An Open Letter To Car Show Trophy Hunters


Dear Trophy Hunter,

We know the show season has just begun and you are noticeably excited, but before you explode with jubilation we’d like to stop you for a second and address an incident from last year.

Do you remember? It happened at the show where you spent most of the day glued to your folding chair positioned beside your car. You grew agitated with each passing moment you were not judged, and when it was your time you made damn sure the judges were well aware of the fifth TV screen your car had, versus your competitors one.

Yes, we’re talking about that show.

The same show where upon not winning the trophy you had already awarded yourself mentally, you tried to keep your composure but the expression on your face and words muttered under breath betrayed you.

As you stomped off like a child we watched, and later when you went on a social media slandering the event, its competitors, and the ‘scene’ in general we watched that too.

awardsLetting loose an onslaught of complaints and personal attacks, alongside boisterous self promotion justifying why you deserve an award, makes you look incredibly immature, especially when you do it after every event.

Do you really think show organizers want to read complaints you made while they were still at the venue cleaning up? Do you think those who accepted their awards humbly want to read about how little you think of their cars?

Yeah, we’ve got to tell you, as a friend all of that behavior is getting pretty tiresome.

niagara_truck_and_tuner_expo_2013_trophiesSure, we all love appreciation for the cars we call our own, but the rest of us have realized that building a car for ourselves is a much more valuable endeavor and that appreciation comes in ways not limited to plastic cups.

All the time you spend obsessing over something to put on a shelf in your garage, or worse cart from show to show as some sort of mobile shrine to yourself, has blinded you to the true joys of being an enthusiast.

Did you happen to notice the small child that spent an extra long time looking at your car? Chances are they will remember your vehicle for years to come and it just might have set them down the path of becoming an enthusiast one day. You’d pick up on these kind of subtleties if you saw the forest beyond the trees, or that is the community beyond the awards. Building a car, truck or bike, should never be just about a trophy because honestly there are much cheaper past times to partake in if you just want to line your mantel or work bench with trinkets.

Witnessing your adult temper tantrums is exhausting, and your empty threats to retire and leave the scene fall on deaf ears because, thanks to your increasingly poor attitude, we wish you would.

But as much as events could do without you we want to let you know it isn’t too late to change. Instead of fixating on the prize at the end, focus on the journey, the experiences, and friends that come with building a car and being a real enthusiast. When you’re at the next event on your calendar take a look around at what everyone else is doing; swapping stories, laughing, catching up and genuinely enjoying themselves. Is missing all that really worth a trophy?

After all these years of chasing awards we know it might be hard to change your mind about the true purpose of events (TLDR: it’s about the people not the awards) but if you could at least try to see them differently this year that would be great.


Concerned Enthusiasts Everywhere


  1. Coming from a Mini-Trucker – I know a club out of North Carolina (Pebble Pushers) puts on the flyer for their annual show “If you are going to whine about not getting a trophy, just send us $15 and you can stay home and we’ll mail you one” or something to that effect.

    I always found that funny until I realized that there are people who will ACTUALLY do that.

    On a side note, and I’m hoping to see an editorial on this (if there’s not one already) – Lowered and wheels does not a show car make. I’ve been in the car show scene for 17-18 years and I remember the days when guys actually had to have work done to their ride to make people look twice. I don’t care if you have $10k wheels and a bolt-on bag setup. Show me some custom body and paint work, show me a fully cleaned and detailed engine bay, for the love of god show me SOMETHING that you can’t just “put on” in a weekend. – End rant.

    • Matt I know of Pebble Pushers from waaay back. Some people are really hung up on the trophies.

      A few people have asked me to tackle that one. It’s tough because their are some shows that really just want to see good wheel fitment and ride height and they are becoming more popular and its sort of skewed everything. However I just thought of a title so I might start.

    • Matt you hit the nail right on the head, im building a custom trike for myslef for the love of building and the inclusions in my build are what i want, totally custom, pretty much hand built by myself and very original custom design, its what i feel makes the build so much fun my ideas coming to life for me to enjoy, if others dig it thats nice but i build for me not for shows or trophies.

