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Michael F. Gaetano
This article is intended to answer those who seek to learn the differences between the People's Choice Competition and the Concours d’Elegance Competition.
The Concept of a Judged Concours d’Elegance Competition is to select winners against a scale of excellence relating to how the cars would have been when they were new. There is a minimum point requirement for a First Place, a Second, and a Third Place. For example it is possible for there to be only a Third Place Winner in a Class of say 4 to 6 cars, with no Second and no First Place winners. This type of result reflects the fact that cars are not only in competition with each other, but also are measured against an established level of excellence and a minimum number of points required for 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. The intent is to ensure That Class Winners represent an acceptable level of excellence and a standard for excellence. It has been stated that we judge the cars, not the owners, and that we judge the car not the style of car. While a drophead may be more appealing to a certain judge, or perhaps one color over another he/she must remain objective and judge each car on its own merits against a standard measure. The Judge may take into consideration the difficulty of restoration when faced in a choice between two very good cars. Which motorcar is harder to restore in terms of parts availability could be considered in a mult-marque show.
The measure is the total car. This includes:
Originality: Is the car as it would have been when new? A modern radio, AC can cause points to be lost. If components have been chromed that would not have been, then points can be lost for over restoration. If incorrect hose clamps, bolts, spark plug wire, or other components are present, or if components display rust or a loss of plating, then points can be lost. This type of evaluation is more selective in a competition of single marque cars where the judges know what is and is not original. In a multi-marque show, if the judges are uncertain they should not take away points. The burden of proof of originality always lies with the car owner. So if you have a component that is "unique" but original, then be prepared to prove it was installed by the factory or the dealer before the time of delivery. Improper radios, and hose clamps are a common in this area.
Paint: Are there cracks in the finish, bad blends, over-spray, orange-peel? Was the type of paint used in the era of the car? For example if the paint is metallic flake and the car was produced in lacquer points could be lost. Is the finish clean? Judges will deduct for paint chips, but usually not for paint chips that have been touched-up.
Body Panels: The fit of the body panels and doors, the bonnet and the boot.
Chrome Finish: Is any of the chrome missing, nicked, dented, pitted, or worn? Has something that was meant to be painted been chromed -or- the reverse?
Tyres: Does the spare match the tyres on the car? Do the tyres match each other? Are they in good condition and appropriate for the car?
The Chassis: Is it clean? Is the paint in good order? Are the components in good condition? This could include the muffler and exhaust pipes (broken exhaust hangers are always checked), if there are spring gaitors, are they in good repair and clean? Is the fuel pump the correct model for the car? Are there any exposed or worn electrical wires? Are there any fluid leaks (on British cars? Come on!). Well lets make it major leaks then. Gas shocks on a vintage car would cause the judges to take off points, as would improper paint and finish.
Rubber Trim: The car is checked to insure that all the rubber gaskets and seals that are visible are in place. It is common to find seals around headlamps and tail lamps missing, even though it can allow water to invade and cause rust to form. Is there a seal on the boot and is made from the proper material? Door Seals and trim on the bumpers are checked.
The Engine Compartment: This is one area where points are frequently lost. Is the engine compartment clean? Are there any exposed wires, fluid leaks, incorrect fittings, worn or incorrect hoses and belts? Is the radiator clean, and the fluid clean and to the recommended level? Are there any incorrect spark plug wires, hose clamps, and non-authentic additions to the engine compartment. Are the bottoms of the Carburetor bowels as clean as the top? Are the linkages rust free and clean? Are the fuse boxes in good order and the fuses as they should be? If tools were supplied under the bonnet are they present and correct for the car? Any hazardous conditions, such as a gas leak, or raw wires that might cause a fire can be grounds for immediate disqualification and the judges would be duty bound to make you aware of any condition that might endanger you and your family.
The Boot: Is there a jack, a spare tire, and a tire pump (if fitted originally)? Is the boot clean? Is the carpeting or matting as it should be?
The Woodwork: Is it all there? Are there any cracks? Has the veneer lifted? Are there any signs of water damage due to a seal that has failed? Is the finish of the woodwork as is should be? Is the fit to the body as it should be?
Headliner, Carpets -or- Top: Is the material correct? Is it in good condition? Are there any stains, tears, or missing components? Are there any signs of water damage or leaks -or- worn components? Is the fit correct? If the carpeting has shrunk do to water damage, points could be lost. Is the binding and the material used correct?
Glass: Is the glass in good order? Any sign of scratched or pitted finish? Seals that are missing, or a lack of safety glass? Yup, the judges can tell with a pencil point against the glass if safety glass was used in the windscreen -or- if it was plate glass. Plate glass in the windscreen is also an automatic disqualification for safety.
Seats: Is the material as supplied originally? Is the binding correct? Are the seats cracked, ripped, stained, or in poor repair? Is the interior clean? Do the front seats match the back seats in terms of color and finish?
Mechanical Inspection: The Start & Idle. Does the car appear to run correctly, without major exhaust leaks and excessive engine noise suggesting a quick demise maybe close at hand? Do all the lights, signals, and electrical equipment work as intended? This inspection can even extend to cigar lighters, radio, interior lights, trafficators or turn signals, and the horn. Windshield wipers are NOT checked as it might require running them on a dry windshield. The car needs to come onto the show field under its own power. It can not be pushed!
Tie-Breakers: In close competition where only one car can be first it can come down to things like the battery compartment or the battery box, if so equipped, being cleaner than another. It can be the gas filler inside door being dirty, if so equipped -or- a missing small tools -or- a few minor paint chips or blemishes in the finish with two otherwise perfect cars. We do not attempt to determine one winner over another if the cars are within 3 points of each other and above the minimum point requirements for a First. We award multiple firsts to deserving cars.
In summary the Concours d’Elegance is an evaluation of excellence against a standard set by the manufacturer when the car was new. It is an evaluation by teams of individuals who are trained and seasoned in judging of motor cars. Our judges are all experienced in restoring and showing fine motor cars. All have served as judges for many years and are true enthusiasts. Some clubs have attempted to create a "Touring Class" which is separate from Concours where judges evaluate against a lesser standard that focuses more on originality and safety than finish. Usually in this class there is a requirement of driving upwards of 2,500 per year and to the meet. No trailer allowed in Touring. Any judged Competition should be more accurate than a People's Choice Competition in determining the best cars. In people's choice some cars have their bonnets up and some are closed, leaving Registrants to vote on only what they can see quickly. It has long been established that those who come early and park close to the beginning of the class sign have a better chance of winning that those who arrive later and are at the end of a row, all things being equal. So in showing your car choose the option that fits your motorcar and your preference. For someone who is very serious about wining in any show then it’s a great idea to have your car evaluated by a professional judge of the marque which you are preparing to show. In restoration to top show quality it has been said that the first 90 points are the least expensive. It is the last 10 points to the magic 100 mark that are costly ones. Just ask anyone who has won a first at a National or- International Show. To most of us the real reward after having won a Concours competition is retiring the car and just enjoying it. For other it will be the thrust for the next victory or restoration project. Happy motoring to all.