A Heads-Up on Hoods-Up

I have a pet peeve at concours. It’s owners who insist on leaving the hoods of their cars open all day long.

It’s hardly the way designers would want their cars seen.

Further, the hoods jutting upwards are a jarring contrast to the elegant setting of a concours field.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about this — and offered a solution:

I proposed an “SCM Hoods-Down” standard. I propose that hoods of all cars be down from the official opening of the show until 11:30 a.m, then “Hoods-Up” until the end of the day.

That way, attendees and entrants would have a chance to see the cars in their intended stylistic configuration in the morning — and still admire the engine bays in the afternoon.

They look like hungry baby birds

Evidently I’m not alone in my frustration. My blog hit a nerve, and here are a few of the many comments I received:

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 limiting the hoods up for that two-hour period. Makes much sense, but a bit annoying to employ. Would take some education. — Eliot Silber

Hoods up makes 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. — Gabriel Hernandez

I had my 1966 Series 1 XKE coupe 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. — Scott Currier

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. It’s a great idea having hoods up during lunchtime for traditional shows. — Brian Znamirowski

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. — Richard Steward

I’m a picture poster on Facebook, and this is my pet peeve, too. I’d say, when you arrive, open the hood for a while to avert heat soak. Then, unless your motor is gold plated or something, leave it down. — Ron Lindom

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.” — Chuck Goolsbee

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

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. — Jon Bernheimer

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. — Mike Baum

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. — Randy Bauder

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. — Irene

I have an old Corvette and 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 Porsche 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. — Sid Cannon

They look like a bunch of hungry newborn baby birds clamoring for food. — Bruce S. Bevitz

What’s you opinion? Leave your comment below. I’ve been in touch with several concours about this issue, along with Ed Gilbertson and Nigel Matthews of the International Chief Judge Advisory Group (ICJAG). We look forward to reading your thoughts. ♦

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 Shifting Gears

1 comments

  1. Keith, we’ve not always agreed on everything, but we certainly do on this one: hoods up.

    I can understand when engine compartments are being judged at a concours, but does that mean the hood must be raised all day long? At the risk of offending many of the enthusiasts who do not show their cars at, say Amelia Island I have a few pet peeves of my own, Especially at certain local shows featuring marques that I can better relate to. (read actually afford)

    Why do some not only have to have their hood up, but seem to enjoy displaying a scale model of their car on the air cleaner? Do the judging sheets allow for this sort of thing?

    Why do so many owners feel compelled to place expensive professionally-made signs (often with a photo of the very car I’m viewing) letting everyone know that their (say, Camaro or Mustang) produces over 750 HP and then sit alongside the car in a lawn chair in case we don’t recognize the fortunate owner listed at the bottom of the sign)

    For that matter, given a casual event like a show and shine do people sit next to their cars and not socialize with one another? Isn’t that what these events are meant to be?

    What’s the significance of giant stuffed animals in the back seat of convertibles?

    Who made a fortune producing those large stuffed dolls who appear to be leaning over and peering inside the car?

    Gotta love those ceramic Cobra sculptures that must come with every Mustang with even the slightest reference to Carroll Shelby?

    Why do so many nice 50’s cars need to be displayed with a A&W Drive-in tray hanging off the driver’s window? Usually with Coca Cola memorabilia?

    Okay, I feel better now. I’ll settle for just having the hoods down at shows so I can get some better snapshots.

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