  2. Yeah man, I just don’t get it. However, I won’t lie, I don’t go to many import shows. I honestly don’t see this as much in my world. Most people are there to hang out with friends old and new. I’m part of a club that runs one of the East-Coasts longest running truck shows – Low Rollers End of Summer Bash and occasionally you’ll get a guy who wants to see his “score sheet” but its usually to see what he can improve on, not see what the judges missed.

    It was at this show last year that a 14 year old kid asked my team ‘What we were looking for’ as we walked around his Dads truck judging. We took 20 minutes to go over that truck and point out where points were gained and lossed. He learned that a few minutes polishing under the hood and vacuuming the carpet goes a long way when it comes to presentation. We taught him the difference between Plastidip and Powdercoat and I would like to think thats a lesson he will take with him when he starts driving and becomes the next generation of automotive enthusiast.

    A show that ONLY wants to see good wheel fitment and ride height… to me thats not a show. Sorry for the long rant, but there are still those of us who remember and love the good old days of shows.

    • A friend of mine had his car in the Detroit Autorama and he said what he learned from the judges there has really changed how he builds show cars from here on out. They get really granuar down to the thread number showing and hardware matching everywhere.

      I feel like its fine to compete for trophies but always treat it as a bonus to the day not the reason to be there.

      Pretty cool of you to use them as teaching moments.

  3. No arguments from me on this topic. I have my share of awards and admit that I appreciate the recognition, even if it is usually a cheap plastic trophy. While being honest, it aggravates me to see trophies awarded to owners of Mustangs, Corvettes and PT Cruisers who have merely made the monthly payment, stopped at Pep Boys for some peel and stick accessory, and ran it through the car wash on the way to the show with their Cookie Cutter GT. While organizers like to have as many participants as possible for a successful show, perhaps a separate class could be established for this type of enthusiast.

  4. I go to carshows because i like to drive my old car. To me a car you cant drive and enjoy is useless. If you see my car in or on a trailer its there because it broke down. An i dont give a crap about trophys. I give them to a kid. I am a ford guy. Ive seen enough 55 an 57 chevys , camaro’s and chevells to last me a lifetime. But i can appreciate the work put in to them an besides everybody likes different things. I go to car shows to see friends, talk, relax and just to enjoy life.

    • Amen….If I never win another dust collecting trophy I’d be tickled.. Could care less. To me it’s about the cars, friends (new and old), the camaraderie…..and the drive to and from, probably the long way around…

  5. My biggest pleasure when showing a car is the interaction between the spectators and my feiiow car enthusiasts. People that just sit in their chairs and ignore the people looking at their cars are missing out on a lot of fun, info, cool stories, etc. tell them what all you have done, how long it took, who helped and so forth. My trophy is my car and I drive it whenever possible. The look on a little kid’s face when you let them sit in it or take a picture by it is priceless. Worth way more to me than a cheap trophy.

  6. However, there are also the shows that are obviously rigged where the judges take care of their friends. And nothing pisses me off more than seeing brand new cars barely off the showroom win awards. I’ve seen cars that were so new they still had temp tags, and they won! Beating out cars that were 30, 40, 50 years old that were either well cared for originals, or earlier restorations. Brand new Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaro’s, Challengers/Chargers, etc. that win. To me, it is a slap in the face to the owners of those old classics or street rods who’ve poured countless hours, blood, sweat, tears, and untold dollars into maintaining or restoring their old cars to leave with nothing when a brand new car wins. Just my 2 cents.

    • I whole heartedly agree! I’m a car collector for many years. I’ve seen it time and time again over the years. It is a bit of an insult for somebody driving a new car off the showroom floor and have it parked in the same class as a 40 year old collectible. Imagine that, the 2016 won an award for best paint, best interior, best under hood, etc. The owner of the classic that he has spent months or years, along with blood, sweat and tears has a right to be disappointed. Yeah, just my two cents.

    • I host a lot of shows. I do separate awards for newer cars and let my 21 year old son judge them. But they will never win a best of show from me.

