Jump to content

Creating A Successful Car Show


Recommended Posts

My family and I are creating a scholarship fund in memory of my late uncle whom passed on too early in life from saliva cancer. We are planning a community event as a way to establish funds to aid in creation scholarship(s) for the community in which he lived. We would like to have a car show at our event, but we are wanting to know from the classic car community tips and suggestions on creating a successful show. Do we charge an entry fee?  If an entry fee is charged, how much is an acceptable amount to charge? Are awards/prizes typical in a car show (Best in Show, Honorable Mention, etc.)? What is the best way to get info out to find people to show their cars? Is there a better time of year (event will be held in North Central Indiana)?


My uncle gave his life to the community he lived in- he lived to serve others. Our scholarship fund in his honor is our way of keeping his spirit alive. It is our best intentions to make this successful as possible and enjoyable for all the participants involved. Any suggestions, tips, and/or responses are greatly appreciated. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the AACA Discussion Forum. There are a lot of regional differences that might make this forum less than an ideal place to get advice that is perfect for your local area. I would suggest you would probably be better able to get a feel for your local area by finding a local AACA Region or Chapter in your area and speaking with their folks. They can give you better advice because they are local. I am involved in running a couple of annual local car shows which are successful, but my ideas might or might not translate well into every community. You can find a local AACA group in your area at this link: http://www.aaca.org/Community/regions-a-chapters.html

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

KD, it's always regrettable to hear of someone passing on.

I know you'll miss him.


Quite a number of organizations hold car shows for various reasons;

one of those reasons is to raise money.  I live in an area with multiple

antique car shows every week-end.  So here are some tips from 

observation, to make your show excel:


---You're planning an antique-car show.  If you also allow street rods,

keep them in a separate section of the grounds, or in a different class.

They are very much different from antique cars, and the most serious

car shows in this area are for antique cars only.  After all, they don't

have mules at a horse show, or cats at a dog show.


---Choose a beautiful location, such as a landscaped park with gardens

and trees.  Attractiveness attracts.  If you can choose a place where 

the public will naturally interact, you'll get more attention and your show

will grow.  A suburban asphalt parking lot, such as "behind the

Holiday Inn off exit 352A" is far less appealing.


---Teaming up with a juried craft show, or an art show, is an

interesting option, especially if that show is already established.

That way people will have much to see, and more will be attracted.


---Keep your show away from the hustle and grime of urban 

(or busily suburban) areas.  Most people will be driving their old cars,

and they will want an enjoyable drive, not a traffic-packed ordeal.


---If you want your show to grow and succeed, have the show 

the same week-end every year, without fail--such as "the first

Saturday in June."  That way, people will begin to look for it and

automatically know when it is.


---The antique car owners are the people who will make your show.

Take good care of them, and don't look at them as a cash cow.

For example, one show at a garden center gave each owner a free

potted chrysanthemum.  You might charge a registration fee (such as $10),

but that amount is normally to cover trophies and other gifts for the

owners.  Keep only a portion of it for your charity.


---Make sure your show isn't competing with any must-see

antique car events in your area.  The time of the year isn't important,

though spring and fall may have nicer weather in your area.  

Sitting on a beautiful shady lawn in 75-degree weather would be

perfect!  Hold the show on a Saturday.  Sundays, many are in church.

If the calendar is packed with shows, a Sunday mid-afternoon

show would be different, as one show does around here.


May you have a successful and growing show that will

be an anticipated event in your community!

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Different cars bring different people, do as suggested and have a space for original antiques ( before 1938) and a different space for 1939 to 1970 original and/or modified). 

 Give awards in each space. Not "best car", but "most admired" or "peoples choice"

 $10 per car is a normal admission charge.

Set the time between 9am and 2pm, with the trophies presented at 1;30, nobody wants to spend the whole day there

 Space the cars 6' apart.

Try and have it at a place where food is normally prepared, such as a veterans club, make your money by a percent of the sales.

Or, maybe make an arrangement with a food truck.

 Don't  waste money on a DJ or band.

