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How to Succeed at a Cruise-In

By

1962 Custom Corvette

Your Corvette doesn't have to be this nice to do well at a local Cruise-In or car show. It just has to be well-kept, or unique in some way.

Photo by Wes Klein
One of the most common summer car events in any American city is the classic car and hot rod Cruise-In or car show. These are generally organized by a local enthusiast club and held in a park or parking lot on a Saturday. It'll cost you $5 to $15 to enter, and your car will be eligible to win a trophy. The judging is informal - usually just the members of the organizing club - and they don't look too closely. If you like to collect hardware, it's easy to do well at a Cruise-In if you follow a few basic steps.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 4-6 Hours

Here's How:

  1. Start the day before the Cruise-In and clean up your car thoroughly. That means vacuuming the interior and getting rid of anything that's not supposed to be there, and then washing, waxing, and shining up every inch of the car. I've got a how-to article on detailing your Corvette if you don't have that process down to a science yet.

    Don't forget your wheels and tires - Judges like a car that's been detailed from the rooftop to the ground!

  2. Pack up any supporting items you might have. If you've got the original window sticker from your Corvette, frame it. Photo books of your restoration/modification process are also good. You might bring original dealer brochures, posters, scale models, or absolutely anything that relates to your car. People love to see this stuff, and it makes your car stand out.

  3. Don't forget to pack for your own comfort! You'll want a folding chair for each person in your car, plus a cooler or thermos for your drinks, and maybe a snack. Most Cruise-Ins have hot dogs or burgers and drinks for sale, but if that's not your choice, best to pack what you like. Don't forget sunscreen!

  4. Finally, pack your mobile detailing kit. This should include a spray bottle of windex, a bottle of detail spray, some micro-fiber towels, and maybe a duster. If you think your tires might get dirty on the way, bring your tire shine and some rags, too.

  5. Get to the show early! If the show flyer says it starts at 10 a.m., that's when everyone is expected to be in position and shined up, ready to show. So people will start arriving at about 8 a.m. to get set up. Yes, they really do that. There's nothing wrong with showing up at the printed start time, or even a little later, but you're likely to get a space way out at the edge of the show, while the close-in spots will be taken by the early birds.

  6. When you get to the show, go up to the management table and get yourself registered. They'll want your name, the year/make/model of your car, and you might need to choose a class. Corvettes generally have their own class, or you can enter any class in which your 'Vette fits. Organizers typically have classes for each decade of the 20th century, for GM or Chevy cars, for convertibles, sports cars, or any other division they can think of.

  7. Once you're settled in at the show, take time and enjoy yourself. They'll have someone spinning tunes, and maybe some people there to talk about the charity. Most shows have a raffle of some kind, and you'll usually get a goody bag with some car wash samples and promotional items from local businesses inside. I always buy some raffle tickets, just for fun.

    You can walk the show and enjoy the cars, but be sure to spend some time sitting by your car to answer questions and talk to the people who are there to see your 'Vette. You may or may not know which people are the judges!

  8. The awards are generally given out at the end of the show - at the end time printed on the flyer. Everyone will gather around the awards table and the organizers will call each class winner up to receive his or her trophy. The trophies are generally inexpensive, but nice.

    The key thing to remember at this point is that the judging is completely arbitrary and subjective. If the judges at one show don't like your car, the judges at the next show might love it. Don't take it to heart if you don't win, and don't get cocky if you do win. Say thanks, praise the other cars in your class, and enjoy the applause.

  9. When the last award is handed out, the Cruise-In is over. Everyone will pile into their cars and head for home - or maybe the next show if there's an evening event somewhere in town. You will be going home with your goody bag, a stack of flyers for future shows, and maybe even a trophy. But the best part of it is sharing your passion for Corvettes and collector cars generally with others who think your car is absolutely the coolest thing they've seen all week.

Tips:

  1. Make sure your car is as clean and well-presented as it can possibly be. Visible detail work and a clean engine compartment impress the judges!

  2. Photo books, period-correct accessories, and original documentation are good to have and display. Don't walk away from valuable scale models and books, however. These are public events and you never know who might be lurking.

  3. Don't put stickers on your car that disparage other brands. It's tacky and you never know if the judges really like the brand you're insulting.

  4. Bring enough stuff to stay comfortable and occupied for several hours. I like to use car shows as time to get some pleasure reading done, once I've walked the show.

  5. Bring a camera - you will be sure to find cars with great ideas you will want to emulate.

What You Need

  • Detail spray and micro-fiber towels
  • A comfortable folding chair
  • A cooler full of your favorite soft drinks
  • Sunscreen and an umbrella for shade
  • $10 to $20 for registration, raffle, and food
  • A sunny disposition for talking to fans

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