  7. I agree completely with this article and also wanted to comment on the reply from “Chris” (May 27th @8:12 pm).

    I own a 2015 Dodge Challenger RT and am probably one of the “guys” he is talking about. 1st off, I want to say that I love and respect classic cars and would never expect to compete against one.

    That being said, I think that this attitude is almost as bad as the “trophy chaser”. I may not have built my car from the ground up, but let’s be honest, many of the classic owners haven’t either.

    I have spent countless hours working, upgrading, tweaking, polishing, and loving my car. But according to guys that think like this, the hours or money I spent don’t mean anything or aren’t as valuable as the time a classic owner spends and that is just not right. By the way I used to own and old school muscle car (’69 Mustang GT), so I do have some experience on this subject and can say that the time and effort I put into that car isn’t any different. If anything, the Challenger is much harder because it is also a daily driver and not a trailer queen like so many cars we see at these shows.

    The point of this article (at least to me) was to remind us about the idea of being “enthusiasts” and “car guys”. To that point, I think we should respect the cars, the people, the effort, and the work spent….regardless of whether it’s new or old, Chevy or Ford, etc.

  8. I used to compete on the IASCA sound off circuit 20 years ago and have a garage full of trophies from that. Even went to the finals and was happy with last place haha! But it was always Streator rocky talk with friends each weekend about new ideas, latest installment updates, equipment, etc. Then I moved on to car Club meets where it was more about the whole car and I got more into performance mods and extended the garage plastic for car itself and my racing of it. That when things got really fun cuz you get to apply your car AND self skills on the track. But it was still all about hanging out with friends. I’ve judged a few shows as well and can’t stand the owners that show up with a car they have not changed in years expecting trophies. The true car culture is always more about the people and your common interests than plastic trophies. But it is nice to get them sometimes 🙂

  9. This exactly what I have been saying to many people who ask me, Do you think I have a chance?. It’s not about winning, it’s about the fellowship, and the enjoyment of spending time with some awesome poeple that something in common with you.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Matt Hogsdon,
    Would it be possible for you to get in touch with me? I would like to pick your brain about what types of things judges look for at car shows. I know different shows look at different things but what are they in general looking at/for. I’m new to showing & can use some tips. Thanks!

  11. I got a bunch of dust collectors here, if you did not win a trophy contact me I will be happy to give you a few of them for bragging rights. I much rather see the smile of a small boy who loves my car, and when you ask him if he wants to sit in it and the smile widens, that is a trophy enough for me. I wish they would just eliminate trophies, its all subjective anyhow. I much rather support the cause of the show then the competition. ENJOY the people, the time and the friend you make, you are a winner every time if you do that.

  12. *I* go to shows to look at other’s rides I admire — my ride is worn and torn and rough around the edges — I’d LIKE to have a flawless paint job and shiny chrome — but *those* things just aren’t as important to me as havin the money for gas to be out there “playin on the freeway” [ helpin others ] I even LEFT a show to help this fella, when I heard he was in trouble —

    It’s what I do that gives *me* GREAT* satisfaction and lifts my spirits w every assist —

    to each their own — stories here —-

  13. Its always fun to go see all the cars at the car show. I live cars, and actually most of the time I enjoy talking to the owners about their cars and rap awhile. Its very enjoyable to visit with the people. I do have a car I have been working on here and there when time and money permits. But I actually love to enjoy my car by driving it, not showing it off. I don’t have the cash to throw at a car like a lot of the wealthier . But I can build a nice car and love it as much as the better built ones. One thing I believe in is doing my own work building my car . I don’t just take it to a shop and throw him a few thousand dollars and tell him I want this when can I have it done? I do my own bodywork and painting and do a fairly well job I figure. If its good enough for me its good enough . I don’t need someone telling me you should of done this or that . I believe in doing your own work and it means more to you . I’ll just drive mine and enjoy it , and look at the others . I already have enough trophies already too .

  14. SPOT ON!!!!! Does anyone REALLY care about a shitty bowling trophy? It’s about the cars and hanging with fellow rodders. Not some crappy boobie trophie…

  15. I see it all over Connecticut on a weekly basis here and people lose friendships because of a trophy , it’s unreal what the car shows became over the years on who knows who , I strictly cruise my rides and do not go to any of them , just hang out at cruise nights and enjoy the atmosphere….

