In the era before Cars & Coffee-style events, it was rare to see gatherings of collectible cars outside a highly organized setting.

These were generally semi-formal concours-style events. They started with the early arrival of the entrants’ cars, sometimes before dawn. Cars were most often shown with the hoods shut, so that the overall design could be admired. The Best of Show award was usually presented last, in the late afternoon. It made for a long day, with entrants and spectators often getting toasted in the sun.

Cars & Coffee changed all of that, with its free-wheeling, anyone-is-welcome approach. It is not unusual to see hundreds of cars gathered for a few hours, enthusiasts of all types kicking tires, and then everyone disappearing to enjoy the rest of their weekend.

In between the two extremes are a host of other ways that car enthusiasts can gather and show off their cars.

Judge and Jury

For the sake of simplicity, I break down car shows into a few categories. Each has its own style of judging (if any) and ways of defining and awarding excellence.

First are the formal concours, such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, The Amelia, the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance.

The Queen Mother is Pebble, which just celebrated its 70th year. Traditionally, it has honored the best of the best. In the words of Jay Leno, “Pebble Beach is a chance for simple millionaires to go against billionaires and win — by having a more stylish car.”

Speaking generally, concours employ either “points-” or “French-style” judging. In points judging, cars are gone over by marque experts, and deductions are taken for things that are not correct. The car with the least deductions wins. In French judging, style and the “wow” factor of a car are given considerable weight. Appearance sometimes wins out over correctness when awards are decided upon.

There are also single-marque concours that typically accompany a national convention for Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW or Mustang owners.

Often the judging at those events is against an established standard. Instead of cars competing against each other, they are judged by how close they come to a standard set by the club or organization. Standard-based judging includes events like Cavallino Classic for Ferraris and the NCRS (National Corvette Restorers Society) National Convention for Corvettes.

Judging against a standard is the easiest method for me to understand, as subjectivity plays a lesser part. The judges at these events take their responsibilities seriously, and there are set standards every car aspires towards.

However, I admit certain aspects of “judging to an as-built standard” seem a little silly to me. For instance, some Corvette owners go so far as to try to replicate the crayon marks on the firewall that were scrawled there by assembly-line workers. Really?

Cars up front, party in the back

Cruise-ins are similar to Cars & Coffees, except they are most often held on a weekday evening. First cars arrive around 3 p.m., and last car leaves by 9. These are often massive events, with well over 1,000 cars present. They generally cater to American classics, along with hot rods and resto-mods. Cars are often displayed with their hoods open, to show off the various “dress-up” items the owners have installed.

Cruise-ins are similar to Cars & Coffee in their “we don’t need no stinkin’ rules” approach. They are easygoing, and beer flows liberally. It is common for these events to feature a “People’s Choice” award, given to the most popular car, as voted by attendees.

There are even more types of car shows, including such newcomers as RADwood for next-gen cars and Concours d’Lemons for oddballs. What these events have in common is an element of cosplay, with many owners dressing up themselves. These lifestyle events borrow heavily from each of their antecedents, with an emphasis on fun and accessibility.

Mr. Show

With the proliferation of ways that enthusiasts are gathering and showing their cars, SCM has decided it is time for us to have a point person for car shows and events. To that end, we have asked longtime contributor Somer Hooker to be the SCM Concours Ambassador.

The list of events in which he has participated is impressive. He is the chief judge at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, CA, as well at the chief motorcycle judge at Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance at Blenheim Palace, U.K., the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, and Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Somer has been a field judge at Pebble Beach, the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, the Audrain Newport Concours d’Elegance and the Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance. He is a member of the International Chief Judge Advisory Group (ICJAG).

We welcome Somer to his new position and hope you will greet him if you spot him at your favorite event. He will be the eyes and ears of SCM as we continue to participate in this evolving world of showing, judging and enjoying vehicles of all years and types.

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