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What Makes a Car "Show-Worthy"?

Jaydawg808 writes interesting and innovative articles from a variety of topics and interests, including cool cars.

The question "what is a show car?" is more complicated than you might think.

The question "what is a show car?" is more complicated than you might think.

What Is a Show Car?

Today, just having nice wheels and tires does not qualify you to enter your car into a car show. It take a lot more than that. It takes an owner who has a vision in mind to separate his car from the rest out there at the show. It's too often we see cars at a show that are just copycats of others. You know what I'm talking about. Here we'll go into detail on what qualifies a car to be show-worthy.

What Qualifies a Car to Be a "Show Car?"

You'll see many cars out there with nice wheel and tire combos and they're lowered either on airbags or coilover suspension. But that's just where it stops. These cars are just "nice cars" and not considered "show-worthy" or "show cars" capable of bringing home a trophy.

A show car should be unique in many different aspects. Whether it be the interior modifications, the in-car electronics, paint and body or the engine bay. Something needs to stand out and set the car apart from the rest. The owner has to have taken the time to make the car unique.

Simply slapping on aftermarket wheels and tires and dropping the car does not make it show-worthy.

What Car to Use for a Show Car?

Simply stated...anything. Anything can be built to be a show car. Old cars that are 20-years old can be show cars. SUVs, 2-door coupes, 4-door sedans, pickup trucks, you name it. With the right inspiration and desire, they all can be built into show cars.


Most people don't even touch the paint of their car. However, show vehicles will have some sort of crazy or custom color and bodywork done. Back in the early days, airbrushing and graphics were unique. Today, not so much emphasis is on that aspect unless you're into a different scene like lowriders. Because painting a car is changing the character, and many people don't do it, it's considered special because the owner paid attention to that aspect.

Body and Bodykits

Bodykits are used to make the car appear lower. Some just slap these pieces of plastic on. Some, however, carefully integrate and mold kits into the body of the car, making it seem as if it came from the factory that way. Look for cars that have wide bodies. The owner took the time to actually pay attention to this.

Interior Work

Giving your car the added interior makeover can make all the difference at a show. Re-trimming the pillars/dash/door panels/seats with another material such as leather, Alcantara, suede, vinyl, etc. can score big points. Adding a splash of color such as painting some panels to accent them is a nice touch as well. Some aftermarket items such as steering wheels, shift knobs, pedal kits, etc. add more touches to the interior. A great trend that's happening is interior lights. They can be neons or LED lights that are used to accent the interior. This scores big.

In-Car Entertainment (I.C.E.)

In-car entertainment should always be addressed. Aftermarket speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers which sound good (note: sound good, not just produce boom and bass) are key elements. Installation of monitors in the headrest, etc. works great as well. But, don't go crazy with too many screens! That just makes everything look tacky.

Engine Bay

The coveted engine bay. Most owners forgoe this and just leave their hoods closed. It's something that you need to execute well in order to deserve to pop that hood and proudly show off your engine bay. It all depends on your car, however. People who have superchargers and turbos may want to pop the hood and show them off. Especially if the turbo/supercharger is in a unconventional car. Some owners take the time to have equipment polished or anodized to give some color in the bay.

Wheels/Tires/Suspension Trifecta

One of the easiest mods to do, yet people can't always get it right. Some just seem to mess it all up. The key is finding the right wheel/tire combination that matches the car. Not every wheel matches every car. It also depends on the theme of your car—3-piece Japan wheels belong on VIP cars...not trucks. Likewise, no matter what you think, chrome wheels have no place on cars. They only belong on trucks. Your wheels need to be unique.

The suspension is also key. The car should be lowered enough to eliminate large wheel gaps between the fender and the tires. This is achieved through drop springs, coilovers or air suspension—the latter being the most exotic and the most flexible.

While you're changing the wheels and tires, take some time to put on some slotted or drilled brake rotors and some upgraded brake calipers. These score points as well.

Can This Toyota Camry Be a Show Car?

