You don’t have to be a custom car owner to attend a custom car show, you just need to have a love of cars and an interest in how customization works. By definition, a custom car has been modified in performance — a new or souped up transmission and engine — or in style/body. In many cases, owners will customize their cars in both ways. Attending a custom show gives you the opportunity to see these changes up close and talk with owners about the changes made to their vehicle.

Shows may limit their scope, for example one club may hold a muscle car show while another highlights custom trucks. A number of shows limit participation based on the model year of the vehicle, but many are open to any and all types of customization. And not every show is put on by a local club. Many automotive businesses will sponsor events to give their customers a chance to show off their rides or in order to raise money for local charities. There are even professionally-run car shows that travel from place to place and feature famous and award-winning custom cars from around the country.

One of the appeals of these shows is that attendees can see the work of professional custom shops side-by-side with cars that were lovingly restored or modified by their owner. Backyard mechanics can get ideas and inspiration for their own endeavors by seeing what is possible. If you are lucky, you’ll get a chance to talk to a specific owner about the modifications done and get some practical advice to take home. If the owner is not available, most likely because they are off getting new ideas from other displayed vehicles, you can at least inspect the car and appreciate the work and attention put into each modification.

As hinted above, it is possible to win awards for customizing your vehicle. Many local club shows offer awards to the best cars on display. There are also nationally recognized awards such as the Ridler Award and the AMBR trophy. The Ridler Award goes to the most outstanding vehicle that is being shown for the first time at the Detroit Autorama. It dates back to 1964 and is named after Don Ridler, the show’s promoter. The award for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) has been handed out since 1948 at the Grand National Roadster Show.

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