This past weekend saw me judging a car show down here in Cape Town. It was in aid of charity and I figured I have to give back, right? I won’t speak much of the show itself, as at the end of the day, it was all about giving a little boy a better life, and the organisers aren’t promoters, they just put it together as a fundraiser, but the organization was top notch, and the day was quite enjoyable. A few things were evident though, and I think there is a need to share it. My fellow judges were Jason Neves from Seven Customs and Marly Marl who, if you don’t know, have been responsible for some of the Mother City’s most insane custom cars over the years. Most times the owners of these cars get all the credit, with very little mention of the people who actually get their hands dirty.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much, as by now I already know what to expect at these charity “school field” shows. Let me be clear, I find nothing wrong with a show arranged for charity, but I do think this has become the norm in Cape Town now, and it impacts, or have been impacting, the quality of cars at these shows, and the whole concept of a car show has evolved somewhat. We really do need a solution to get the standard of cars up at shows. I have no definitive solution but it pains me to not just see the lack of quality cars, but the attitudes of the owners. Once again, I’m generalizing, and there are cars which are brilliantly built, but they are few and far between. I also do not entirely blame the owners of the cars for this, as it is clear that they have become accustomed to these shows as what a car show is. I think the whole mindset needs to change, and education is key. Most of these guys are relatively new to the scene, and by “new” I mean less than 8 years. So a car show to them is just this: A school field, where everyone comes to show off their car. I understand that my perception is different, and that my perception might be incorrect, but put yourself in a spectator’s shoes. Imagine knowing nothing about cars, paying R40 to go to a car show, and then seeing normal cars that can be seen anywhere else on the roads. The spectator could just as well have gone to Pick n Pay and walked around in the parking to see similar cars. I’m not exaggerating, that is how bad it has become.
I don’t like mentioning names and making examples, but I spoke to one of the winners at the show, and he says he doesn’t want to enter these shows anymore, as at every show, he wins, and people become despondent and become “haters” because hy wen alweer. So he wants to give others a chance of winning too. Is that fair though? A guy who created a masterpiece, must now not partake in shows, as he is “overpowering”, for lack of a better word, and taking away others’ chances of winning. Surely that can’t be right. If others want a chance to win, surely they have to put in the effort, time, and money, right? But that opens up a whole new can of worms as, judging by the general quality of cars, people do not know how to up their game. To them, a clean car is a show car, the “OEM look” is worthy of winning, they think. On Saturday, there were a few nice cars that didn’t enter the Show n Shine competition, but that were worthy. Then there were cars which entered but that, well, a stock Nissan bakkie with torn interior and 15” alloys. There are workhorses which are in a better condition, but this guy believed he was entitled to enter a show. I had to judge a Honda, which I scored zero, but my fellow judges convinced me otherwise, as he paid to be judged. How though, does one judge a car that has been spraypainted over rust spots, that has wheels painted with a paintbrush, and rubber hoses painted with water paint. I kid you not, water effin paint! On rubber hoses! Yet, he was proudly parked at a car show. There were even cars without bumpers!
I think we have totally lost the plot, and much like society in general, where people are applauded and praised for things of a lower standard, like kids passing exams for instance, have become the norm. Parents are proud of their kids passing, forgetting that to pass, you need some ridiculous pass mark of below 40%. The same is happening within the car show scene. People have told me specifically that “Everyone must start somewhere” and a competitor even told me “Nothing is done to my car, it looks kak but it is all about being a part of it”. Neh? Really? If you want to be a part of it, at least make little changes to your car. Trust me, you don’t need a big budget, you just need to be a little creative (not water paint creative though).
The other thing is that many people I have asked about car shows (incidently, I never thumb-thuck, I do research on these things) say “I don’t attend, seen one, seen them all, all the same shit at every show”. I unfortunately have to agree. It is very pleasing for us, as judges, to see changes made to cars from show to show. I am of the opinion that at each show, something different must be done, added, omitted, or whatever. I personally have entered shows in the past for the sole reason of getting my car done, over a period of time. So it would force me to get things done as a show would be a due date to have wheels for instance. At the next show, the suspension should be sorted, and so on. As judges, we pay attention to these things, from show to show. People would then flock to shows, in anticipation of what the guy with the red Corolla did this time around. That is how you as an individual competitor also get a following. People will come to shows JUST to see your car, even. I will use this month’s cover car, Zuheir’s Quantum, as an example. Last year at OTF it was blue, and was quite impressive. At the show at the weekend, and in the feature, it is totally different to what it was then, it didn’t just get a colour change, but lots were done. Sure, you will now get people saying “that guy has money to make the changes”. It ain’t about money. I’m not saying go waaaay out. Make little affordable changes, make your ride evolve. Another point is to ask judges what can be improved, in their opinion. One of my fellow judges gave someone advice about having an air filter on the car. The guy clearly got defensive, instead of taking it as constructive criticism. Again, I personally judged the Quantum, and the owner asked me where he could improve. When I told him, he said he thought that might be where he had lost points. He had the best quality car at the show by far, yet he wanted to know about improvements. At the MotorEx too, when judging Duppe DuPlessis’ cars, and I’ll say it, I think Duppie is the foremost show car producer in the country in my opinion, yet he was the most nervous competitor, and wanted to know by the judges what he could do to improve. Down here in the Cape, people have the “Don’t wys me, I built the car for myself” attitude. If you built it for yourself, why are you at a car show?
Just on a side note, I don’t get the whole themed club displays at these shows either. While I am not a fan personally, I guess it brings about creativity, but some people think the theme is the main attraction. After the club winners were announced, someone came to ask us why they didn’t win. When we told him that the other club had cars of a better quality, he was shocked. Even the winning club didn’t know that counted for anything. You can’t just rock up as a club with a great theme, but your cars aren’t great. It is a car show after all, isn’t it?
What are the solutions? As I said before, I don’t have one, but I do think education is key, and we do need a mindset shift where people are up for criticism and want to be educated. I think we need to screen cars at car shows, you have to earn the right to compete and yes, everyone has to start somewhere, so the categories need to change too, whereby maybe a novice category gets included. The playing fields should be leveled out or, not ideal but necessary, it needs to be differentiated between. I think the judges also need some sort of uniformity and more importantly, they need to know about cars, what works, and what doesn’t, as well as have intricate knowledge of different cars. Again I will be brutally honest, but having parts salesmen judge show cars, or having people judge who know very little about cars except that “this looks a bit different”, can’t improve the standard. Ultimately, it comes down to attitudes. In my opinion, the only really concourse-type show in Cape Town is Only the Fittest. They screen cars beforehand and well, only the fittest are present. Peeps then take offense and don’t attend the show, or arrange their own show. That is also why we have shows week in and week out, sometimes up to 5 shows on one day, and of course, the charity events. I think we should encompass all of this into, say three or four big shows annually, and just break it down into proper categories, novice, elite, stance, etc. Kinda like 7’s Rugby whereby you have a Plate and Cup final. The charity shows can be park-offs with a Top 5, if you really want to compete. It is after all for charity, so entry fee to park off and chill should be all that is required, really.
I do not have all the answers, I’m not saying my suggestions are the greatest, but something has to change. Having said all of this, I still think that we are in a better situation than we were two to three years ago, and that there is a marked improvement. I am confident the change will come, let’s start by changing our mindset.