Edited by Roger Walling (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 hours ago, 46 woodie said:

I might also add to talk to an insurance agent about a one day policy. If something happens, it will cover it. In this day and age all someone has to do is trip and fall and the lawyers start circling.


True, and the first name on the lawsuit will be the event promoter followed by the venue owner then anyone else even remotely to blame (in the eyes of the injured party's lawyer).


Sadly this is why the original poster (OP) should not be surprised if the owner of the venue requires proof of insurance and may even stipulate how much insurance MUST be carried by the event promoter. The OP should also NOT purchase the insurance until they know if the venue owner is going to require a specific amount of insurance. Best to know the amount of insurance required (and what it will cost) then buy the coverage.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Bob Hill said:

Don't charge spectators after charging participants.  I refuse to participate in a show where they charge me to enter my car and then charge folks to come and look at my car



I am just the opposite. Why would I want to pay to show my car after I have to drive it there and detail it, if I can just walk in for free to look at the other cars as a spectator?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, charlier said:


True, and the first name on the lawsuit will be the event promoter followed by the venue owner then anyone else even remotely to blame (in the eyes of the injured party's lawyer).


Sadly this is why the original poster (OP) should not be surprised if the owner of the venue requires proof of insurance and may even stipulate how much insurance MUST be carried by the event promoter. The OP should also NOT purchase the insurance until they know if the venue owner is going to require a specific amount of insurance. Best to know the amount of insurance required (and what it will cost) then buy the coverage.



Have car owners who are showing ever been a party to this sort of lawsuit?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are soooooo many aspects to consider.  These car shows are complex events.


One possibility: contact your local AACA to find out if they hold one or more car shows a year.  Ask if you can get in touch with the show chairman or chairwoman.  Explain to him / her your concept, and ask if you could bend their ear, to find out as much as you can about holding a successful show.  Offer to take them out to dinner at a really nice local restaurant.  Maybe take a tape recorder and a list of questions to ask, and then engage in a long conversation over dinner.  This way you're getting the benefit of their hands-on experience, and offering them something for their trouble.  Of course, you won't learn all you need to know at that dinner, but you'll begin to get an overall concept and a lot of good ideas that you can work with!  And with the tape recorder you won't have to spend the entire time scribbling in your notebook!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of good advice above, but here are a few more suggestions:

1.       Finding entrants – First and foremost, you’ll need LOTS of lead time. This is especially true for a ‘new’ event. I consider two months to be the absolute minimum lead – three or four months is better. Most people who regularly attend these events plan in advance!

The traditional means of passing the word is to use printed flyers. Given today’s digital environment, you’d think that flyers would be old-hat, but they’re not. Many of the people who own and show cars are older and not computer savvy. Passing out flyers isn’t easy work. I always try to hit the most popular cruises and shows as far in advance as possible. You’ll also need a LOT of flyers (as in hundreds of them!).

This is not to say that the internet should be ignored. As much as I don’t like social media, Facebook and the like are very effective means of advertising. Club websites are also great advertising spots. If you can ‘sell’ your show as a charity event, most clubs will give you some space on their websites. And, don’t be afraid to ask local merchants to post a flyer. Again, if the show is for a good cause, many merchants will be glad to help.


2.       What do I put on my flyer/ad? Try to worry less about art and color and more about information, and don’t be afraid of ‘white space’. All event advertising should carry: ***the name of the event, date, exact location, times (registration, judging, trophies), organizing body, entry fee, sponsors, prize descriptions, other activities (inflatables, music, handicap & restroom availability, etc.) and food availability. Also, you should list any special restrictions such as no pop-ups, no bicycles, etc.***   Since your event is for a great cause, make a big deal out of that. Many car owners are also community-oriented and will give preference to ‘charity’ events.

Ask people at shows and cruises if they receive any type of email announcements about upcoming shows in the area. Many areas have dedicated souls who compile lists of events and either send them out to their friends or post them on websites.

