Learning from judges and doing...
Learning from judges and doing it yourself is what has brought Mark Stiegman of Thawville, Illinois, to this point. Mark bought this '67 Belvedere GTX in 1987 and did a "halfway" resto. Ten years later, in an effort to be more competitive, Mark began the restoration again-this time from scratch. Mark says that doing the work yourself is "where it's at," and that judges and original cars are about the best restoration info sources around. He cautions other restorers to be wary of "folks who claim to know more than they do."
Like the Senior Division, OE Certified cars are judged against a set of standards rather than fellow competitors, only these standards are even more demanding than the previous. A mere seven cars are selected each year to be judged in the OE Certified class. This is the high water mark of the Mopar show arena, and the cars scoring top marks in this class are considered to be the best of the best.
If "restification" is more your game, the Modified classes offer a chance for good spirited competition that pit enthusiasts' restoration and auto craft skills against one another. Here, judges look mostly at fit and finish, and the consistency of the car's theme.
As mentioned earlier, the judges for each class have exceptional knowledge of the cars to which they are assigned. This is especially helpful, not only in ensuring that all cars are judged on their correct merits, but that proper consideration is given for a car's peculiarities. If a judge owns five A-Bodies of his own, for example, he or she will know the three or four spots that seem to get the most chips, hood rub points, and other natures of the beast. This is extremely helpful when factoring in the "driven" or "use" status of a judged car. The judges are also fairly consistent from one year to the next. By continuing the same judging teams each year (many of which are husband and wife), participants benefit from continuity and judging consistency.
One thing many don't realize until trying their hand at judged showing is that judged competition should be viewed as a tool to achieve a specific level of perfection, rather than being an end in itself. The judging framework at the Mopar Nationals is designed to allow competitors to learn about and improve their cars through a fun, competitive, and structured system. The progressive nature of the judged showfield allows participants to enjoy competition at a level they are comfortable with from both a technical and financial point of view.
Myths And Misconceptions
There is something for everyone in the judged showfield arena. Unfortunately, many potential participants never make it to the field due to the many incorrect assumptions and misconceptions surrounding judged competition. For example.
"Judged Cars Are Trailer Queens"
This '69 1/2 Six Pack is waiting...
This '69 1/2 Six Pack is waiting its turn at OE Certification. The road to this point is long, but the final day or two is perhaps the longest!
Mopar buffs hold the proud distinction of being among the more active enthusiasts in the classic car hobby. We get in, fire the engine, and get down the highway. That being the case, we also know how difficult it is to keep a driven car clean. A quick glance at most of the judged showfield entrants and one would imagine them all to be trailer queens. Not so.
On a national level, people who do not normally trailer [their cars], do," says Mopar Nationals Head Judge Keith Rohm. "The reason is that to compete in a judged showfield type arena...you've been cleaning for so many weeks or even months, most folks aren't going to drive to the show even though they may drive [their car] to cruises, on sunny weekends, or to non-national level competitions.
"Most folks bring their cars in on a support trailer, have them judged, then drive them the whole weekend. Also, the predominance of 30-50 year-old participants will not give up their cruise control and A/C for a long-distance haul to the Nats. Those who say that they do drive their cars most likely do, as evidenced by scuffs and stone chips, but when they come to the Nats, they trailer them for the most part. And that is the big difference between the fun field and showfield. Fun field participants will drive their vehicles no matter how nice the car is, and they don't have another agenda. The others want to keep them as clean as possible to show, then cut loose after the judging.