Keith’s Blog: Put Those Hoods Down!

Owners who leave the hoods open on their cars for the entire day are my car-show pet peeve.

Two weeks ago, while I was emcee of Keels & Wheels in Texas, I mentioned this to the organizer, Bob Fuller. He said, “It drives me crazy too. I spend all day going around asking people to shut their hoods.”

I was at a very small regional car show this past weekend — the Clark Lumber Annual Car Show and Barbecue — in Tualatin, OR, just south of Portland.

The first indicator that I was not at Pebble Beach was the sign offering a free hot dog, soft drink and bag of chips. That would have been $40 or more at Pebble.

As always at a regional show, an interesting variety of cars were on display, from a replica Cord Westchester to well-done rat rods.

My good friend and Pebble Beach judge Diane Brandon was there with her 1965 VW Beetle purchased new that she has named “Victor.” His hood was down all day.

There were some unusual American Motors cars on display, including a Marlin. But with each of them, I had to ask the owner to shut the hoods before I could take a picture.

When the hood is up on a car, it completely destroys the lines of the car. You can’t really tell what you are looking at.

I understand that especially with American cars, the detail work and modifications to the engine and engine bay may be more important than what has been done to the car itself.

I propose that car shows and concours have a “Hoods Up” period of time, when people are encouraged to show their engines.

Perhaps 11 am to 1 pm. When people first arrive at a show, they can take pictures of the cars with the hoods down. During the lunch period, people can admire engines. Then have the “hoods down” period start again and go until the end of the show.

I think this is feasible way to have the best of both worlds  – “Hoods Down” from 9 am – 11 am, “Hoods Up” from 11 am to 1 pm, and “Hoods Down” again from 1 pm until close.

Let me know your thoughts. Is having hoods up at a car show all day is as much a distraction for you as it is to me?

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

23 comments

  1. I totally agree. I’ve been doing concours judging for a while and and automotive photography for decades. Hoods up does totally ruin the lines of a car. Just a bit further, I really want the hood closed, not just resting slightly ajar.

    I like the idea of the limiting the hoods up for that 2 hour period. Makes much sense. Bit a bit annoying to employ. Would take some education.

    1. I had my 66 series 1 xke coup at a small car show last week. For the first half the bonnet was up. Huge crowd. Once I closed it the number of lookers was about half. I think it may depend upon the venue and the sophistication of the gawkers.

  2. Sometimes I wonder how these guys can get their hoods up before their cars come to a complete stop! I am for a hoods down policy. If someone requests to see the engine, open it and then close it when you’re done.

  3. I thought I was alone in this thinking. I was just at a cars & coffee this past weekend and as always my hood was down. If I’m at the car and someone asks I’m glad to raise the hood and let them look, when everyone is done looking it goes back down. I’d much rather see the uninterrupted lines of cars with hoods and trunks closed. Hard to control this at a cars & coffee, great idea having hoods up during lunch time for traditional shows.

  4. Totally 100% agree. When the designers penned these beauties they didn’t do so with the hoods (or bonnets) up. I like the idea of a hoods-up time. That would satisfy both camps. And you could still raise the hood to talk to folks who might have questions. Excellent.

  5. At the Petersen Automotive Museum, where i am a Vault Docent, we have the opposite problem. As you’d expect for a museum founded by the publisher of Hot Rod magazine, the museum has a lot of hot rods in its collection. Anyone who has been to hot rod shows knows that for many hot rods, the “jewelry” is the engine. Yet at the Petersen the hoods on our roadsters (10 AMBR Award winners), coupes, and customs remain resolutely shut for almost the entire year. The one-day occasional “:hoods up” events are rare and much too short. A compromise such as you suggest is needed..

