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Confessions of a Concours Judge

Before you get too excited, this is not a steamy exposé of what you might fantasize of what takes place behind the pavilion at Schooley’s Mountain Park after a competitive concours event. Remember, this is a family magazine. On the contrary, this article is meant to help those new to the activity who are interested in entering their Porsches in PCA concours events. So read on and benefit from these insider’s tips.

Over the last couple of concours seasons we have seen a large number of new members attend our concours workshops and try their hand at a competitive event. Hopefully they found the workshops to be informative in addressing their questions on proper Porsche appearance concerns and care, and the competition to be below-stress and enjoyable. However, many of the novices who are competing for the first time ask, “What are the judges actually looking for and where are they looking?” This article will address these questions by providing insights into the favorite spots experienced concours judges examine to try and find the elusive speck of dirt for that precious tenth of a point deduction.

At NNJR concours events, we judge Porsches in three major categories: exterior, interior, and storage. We do not judge engines or undercarriages; however engines are judged at the Zone 1 Concours and at the New Hope Automobile Show and Concours, and engines and undercarriages are judged at the national Parade Concours. We do not judge originality at NNJR concours events.

The NNJR concours score sheets are divided into three major sections corresponding to the three judged areas. A perfect score is 225 points where 100 potential points are awarded to the exterior, 75 to the interior and 50 to the storage area. We generally use tenth of a point deductions for each fault found.

Although a tenth point deduction can be acquired in any of the three areas, it should be obvious that the exterior of the vehicle is the most vulnerable because of the large number of points associated with this area. This corresponds to the large number of sub-categories that a judge is required to examine on the vehicle’s exterior. So exactly what is the exterior judge looking for when he or she examines this point-rich domain?

The exterior judge is looking for any existing aesthetic blemish that the competitor could have remedied or mitigated. These might include such things as panel misalignment, paint chips that have not been neatly retouched, lingering wax or polish, smudges on the exterior of the glass surfaces, and any dings, dents or rust in the sheet metal. Clearly the exterior judge has a lot of areas and accoutrements to inspect in the short four minutes of allotted time.

Each experienced judge has their favorite places to examine on a particular model of Porsche in an effort to find the elusive deductions. This knowledge is acquired as a result of competing with their personal vehicles at the region, zone, and national level. In assigning judges to a vehicle category, we try to assign judges that have either owned or competed with a similar model Porsche. This ensures that the judge knows exactly where to look for the possible deductions.

The condition of the exterior sheet metal and paint has the highest possible total point score (combined 50 points) and thus the potential for the highest number of deductions. Usually during the first one minute walk-around the exterior judge is able to spot the majority of obvious deductions related to dents, dings, rust, and paint chips. On a sunny day the irregularities on a shiny paint surface literally pop out. During the remaining three minutes the exterior judge concentrates on looking for remaining wax, polish, and dirt in the more esoteric places that a novice might overlook.

According to Jerry Manna, a long time concours enthusiasts who has restored numerous Porsches, competed and won at the national level with his 356 Speedster, and is a nationally recognized concours judge, “Novices often tend to overlook the simple and obvious things because they are so used to having them right in front of their noses for so long. For example, in earlier air cooled cars with matte black metal trim around the doors and windows, the trim can take on a purple tint over time; this is not correct and can be easily remedied. Similarly, the rubber exterior moldings can develop a white cast from sun exposure that can also be easily corrected with black Surflex dye. These types of simple repairs are discussed at our NNJR concours workshops.”

“Novices frequently overlook the obvious places for dirt, wax and polish to hide in plain sight when prepping their vehicles”, says Jerry. “They need to remember to check for wax and polish in the lettering on all the lenses, and around the stone guards on the car’s flanks. Also, one of my favorite spots to find a deduction is in the holes of the windshield squirters. They will clean all around the squirters but forget to clean the holes, themselves. On the Porsches with the flag-style mirrors that are able to be turned in, I rotate the mirrors examining for both cleanliness and the presence of the small black plastic plug that covers the mounting screw hole. This plug is often missing and is easily replaced.”

Jerry continues, “Keyhole slots in all the door handles and on the hatches of 914s, 924s, 944s and 968s are another place that newcomers overlook. I check for small amounts of dirt and polish in these areas often find a deduction or two.”