  16. I have enjoyed winning many trophies, but the thrills that outweigh the trophies a thousand times over is the friendships gained, helping others with their ride and especially seeing the excitement of children, teenagers and senior citizens when I encourage them to sit in the driver’s seat, grab the wheel honk the horn. Those memories go with me everywhere, but the trophies are gathering dust in a seldom seen garage.
    Nice story, I hope my comments build on the original post

  17. I can see where the writer is coming from, but not all shows are judged properly, and deserving cars are often left unrewarded because the owner doesn’t belong to some club who has 25 members who are all obligated to vote for their clubmates, even when there are better cars entered in that class. Getting beaten by a car that never raises the hood or opens the doors to show the interior, while another car in the same class has doors, hood and trunk open for all to see, is reason for the owner of the non affiliated car to be upset.

      • We do not allow our club cars to be entered in our show to avoid that situation. We use criteria for judging and have consistent judges who judge all vehicles in a class. Even then we do get some people who feel slighted. No matter how specific your criteria are, personal like for a make or model of a car may influence a judge’s perception. At the end of the day it is about the friends and charity-you just have to be as fair as possible and hope the majority of people come back next year!

        • In addition, we divide the cars into classes where the new cars are in their own class and the older cars don’t compete against them.

  18. To Ken, yes you are the guy I am talking about. No doubt you love and care for your car, and if trophies are awarded for loving and caring for your car at the shows you attend, then you probably ought to have a garage full. The thing of it is though, I can drive up to Walmart right now and see five more rides just like your cookie cutter GT. Personally, I’d rather go to a show and admire a rod that may not be perfect, but was rebuilt over the period of five years of spare time and spare change by the owner. This is what I can admire and a guy I can talk to and learn something from. If I really wanted to know the best place to buy chrome do-dads and wax, I’ll chat with the late model guy with the car payments. Like I said, set up a separate class for guys who love their wheels and want to show them off on weekends, but they shouldn’t be judged on the same level as the guys who actually turned every bolt in the car. Then again, we do live in a world where everybody gets a trophy, don’t we?!

  19. What’s is a trophy? You can go buy one. It’s the expression on peoples faces, the one on one conversation. meeting people. A trophy is someone taking a picture of your car telling you you’ve done a great job. That is worth any trophy you could had out. The money they collect always go’s for a great cause. And I have a custom Beetle. What do you think my chances are? lmao I’ve met a lot of people, and that is worth any trophy I could ever win.

  20. What is a trophy? You can go buy a trophy. It’s some one coming up to you and telling you what a nice looking car, you’ve done a great job. a trophy is people taking pictures of your car, asking thing about it, making friend.

  21. I was not going to comment but after reading Chris post I had to. I have a Corvette with
    H 28,000 miles on it. I put Rims tires exhaust and a few other things on it. I would Never Ever put it in a car show. I think anybody that puts a 10 Year old car are newer in a show with out major changes has major want a trophy problem. I have a 1967 car that I personally rebuilt from the frame up now that will be at a car show not for trophy but to show what can be accomplished with hard work and also to see what other people has done.
    I think all cars and trucks needs to be 10 years old are older unless major upgrades has been completed.
    Lets make this fun and show some custom work not New show room cars.

    • I have to side with the so called whiners on this issue. I have periodically taken two different cars to shows over the years. I never go expecting to win anything. I like trading ideas with other builders. However I have been, let’s just say, upset to see a brand new off the lot Dale Earnhardt Monte Carlo (yes I know that was a long time ago) that had an extra #3 vinyl sticker added to the door, beat out a plethora of full custom cars including mine, that is a big slap in the face to the builders. This happened at multiple events.
      I also agree with the fixed judging idealists. I attended a show for a couple years where they had corvette classes broken down by every 5 years. I am pretty sure that every corvette that came got an award, yet all 20 trucks ( my Jeep Wrangler included ) got thrown into one category to compete for three awards. At the same show, I found it hard to believe when the “Kids choice” award was given out (supposed to have been voted on by the kids from the boyscout group that we were helping to raise funds) it was given to one of the 1932 Ford coupes that showed up. This was Yet another group of vehicles that every one owning one got an award. This was surprising considering two vehicles attending were very popular among the kids. One was Scooby Doos mystery machine done very nicely and another was a giant 4×4 painted yellow and black with Tonka truck logos. And before you defend, I also knew a couple of the scouts. They knew nothing about voting for the award.
      In summary, yes some people get overly offended at losing to other show cars, but this could be cut down if the shows were always professionally run, judging was universally fair, and favoritism or nepotism weren’t a part of the show.

