To Judge or Not to Judge

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To Judge or Not to Judge

By Jonathan A. Stein

Car shows come in all shapes and sizes. They range from informal show and shines where owners unfold their lawn chairs and pop a beer to Concours d’Elegance involving invitations, galas, carefully chosen classes and panels of skilled judges.
Once a club or hosting organization has committed to a car show, the next step is to determine how the cars will be evaluated—if at all. There are three basic methods of judging, although the lines can sometimes blur:
Popular Vote

● French Rules

● Points judging
Popular Vote judging is by far the easiest to implement. All car owners are given a ballot in their registration packets. They then walk the field and select their favorite cars. In some instances general spectators are also given ballots to cast their votes.
French Rules dictate that a team of judges (usually three) review a car for elegance and beauty and consider how it makes them feel. Physical condition and authenticity carry less weight than the grace and success of the design, although they are often used as tie breakers.
Points Judging is often employed by club-run events, ranging from the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) to the Jaguar Clubs of America (JCNA). A team of judges (usually three) uses a judging form that is divided into categories. Each category is evaluated separately and the scores tabulated. The highest scoring car takes the highest award.
Keep it Simple

It’s always best to start slowly with a new show, which may mean skipping judging altogether or opting for popular vote judging. With any kind of judging, if the field consists of more than twenty or so cars, it’s best to divide them into classes. Several ways to divide a show field include:

● Age

● Make and/or Model

Descriptive Categories, ie: Brass, prewar open or postwar


For popular vote judging, each class needs to go onto the ballot which can be handed out with the exhibitor’s packet or when visitors pay for admission (if spectators are allowed to vote). The ballot for a popular vote show should include:
● All Classes

● Fields to enter Car Numbers (included in the registration packet)

● Fields for Year, Make and Model
Keep in mind that there needs to be a box or series of boxes to collect the ballots.
For French Judging, the ballot is even simpler. It needs to include fields for:
● Class Name

● Name of Judging Team Leader

● Provision for the Top Five Cars in a Class

● Year, Make, Model

● Car Owner’s Name
All judging team members will need a list of all cars in their classes and their locations, while only the team leader needs the ballot. After evaluating each car, the team will want to step back out of earshot of the car owner and take notes on their impressions of the car. Once they’ve judged each car in the class, they’ll need to rank them so that the team leader may complete the ballot. The completed ballot will then need to be submitted to the scorers who will tabulate overall results.
The most complicated ballots will always be for shows with a points judging system. Typically, there will be categories for body and paint, engine compartment, brightwork, interior, tires and wheels and, sometimes, glass. Go to for a good example. Many single-marque clubs have their own judging sheets that go into much greater detail, such as the four pages under downloadable forms at at the Jaguar Clubs of North America website. Another useful document establishing judging guidelines and providing worksheets is available through the Antique Automobile Club of America at

Whenever French or scored judging is being used, a team of qualified judges is needed. Most shows opt for teams of three judges, with one person designated team leader to make introductions to car owners, mediate disagreements and complete the final ballot. With a small field consisting of 100 cars and ten classes, at least 30 judges will be needed – and they’ll have their hands full. Add another three to five people to support the judges with required forms, instructions and scoring and the complete team will approach 35 people. Bigger shows, where 200 or more cars are displayed could easily require twice the staffing or more.

For French judging, team members should have general knowledge of a variety of cars as a hobbyist, designer or restorer. Whenever possible, judges should be placed in classes where they have prior knowledge or experience. For points judging, it’s more important that judges have specific knowledge of the cars being judged. In single-marque clubs, a particular judge may have extensive knowledge of one model and not another. With the Antique Automobile Club of America or the Classic Car Club of America, judges (who have attended club-run judging schools) are more likely to have a general knowledge so that they can evaluate a multitude of different makes and models.

A significant part of the judging process involves scoring after all the ballots are submitted. In the case of popular vote judging, the scorers have the most work because they have to count the votes in every class. Many scoring teams have a spread sheet all prepared and plug in votes for each car by class as ballots are counted. In the case of a tie, the scorers must decide to either break the tie themselves or present a joint award.

With French or points judging, all decisions are made by the time ballots are submitted. The scorers simply have to fill out a sheet indicating the winners of each award.

When it’s time to put on a show, there’s no substitute for homework. Before launching the Barrington Concours in 2007, co-chair Mary Bradford-White visited Concours at Amelia Island, Hilton Head, The Radnor Hunt and Pebble Beach, among others. Then she asked around and found an experienced concours judge to advise her and run the judging program.

The best way to find the types of shows similar to what you have in mind is to look in the events listing in Hemmings Motor News or go to
Even when no judging is involved, a car show is a very labor intensive undertaking and requires a substantial team in order to be successful. Any club that does its homework, assembles an enthusiastic staff and begins slowly will have the best chance of success.

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