  6. I’m a pic poster on Facebook, this is my pet peeve too. I’d say, when you arrive,open hood,awhile to avert heat soak. Unless your motor is gold plated, or something, leave it down

  7. Sorry but it bothers me more when the hood is down and I can’t see the engine.

  8. I can’t say hoods up has bothered me at our Eden Corn Festival Auto Show (New York) but I do see your point about destroying the lines. Sunday August 6, 2017 will be our 37th year.The size of the show is so weather dependent with about 30 cars in the early years and some years over 300. We get so much American stuff and I’m always working to keep the car count up to do the best for our sponsor and beneficiary I can’t be fussy about type of cars or hoods up or down, just be there. I recently have been showing our exclusive sponsor pictures of the LaJolla Concours D’Elegance saying that is our target. Not sure if they think it’s funny but they continue to sponsor. We have worked the show in perfect weather, threatening weather, wind and rain so bad we had to dry the judging sheets using car heaters. It’s always an adventure and grueling. The SCM Bradley GT has been invited to this year’s show especially since it has no hood and seems to be on a mission to go anywhere.

  9. Listen, we all agree the lines’re important to a car. They’re what make it up, frankly, and they’re what we like to look at. But one thing ya gotta be dead careful about, frankly, is the timing of the hoods up time. If ya put that around lunch time with those free hot dogs and people sippin ice cold sodas and the like, well, think about how spills might happen right into those engine bays. Ask me, I say not worth the risk. Put it early or late, keep the franks away from the cars.

    Frankly,
    Harry F

  10. I always support local shows in my little town and bring an interesting car. I leave the bonnet/hood closed, but put a small sign near the lift point that says “lift here to see the engine” and another sign inside that says “close when finished”

    I don’t own any cars with American V8s in them, so I figure everyone wants to see the one engine at this car show that is NOT an American V8!

    Of course I also have a sign I put in the windshield that says “IT IS OK TO TOUCH THIS CAR. Go ahead, you can’t hurt it.”

  11. I have been at shows where if you don’t have the hood up, you won;t be judged and eligible for an award. I’m old school and remember when you would never show your engine off and let others see what they werre running against.

  12. I totally agree too. I am a visual sort of guy with art training, car design, lines and stance is everything to me. I do appreceate what’s going on under the hood, but I want to see the car with the lines and fit uninterrupted. Good call.

  13. Keith: I think you are in the majority, and your recommendation is such a reasonable compromise. I can’t think of a car that I would prefer to photograph with the hood up. Maybe as a second, third, or later shot. Thank you for raising the issue and offering a solution.

  14. I 100% agree. It ruins the experience of taking in the overall car design completely. Granted, it most often happens with American muscle cars. But then again, I find the engine compartment less exciting than the entire car … with the panels closed. If somebody wants to see the engine, your idea of a certain time or maybe open it to allow for those who ask (I do) is the way to go. Leaving a car with the hood open for the entire car show is a bit ridiculous IMHO …

  15. I think the difference is whether it is a people’s choice or judged concours. I can’t vote for a car in people’s choice without seeing the engine compartment. If it is closed, the question is always how much dirt and incorrectness is hidden? In concours the judges have full access so leave bonnets (hoods) closed. Your suggestion to have open and closed times would work for most shows though IMHO.

  16. Interesting question. Not sure there is an answer that fits all shows.
    I do agree the lines are spoiled but it seems most of the time the paying public wants to see everything about the car.
    A few years ago at HHI I had people under my hood for a big part of the day, and we are talking about a little British car! I had someone ask me to shut it for a picture and it stayed down after that. At local club shows I usually keep it the hood down but will open it if asked.
    Perhaps the best way to find a happy medium for spectators and photographers is to ask participants to mix it up a bit or…….have your staff to do one of the surveys we get to vote on.

  17. I like to take pix of some cars. With the hood up it usually looks like it’s broken down. I like to see what makes it go, so maybe open them for an hour or so.

  18. Hoods up make the exhibition look like a giant gas station, or like an official inspection or, worse, like a salvage yard with shiny cars. Leave the hoods down; the owners will gladly open them, should anyone want to see the engine.

  19. I have an old Corvette, an old Chevelle both with cool engines that I like to show off. I’m 50/50 on those cars.
    I also have an older and a newer Porsche.
    What really looks stupid is a 991 Porsche with the hood up when all there is to look at is a couple of filler caps and a plastic cover.
    I like your idea of hood up/hood down.

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