Unless you can get help from sponsors or others, printing for flyers is expensive. Multi-color flyers are great, but also come at a premium. Most car folks are a lot more interested in the content than in a slick format.

You can also contact local newspapers, radio and TV stations for Public Service Announcements. Have your information already typed-up so that you can hand a copy to the person you’re speaking with and also be ready to transmit your info via email, social media or to a website.


3.       How do I find judges? Another tough question… The best way I’ve found is to go to shows and cruises, introduce yourself to the organizers and make your case. Unless you’re planning on a very strict format for judging, you should be looking for people who have experience with cars and shows and are fair-minded. Asking local officials (like the mayor…) doesn’t always work out well. It’s also a good idea to give your judges some small gift to show your appreciation – examples might be a small gift card or a free T-shirt.


4.       What judging format should I use? If you get really lucky, one of the local car clubs may volunteer to help you with your event. If that’s the case, you should probably just let them handle the judging with the system that they’re accustomed to using. If, however, you find yourself on your own here, there’s an easy system that’s been gaining popularity lately. I refer to it as “Yes-Maybe-No”. This system only works for shows giving out, say, “Top 25” trophies without assigning classes. Each judge is handed sheets with car numbers and three boxes next to each number. Judges work alone and look over each vehicle entered. The decision is simply: “Does this car/truck/bike deserve a trophy, given the reason it exists?”  This format can be scored easily on a laptop using a spreadsheet. “Yes” votes get 2 points, “Maybe” votes get 1 point and “No” votes get zeros. Each judge’s scores go into one column and the columns are totaled across on the right, then the totals are sorted. In our example, the 25 highest scores get trophies. If you’ve included special trophies like “Judges’ Favorites” and you don’t want to award more than one trophy to an entrant, you simply make those choices before the scores are compiled and take the winners of those awards out of the spreadsheet. One last note here: One of the other posters noted that using the term “Best” instead of “Favorite” isn’t a good idea. That person knows where-of he/she speaks. Telling one entrant that his/her vehicle is “best” is a big ego boost, but it leaves all the other entrants feeling a bit empty.


5.       Finding sponsors is a good way to reduce your expenses. Getting a sponsor may be as easy as having your event at their location or maybe just listing them on your flyers/ads. If you’re really lucky, they may spring for printing costs or trophies! Car dealers are an easy choice, but so are retailers like auto parts chains. Municipalities are also good prospects if you can tie your event into some type of local celebration. It is important that your sponsor search be conducted as early as possible in the preparation process so that sponsor name(s) can be included in all the advertising.

You should also contact your local ‘convention and visitors’ or tourism office. They may be more help than you might imagine. I’ve seen them help with printing, provide ‘goodie bags' and act as go-betweens with sponsors who are on-the-fence about helping event organizers!


6.       Choosing a date: First do your research. Another poster noted that scheduling your event on a date that’s already been chosen by another significant or near-by show or cruise is a good recipe for failure. That’s excellent advice. Also, from personal experience, I’ve noticed that both the first weekends of each month and holiday weekends don’t usually work as well as other times because those dates are so popular.


7.       Last point – Door Prizes. Many entrants have come to expect door prizes as a form of ‘return’ on their entry fees. I’m not a fan of door prizes, but being able to list them on your advertising is almost certain to bring in SOME extra entries. If you’re lucky enough to find businesses or others willing to help by donating merchandise or gift certificates, it certainly won’t hurt your attendance!


In any case, good luck with organizing your show!! If you run into problems, this is a good forum for seeking advice, since there are quite a few of us here who have worked at lots of shows.

Dave B.


Edited by Dave B. (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

All very good suggestions. The Judging issue seems to be a thorn in the side of every car show. I attended a car show once and the event organizers thought it would be nice to give a member of the town city council a pick of her favorite car. Well, her pick was a "Bugatti" kit car, built on a VW chassis. Needless to say, this did not go over too well with some beautiful restored car owners, that did not receive a trophy.  It got out of hand real fast and some owners have never attended the show since. I have seen fistfights over some lousy $10 trophy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...