“Beginners tend to spend an inadequate amount of time prepping the lower portions of their vehicles,” says Jeff McFadyen, a long time Porsche Parade judge and recent winner of a class, division, and group concours award at the 2011 Savannah PCA Parade with his freshly restored 1957, 356 Outlaw. Jeff suggests that novices need to remember to get down on their hands and knees, or even lay on their back to do a detailed inspection of the lower portions of their vehicle. “When judging, I know that this area of the vehicle is harder to clean, so I focus my attention here to find possible deductions. Particularly on the newer water-cooled cars with front radiators, there are a lot of places for bugs to hide, making it rather easy to find deductions.” As a tip, Jeff suggests that when washing the vehicle rather than concentrating on the top surfaces which are relatively convenient to see and reach, make the extra effort to clean below the belt line. “This prevents the opportunity for ‘crud’ to accumulate and allows for early detection and repair of stone chips.”

Jeff also believes in the saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” He is referring to the impression that all the judges receive during the one minute walk-around. “If the overall appearance of the car being judged is not quite up to par relative to the cars next to it, the judges get the feeling that the entrant spent inadequate time preparing and they may look even harder for deductions. It is important to spend the extra effort to polish the paint and bright-work so that it glistens, and that stone chips are neatly touched-up.”

Jeff offered one additional tip based on his own competition experience. He advises everyone to clean the wheels one more time as soon as the car is parked in its final judging position, and be certain to do all four wheels because you never know which wheel the judge may select to touch. At NNJR events we do not judge beyond the surface of the wheel and tire. However, it makes sense to be a little more diligent in your wheel cleaning just to impress the judges.

Edgardo Vazquez has an entirely different perspective on concours judging when he examines a Porsche for possible deductions. Edgardo is an experienced Parade and NNJR Concours judge, and has competed successfully with his former classic 911winning the prestigious Judges Choice Award at the 1999 Mont Tremblant Parade. Edgardo believes that the responsibility of a concours judge is to assist the vehicle owner in preserving the aesthetics of their Porsche by identifying potential faults that could lead to serious future problems. Consequently, he takes a more benevolent approach to judging, overlooking some of the minor infractions to focus on the more potentially severe problems.

Edgardo peels back the rubber molding around the windshield of air-cooled Porsches looking for hidden signs of rust – a deduction if discovered, but more importantly, a clarion-call to the owner to attend to this fault before serious (translation: expensive) damage occurs. He instructs novices that grease on moving parts, for example exterior door handles, is not all bad as long as it is clean grease. He also checks the cleanliness of the jack ports on each side of the air-cooled cars, spots often overlooked by beginners. As the other judges do, he looks very carefully around the Porsche lettering and script on the engine lid for signs of polish and wax clinging in the crevices; something easily removed with a soft-bristle brush.

All of these experienced judges offer some common tips to help improve total scores. Pay particular attention to the glass surfaces, especially the corners. They recommend that it takes at least three separate cleanings of the glass to get it reasonably clean, and be sure to clean the exterior glass one more time when you arrive at the event to remove any road dust. Smudges on the glass show up best in sunlight, so if you are cleaning the car in a garage or in the shade, be certain to roll the car into the sunlight before considering the job done. This also helps to spot any residual polish or wax hiding in the seams and crevices.

They furthermore suggest thoroughly examining the seams and transition areas around all body-appendages such as mirrors, door handles, hood crests, windshield wipers, grills, and radio antennas for lingering wax and polish. A little extra time with a soft-bristle brush can eliminate a critical deduction. These judges know that cleaning, polishing and waxing smooth surfaces is easy, and the convoluted areas that require extra attention separate the winners from the runner-ups. In addition, they all recommend that you retain your score sheets from each event and use these to make a list of the places that the judges typically examine to guide you in your preparation for the next event. After a few competitions you will start to develop a sense of the vulnerable areas and can avoid getting caught in the future.

These are great tips from some of our most experienced national Parade judges that should help you greatly in improving your competitive results at our NNJR concours events. And remember, if you have any questions on these tips or any other area of prepping your Porsche contact us at concours@nnjr-pca.com.