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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How to Spot the Best Cars and Trucks at Classic Car Shows

Saturday, June 20 will mark the first day of summer and while the country is slowly opening from the passing pandemic.  And so far, it looks like many classic car and truck shows will be cancelled and postponed for now.

Hopefully, we will get to be able to attend one or two before the end of summer.  Once we have the all-clear, it will be time for classic cars and trucks to come out of hiding and get to the show grounds.

Some of the car shows, like the GoodGuys 2020 tour, can have an overwhelming number of cars on display. So how do spot the great and know how to separate them from the mediocre? Here is some advice on how to make the most out your time at the show.

Learn to Spot Greatness

You typically do not have to pop the hood to tell if a ride is spectacular, just check out the body. Are the seams straight and evenly spaced? Look at the hood, trunk, doors, and other seams around the car. If they appear to be straight and uniformly spaced, that is a great indicator that this vehicle is a winner.

Uneven seams are a tell-tale sign that the vehicle was not assembled correctly during its restoration. Even worse is it can be a sign of a crooked car that may have underlying issues.

Paint is also usually a dead giveaway. You know it when you see it. A great paint job will shine like a mirror. If you see any drips, defects, or orange peel in the paint, you are not looking at a trophy contender.

Paint is not always the end-all sign of greatness; you may need to look further. A car can have an amazing paint job, but if the interior is shredded behind tinted windows or the motor looks like a bucket of bolts, then you know it is probably all-show, no-go.

A quick glance at the undercarriage can also be a good indicator. Has the owner taken the effort to improve the quality of the underside of the car or just what can be seen by a passerby?

Do not Dismiss Works in Progress

Not every vehicle at the show is going to be finished with its restoration. While it is difficult for many show-goers to know the value of every car they see, if you see one that is a work in progress, you might want to stop and take a look.

Often owners with rare and expensive classics cannot wait to get out on the show grounds with their unique ride. You very well may be looking at the most valuable car in the arena despite it being “under construction”. For instance, if you see a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird, you will certainly want to stop for pictures. In some cases, the condition of the car is irrelevant. Especially with something as rare as the Superbird mentioned… only 135 were ever made.

Recognize the Unrecognizable

Just about any classic car connoisseur can pick out a Ford Mustang from a line-up, but how about a Willys Americar? The point is, that you might want to take a closer look at those classic cars and trucks you do not immediately recognize. There is no telling what you might be standing next to. Keep an eye out for the oddball and you just might find that it is really a priceless work of art.

Original vs. Modified

For some enthusiasts it is a matter of opinion, to others this is not debatable. Typically, a vehicle will have a higher value if it is all original. A classic car or truck that is identical to the way it rolled off the production line is considered priceless to the purists.

Other gearheads on the other hand want to take their rides to the next level and customize them to create the ultimate street machine. Depending on the make and model, there is nothing wrong with modifying a classic vehicle with modern day performance.

A few years ago we did an article on the new mopar crate HEMI engine kits for classic cars. The year before that, at the SEMA show in Vegas, Mopar unveiled two highly modified classics featuring their new modern HEMI engines. They are both nothing short of spectacular.

Trailer Queens vs. Daily Drivers

This debate often boils down how you define value. Do you prefer money over fun? That can be a really tough question to answer.

Some classic cars are driven on the regular, others are only driven onto a trailer heading to an event. It is obvious that a vehicle that is not a “daily driver”, but rather a “trailer queen” will retain its monetary value better than one taking hot laps up and down main street.

Those that see more value in enjoying the car will frequently take it for a spin. And there is nothing wrong with that (depending on the car). It is actually commonplace to see awards given to owners with the most mileage. Sure, the daily driver is going to show more signs of wear and tear, but those scars are just symbols of pure joy.

Find YOUR car

Probably the most important piece of advice to help get the most out of a car show is to find the one you love. It does not matter if it is the least popular car at the show. If that vehicle gives you a feeling of nostalgia or can transport you back to a simpler time in your mind, then that is the winner.

After all, that is what admiring classic cars is all about. Find one that captures your heart and hold onto that! It makes no difference what other people think of your love affair, there are always going to be a few fellow enthusiasts that share your passion. How else could there be a Ford Pinto car club?

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