Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 4, 2010
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

Display Preparation
Once you get to the show, there's more to vehicle preparation than just parking in the right spot and wiping off the dust. Because the judges need to inspect all areas of the car, open the trunk and hood (except Daily Driver), raise the windows, and leave the convertible top up. Doors can remain closed but make sure they're unlocked. Be sure to remove your cleaning supplies, towels, etc. from the trunk. If you have displays that hide parts of the car, like a sign on the air cleaner, move them aside for the judges.

"If we walk up to a car and the convertible top is not up or the windows are down, we would like for the owner to be there to correct those things," says Turner. "Or we might skip the car and come back later."

MCA judges are discouraged from touching the cars, although most will carefully open the doors or lift up a floor mat to peek at the carpet underneath.

Introduce Yourself
Many show competitors are under the impression that they aren't supposed to talk to the judges, but you should at least introduce yourself when they arrive to judge your car. "It's nice when the owner stays with his car and introduces himself," says Perkins. "If there's any non-typical production or oddball stuff on the car, that's a good time to let the judges know about it."

"That's very important," adds Turner. "When an owner introduces himself, I always ask if there's anything on the car that I need to know about, especially something different or weird. We recently judged a '68 hardtop in California that had painted wheels and full wheel covers. The rules say if it has painted wheels, it should have the small dog-dish hubcaps. So I asked the owner if he had any paperwork. And sure enough, the invoice showed a dealer-added option for full wheel covers. That's the kind of things we need to know about."

But while Turner and the other judges encourage owner involvement in the judging process, there's a point where the judges have to get on with their job. "We only have so much time," Turner says. "Owners are welcome to hover during the judging process, but if we get into a situation where the owner becomes belligerent or questions every deduction, then that becomes a problem. Owners can request a judging sheet after the show, and most judges put their phone numbers on there so owners can get additional feedback afterwards."

Turner also suggests making contact with MCA judges, either through email or one of the Internet forums, before taking your Mustang to a show, especially for the first time. "Utilize the available resources," Turner says. "There are few people out there who can build a car on their own and not ask a few questions to get a Gold. People need to understand that our judges are available. One of the reasons they signed on as judges is because they want to help owners improve their cars. We're not here just to take points off your car; we're here to help you improve it."

Every judge we talked to stressed that cleanliness, or lack of it, is the one area that most show owners can improve on, especially since cleanliness, along with workmanship and condition, accounts for large percentage of points. "Anybody can clean a car," says Charles Turner. "You don't even need a rule book for that."

Turner says the engine compartment is the number one place where cleanliness is an issue, mainly because of the environment under the hood and all the nooks and crannies, while the interior is more accessible and less likely to have issues. "However, people could spend more time on the doorjambs," Turners adds. "We see a lot of painted bolts and incorrect fasteners too. Door hinge bolts were never painted."