  22. Years ago I built a Speedster replica. The body was a kit car and I built the shortened 1967 VW chassis and rebuilt engine . The car came out perfect. I took it to a car show to show it , not to win a trophy.
    The car ended up being judged and first place in restored foreign cars. A person with a foreign car being judged had a fit and ran up to the judges and demanded a trophy. He kept ranting about that the Speedster was not a real car. I gave him mine. The judges gave me another trophy anyway.

  23. My neighbor and I love to take our cars to shows. We don’t care if we win anything, we just love the fact that we have a car to take to a show. We are both in our 70’s and are way beyond caring if we win a trophy. We have both said if we wanted a trophy we would go out and buy one. For us, it’s the fun of going around and visiting with other car enthusiasts and having a good time. For a couple of “Old Geezers” like us, that’s what it’s all about!

  24. I only finished building my truck a month and a half ago. I built it to drive and am loving it. I have taken my truck to 2 shows already and won one award. The part I love the most is talking to ppl who I meet at the shows. But the best was when a 9 year old boy could not get enough of my truck asking me all kinds of questions. Then I said why don’t you sit in it, his eyes lit up.

  25. I am not an owner of a car to take to shows but just one of those spectators who loved to go to them and look at all of the cars, old and new and when possible chat with some of the owners to see what they had did to their car and where they were from, did they drive it on a regular basis or trailer it in and so on. Used to love to see some of the teddy bears and other adornments which I know are not part of the show but eye catchers. Stopped going to most of them due to the rude car owners who heaven forbid you got too close to their car that they were ready to shoot you, had more than one ask why the questions if I did not own a car and so on so took the fun out of going to them for the most part. Now due to medical issues can not go to many but may try a few of the more local ones where my late husband and I would ride a half a day away just to go and look around. Some people take the fun and the general idea out of anything and besides what the heck are you going to do with a zillion trophies?

  26. The worst I ever dealt with was a corvette guy ata local show. Just for fun this place that did a weekly show decided to do a clunker cruise. The more primer dents and rust you had….the more they liked it. I took at the time a 1989 Dodge caravan that I used for evening pizza delivery. It was dirty dented slightly rusty….smelled like pizza….had delivery slips and a pizza bag in it. It even leaked a little anti freeze for the judges. This guy shows up in a nice vette….he came every week….well when the winner of the clunker cruise was announced….my caravan was deemed “best of the worst “. The vette guy went nuts….couldnt figure out how a pizza delivery car beat his vette….he didnt grasp the concept and we couldnt make him understand that he didnt want this trophy. He pissed and moaned all night…he ticked off the owner of the place so bad that……they ask me to bring the caravan every week…..they parked it right in front of the place….reserved that spot just for the caravan…..put it on their dsshplaques….and they made sure he got a plaque every week. Id like to think he still gets heart burn every time he rides past the place

  27. Great article, and some of the comments are spot on. The timing couldn’t have been better for this article to show up on my fb feed. I was about to make some rash comments about poor judging at a show I’d been just been to…not for my sake but for a few friends who were there. This article caused me to pull back, probably saving a friendship or two in the process. Thank you!
    The comments about newer cars got me to thinking about Henry Ford….Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
    I remember as a very young fellow in the early/mid 1960’s reading car magazines and the editors and readers at that time bashing the new wave of “muscle cars” lamenting them as store bought customs, sticking chrome and polished stuff on them and mag wheels, etc and bringing them to shows thus getting all the trophies and attention. “These kids need to build REAL rods!” they cried.
    For me, the parallels of the complainers today vs then are quite obvious. The new “GT” of today will be tomorrows classic…if the industry and the hobby is to continue. Separate classes…sure if it makes you feel better. However show promoters don’t always have the budget, and the show itself may be a just a small part of a larger event.
    Having owned my share of “classic” muscle in the past I welcome the newer owners, even if they charged every bit of billet tech and slapped it on their ride. It has to start somewhere. Chances are if I point the finger…
    Anyway, I’ve won my share of gold plated plastic, and usually give it to the Special Olympics

