly cruise-in at the A&W restaurant not far from my home and as I drove through the parking lot, someone pointed to an open place and suggested I pull the Japanese-spec vehicle into that spot and take part in the show.

Needless to say, the car – one of the few of its kind in the entire country — drew a lot of attention. 

Hey, it’s a local show, so you don’t need to Q-tip every details and remove every blade of grass from the tire treads as you do to please the judges at Pebble Beach

While I have driven a lot of classic and collector cars, the closest I’ve ever come to actually owning one was back as I graduated from college and bought a spanking new 1969 Ford Mustang fastback. Cool car at the time, collector car now, but in my second year of ownership it was hit broadside by someone who ran a stoplight. 

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, except to my Mustang. 

My experience displaying a car at a local show, let alone at a prestigious concours d’elegance, might be limited, but as an auto writer I’ve attended probably hundreds of such events and, from my journalistic perspective, I have some ideas to share about displaying your vehicle.

An information sheet can help others appreciate your car and what you’ve put into it

For example, unless you’re going to be with the vehicle from show start to finish — which isn’t going to happen because you would want to see the other vehicles at the show, chat with friends, grab some food and use the rest room — be sure to put a card in the windshield identifying the year, make and model. It’s up to you if you want to add additional information, such as your name and contact information, and notes about the engine, changes you’ve made, etc. 

Some shows require such ID cards. I encourage it simply because when I’m at a show, I won’t photograph or write about a car unless the information is available. Besides, there might be someone at the show who loves your car even more than you do but you missed out on a sale because they couldn’t find you on the spot to make a ridiculous purchase offer.

While I like to see vehicles with period objects such as a picnic basket or portable record player in the trunk or truck bed or cargo floor of a station wagon, don’t overdo it. And never, ever display your vehicle with one of those silly child-sized stuffed dolls leaning up against a bumper, at least not if you want anyone to take your car seriously.

One more note regarding people photographing your vehicle at a show: When you park, be sure to properly center your steering wheel. This enhances not only the look of the dashboard, but the appearance of the entire interior, and shows that you really care how the car is presented.

An early edition of ‘Travels with Charley’ on the front seat of a car makes for a nice period-correct touch

Now this next suggestion may be more of a note for car-show hosts than for participants, but from time to time during the day, close the hoods on all vehicles for maybe half an hour. I know, there are those among us who love to see the engines, but there are those, including the people who designed the cars in the first place, who cringe at the way an open hood violates the styling they worked so hard to achieve.  

Count those of us who do car photography along with the designers. At least a couple of times during the day, please close the hoods and let the lines of your vehicle’s beautiful design be displayed and appreciated.

One more thing: Remove any “look but don’t touch” signs or stickers from your vehicle. What they say is “Keep away, I’m the only one who is entitled to appreciate my vehicle.” 

Instead, you should encourage people to experience the car up close, especially children for whom a brief seat behind the steering wheel might inspire a lifelong interest in automobiles.

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