Should this car be considered a show car? I mean, it's just a Toyota Camry. In my eyes...yes. Why? The wheels/tires alone are valued at around $4,500. To achieve that kind of stance, the car has to be riding on air suspension. Not everyone does this modification because it costs money. However, that seems to be all that is done to this car. I believe it is show car worthy; however, more mods would need to be done in order to be fully considered a show car. The owner is on his/her way, though.

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Show car?

Show car?

Can This Acura TSX Be a Show Car?

In this Acura TSX example, the owner seems like he/she wants to convert it to the European style Honda Accord. But just look at how much work and quality was done to the engine bay. Wheels/tires don't look very special or unique to me. Suspension looks average and normal for the wheel/tire combo. Without knowing what is going on in the interior, it just looks like the owner went for converting the car to a European style Accord along with doing JDM types of modifications. I'd say that this is a show worthy vehicle.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Can This Honda Odyssey Be a Show Car?

I mean, it's a van! And a Honda for that matter. Show-worthy? Most definitely. Why? Aftermarket paint took some time to perfect and get done right. The suspension is on air, which took some time and planning, especially for a van. Wheels/tires, not really too special, but it fits and works in the theme. I wouldn't be driving this around town, so I'd definitely say that this is a show-worthy car.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Can This Honda CRX Be a Show Car?

One word. YES. Why? Well, let's start with the overall theme of the car. It's original, it's JDM in its theme. This old school Honda CR-X matches perfectly. Check out the engine bay. See how it looks like an old school 1990s Nintendo controller? That took some planning and some time. It is original, I've never seen it done, and matches a car from that time period. Also, notice the wheels. Not crazy big, not even popular. Why? Because they're JDM Japan wheels from that time period as well. Show car? Most definitely. I wouldn't be caught dead driving this around town in such a pristine condition.

Show Car

Show Car

Can This Toyota Tacoma Be a Show Car?

NO! Not at all. Why? Well, the paint is original, but that doesn't really matter. I mean the truck is really clean, but that doesn't matter here. You could find a Toyota Tacoma off the street and just slap on some ugly black wheels to it. It's not even dropped. There's tons of gap between the fender and top of the tire. It's pleasing to the eye, but definitely not show quality. Not really unique in any way. Slap on some wheels, got me a show car! Not really.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Let's Try Again...Show Car?

Well, again, not really. Because you can just slap on a set of wheels and tires and get the same look off of any truck. Well, at least this owner took the time to do some suspension work to make the truck look slammed. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but still, not show-worthy. It's just clean and well done. Not show quality.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Can This Toyota Corolla Be a Show Car?

This Toyota Corolla shouldn't even be here at a car show. Why? The damn thing is stock. All the owner did is slap some ugly cheap wheels on it and dropped it. Probably cut the coils. But this in no way shape or form should this be at a car show. It's a base model Corolla as well. The owner should be ashamed. Probably no engine modification or interior work done either.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Can This Lexus LS Be a Show Car?

DEFINITELY! This VIP Lexus belongs in a car show and would be considered to be a show car. The wheels/tires are authentic VIP (and very expensive). The suspension is Airrunner (also very expensive). The interior has authentic JDM and VIP goods. This belongs in a car show, yes.

Show Car?

Show Car?

Can This Nissan 350Z Be a Show Car?

Not at all. Why? Well, all this car has is wheels/tires and moderate suspension work. Nothing else. I can buy this car from Nissan and the very next day slap on some Volk wheels and call it a day. Does not belong in any car show. Sure it's nice, and it is clean. But that's about it.


Can This Honda Element Be a Show Car?

This Honda Element is considered a show car. First, the color is unique, which you don't see everyday. Second, the wheels/tires is something you don't see on an Element everyday, either. Team that up with some nice in-car electronics and a well set up air suspension on display, you have a show-worthy vehicle.


Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: It doesn't matter what car you possess. All that matters is if you execute your vision well and build a show car that is unique. Don't follow others and take their vision. You're a copycat if you do. Forge your own path. Be unique!

But, don't just get into the game thinking you can slap on some wheels/tires and call it a day. True car enthusiasts will simply laugh at you. You need to walk the walk, not just be a poser.

© 2014 jaydawg808

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