  28. Well Im still waiting for the Words too the good old boy clubs… etc The Big guys that put on the shows, that i rub your back you rub mine!!!!!!!! WELL ??????????? No i did not just fall off the watermelon truck… Been doing this for 20 plus years…

  29. My 2 cents worth , Asked to judge a corvette class , their were 2 , A real nice 63 convertible and a brand new one . Told to judge best interior , best paint and how clean . No way could that 50 year old corvette match the brand new one . No points given for age . Made me never want to judge again , and never have!

  30. I don’t expect to win anything. My car is just a survivor. I don’t have the money to restore it ,but i do like to see the little children when they see our cars.I like to visit with others who have cars.

  31. This applies to both ­people that have the ­passion for classic a­nd muscle vehicles an­d even more yet; our ­youth. The younger g­eneration that try to­ follow in our footst­eps with the newer & ­older car; truck; hot­ rod and motor bike ­show and cruise craze­ but don’t have the m­onetary and/or fundin­g to have a fine turn­ed and detailed vehic­le which ends up bein­g a deterrent keeping­ them from attending ­car events because th­ey have little if any­ chance to win a trop­hy which we all know ­is a real feel good; ­regardless if you hav­e one trophy or 50.

    We all know at car sh­ows when it is people­ choice it mostly com­es down to the good o­ld boys that take car­e of each other votin­g to make sure someon­e in their group gets­ a win; this is not f­air to everybody and ­normally ends up with­ the same people/cars­ winning over and ove­r again and again the­refore please conside­r and support the fol­lowing:

    Instead of calling th­ese events car show; ­call them a crusin th­an instead our classe­s give out participat­ion trophy. Not only­ will this make it fa­ir for everyone but i­t eliminates the burd­en of having to sort ­classes and tally the­ winners.

    Here’s a suggestion o­n how it could work. ­ When people register­ their vehicles they ­would get a show tick­et (similar to ticket­s used for 50/50); th­an based on the numbe­r of trophies (if 5 o­r less at the end of ­the show) or every 30­ or 45 minutes pull a­ ticket (have the pr­evious winner pull th­e ticket for the next­ participation trop­hy winner). This is ­not to say at the end­ of the show there st­ill can’t be a best o­f show and/or special­ choice award.

    Let’s Keep Our Car Cr­aze Going Strong By M­aking It More Fair To­ Everyone; Young And ­Old!

    Thank You,­
    A Life Time Auto Ent­husiast…

  32. At age 60 , I bought a very rough 51 Chevrolet — I had never restored a car before . 12 years later , after learning about welding , sand-blasting , painting , body work , engine / trans / diff ( in my own garage ) , I have ” MY cruiser ” . If someone wants to appreciate it , I am thrilled !! , but if it’s not their cup-of-tea , so be it !!– It has never won a trophy , but then , I don’t patronize the ” Trophy Shows “. It now has 11000 super-enjoyable miles on it ( 3 yrs ) , and my wife and I love it — THANKS FOR LISTENING — LATER — DON


  34. It`s not about the winning or losing. It`s for the kids at St,. Jude Hospital. Think of it as it is, then feel good about yourself for doing something else for somebody else. This is the greatist evnt of the year to me,. I`ve met some of the best folks that life has to offer. If you can`t comprehend this,you don`t need to go to any carshows.
    Bob Allen

  35. Why I like Peoples Choice shows, even though there can certainly be some ballot stuffing at those. I could care less about trophies myself, and really even showing. The only part of my car I like to show is the tail lights as I am pulling away from you….lol

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