How to Attend Your First Car Show Without Acting Like an Idiot

Closeup of cars at a car show

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If you’ve spent months or years restoring a classic car or tricking out a new one, then the obvious next step is to show it off at a local — or even a national — car show. This is an awesome step and a great chance to showcase your skills, but if you’ve never had a car entered in a car show, it’s easy to make silly mistakes that make you seem like an automotive noob. Not to worry, though — we’ve got some tried and true tips to help you attend your first car show without acting like an idiot, or worse…ending up in the hospital!

First, Pick the Right Show

The first thing to do is to know your show — you don’t want to enter your tricked-out Mustang in a show for restored classic cars, after all. You’d look terribly out of place and probably get ignored. Do your research, and pick the best show to showcase your particular car.

Car shows are fantastically popular, but the history of the automotive industry is so wide and varied that you simply won’t fit in with every single car show. Be smart about it — don’t be that guy who shows up with the wrong car unless you want to be the subject of much ridicule.

Drive Smart — and Safe!

The most embarrassing thing for a car owner to do is to crash their car at a show. Not only do you risk sending all your hard work down the drain, but you’ll probably end up with a ticket, some points on your license and possibly a ban from the show circuit!

Surprisingly enough, most car crashes don’t seem to happen on the track — they happen while the cars are being moved in and out of the showgrounds. It might seem like a great chance to show off by burning out your tires or revving your engine for the gathered crowds, but all you’re really doing is creating a dangerous situation.

This becomes even more dangerous if there are crowds surrounding the show entrance — and there often are because it is a great opportunity for car lovers to snag some great pictures of their favorite models. If you spin your tires and lose control, you risk a lot of collateral damage by running over your fans.

Don’t show off around the fans. If you really have to show off your car’s capabilities, look for shows that are designed for that, where you might have the opportunity to do a couple of quarter miles to show off or take a couple spins around the track.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you are entering into a show where you’ll be on the track, take some time to practice your driving skills.

Don’t look at us like that.

Run quarter miles until you can do them in your sleep. If you have a chance to practice on the track before the show, take it. This isn’t meant as an insult to your driving skills — just as a reality check.  Driving when you’re by yourself or with a couple of buddies is a lot different than driving in front of a crowd, and if you get nervous behind the wheel, you might make a mistake and crash.

Even if you don’t get stage fright, take the time to practice what you’ll be doing at the show until you’re so comfortable you could do it with your eyes closed.

But don’t drive with your eyes closed, please.

Know Your Stuff

One of the best things about car shows is being able to talk to people about a subject you both love — cars! If you’re showing off a car that you’ve built or rebuilt, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Knowing your stuff saves you from looking like an idiot when another car pro comes to check out your work.

A casual car show attendee might not know the difference between a carburetor and a distributor, but if you don’t know the difference, you might want to pick a different field. If you rebuilt your car, you probably know what you’re talking about, but if you’re not sure, brush up on some facts. Making stuff up will just make you look like an idiot.

Don’t Be A Dick

This is the biggest thing you should remember, even if you don’t take anything else away from this article. If you follow no other rules for car show attendance, follow this one — don’t be a dick. Don’t go to a car show with the intention of one-upping everyone around you. Don’t brag that your car is better than someone else’s.

Not only will acting like this drive away potential fans, but it will probably alienate you from the rest of the car community as well. No one wants to hang out with someone who spends all their time talking about how much better they are than everyone else.

This really is a rule you should apply to every situation in your life, but if that’s a bit of a stretch, at least make sure you apply it to your car show attendance.

Have Fun

This is one of the more important things you should remember about showing off a project car in a local or national car show — have fun. These events are all about enjoying something you love — in this case, cars. Even if there’s a competition that is part of the show, it should all be in good fun. Don’t let anyone drag you down, and don’t drag down the people around you. You’re there to enjoy good company, good cars and maybe even some good food or music, depending on the event. Take the time to enjoy it. It’s all about having fun, after all.

You don’t have to be Henry Ford or Lee Lacocca to attend a car show and have fun doing it. Just be smart, be safe and don’t be a dick, and you’re in for the time of your life.

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