Exhibiting your classic car like a pro: the insider scoop from the experts

5 minutes

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Check the oil, polish the chrome and give the barometer one last tap: the classic car season is upon us. But if you're new to the game, how do you go about exhibiting your vintage automobile? We asked the experts for their top tips.

  • The benefits of joining a classic car club
  • When it comes to appearance, opt for authenticity
  • Where to exhibit your prized car

Keeping your classic car happy

Join the club – it has many benefits

It's a wise idea to join the club that supports whichever classic car you own.

One typical club is 2CVGB, also known as the Deux Chevaux Club of Great Britain. In fact, the Citroën 2CV is a great first classic, being cheap (prices start at around £2,500) and easy to maintain. 

People join the 2CVGB club for its technical support and advice, its parts service (the club has a specialist division that makes parts), the social life and, of course, the chance to show off their cars.

'There are two big national shows, but the local groups are always organising their own,' says Simon Saint, the chairman.

Getting your car ready to display

Don't worry if your car looks like you drive it: Richard Phillips of the Basingstoke Classic Car Club says his is one club that prefers cars to be used rather than pampered. Trailering them to a show, for example, is definitely frowned on. Points are awarded for authenticity, cleanliness and finish.

'We'll award extra brownie points if the owner restored it himself,' he says.

Chris Moseley, a judge for the Lea-Francis Owners' Club, says owners should make sure that four key areas of the car are authentic and in good condition: body and paintwork, upholstery, chassis (so avoid unsightly repairs) and colour. 

'I don't mind if the engine is a little dirty, but I don't like to see things like an oil leak, frayed wiring and old spark plugs,' he adds.  

Finding the right car for you

Like many amateur clubs, the Mark Three Owners Club, whose passion is the Ford Cortina Mark III, invites showgoers, rather than experts, to judge its cars. Categories include best pre-facelift, best facelift and best modified custom classes. Visitors are handed a simple form and choose their favourite cars.

At the other end of the scale is the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California, one of the most famous shows and popular with professional restorers. However, many of the classic cars have been restored beyond their original, factory-fresh condition.

'Even parts such as the suspension are chromed,' says Malcolm Thorne, deputy editor of Classic & Sports Car magazine. 'If two cars are judged to be as good as each other, they'll decide the winner on how clean the engine oil or the inside of the exhaust pipe is.'

Fortunately, most car clubs are more relaxed, and even at Pebble Beach there’s a drift towards authenticity and what Thorne calls 'patina', or the natural ageing of paint and materials.

'These days, a car that has been dragged out of a shed, made roadworthy and looks original is good enough to display at most classic car shows, even Pebble Beach,' says Thorne.

If you are driving to the show, make sure that your car can cope with the journey – and that means all of it. Many shows are conducted in fields, so you will need to check that your classic car is covered for exhibiting.

Where to exhibit your classic car

There are dozens of classic car shows every summer, so choosing the right one for you is never a challenge.

If you have joined a club, talk to the committee about the events that they participate in, or even your fellow members. Otherwise, there are some handy calendars online, such as the one on the Classic & Sports Car website.

However, it may be worth doing a bit of hobnobbing with the pros before you venture forth alone, so here are five classic car shows to attend:

1. Silverstone Classic

2. Tatton Park – Passion for Power

3. CarFest South

4. Concours of Elegance

5. Beaulieu International Autojumble

You can also find out how to exhibit at the London Classic Car Show.

Yet to buy a classic car?

Inspired by all the lovely metal on display every summer but haven't got round to buying your own classic car yet? Consider how much you want to be involved in its restoration: could you rebuild the engine, or are you happy just checking the oil and tyre pressures?

'The condition of the car is more important than what car it is,' says Danny Hopkins, editor of Practical Classics, which runs the Restoration and Classic Car Show in Birmingham every year. 'If you're not very skilled, buy the best you can afford. Alternatively, start with something simple like a Morris Minor.'

If you're on a modest budget, the private classifieds or even an auction are happy hunting grounds for an affordable classic. 

'There are definitely more car shows and there has been a rise in interest, especially in modern classics,' adds Guy Snelling of Anglia Car Auctions. 'It's about nostalgia – buying a car your dad had or that you couldn't afford when you were younger.'

The final pre-show checks

You've restored your car, sorted the insurance, polished the chrome, buffed up the leather upholstery and even varnished the wood… but there's one last thing that could help you win over the judges: your outfit! Dressing in period costume is judge Chris Moseley's inside tip.

So, you're ready to go and exhibit that classic of yours, or if you're still looking for that timeless classic, check out our article on classic car investment.


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