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Classics 101: An Introduction to Classic Cars
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Judging, CCCA Style

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Some clubs, like the H.H. Franklin Club, which promotes touring over judging, do not subject cars to judging...but that's a story for another time. Like most car clubs, though, the Classic Car Club of America judges cars. Let's take a look at how.

Back in HCC #57, I outlined the eight divisions into which the CCCA places cars for assessment. Judging takes place at an annual event known as a Grand Classic; these are held at various locations throughout the country and are sponsored by the club's regions.

There are four categories of judges, beginning with an apprentice judge. The next level is judge, followed by accredited judge and master judge. (In that earlier column on judging, I neglected to mention that I am a CCCA master judge, which is more representative of how long I've been around than how much I know.) Individuals move up in the ranks based on their knowledge and experience, which includes attending CCCA judging seminars.
At each Grand Classic, there is a head judge, an assistant head judge, judging teams and a tabulation team. The CCCA monitors its tabulators carefully; certification is the highest level of recognition. Each of these four-man teams is headed by a team leader, who interacts with car owners on behalf of the team and generally guides the process.
CCCA's judging procedures are not dramatically different from those other clubs, beginning with the obligatory presence of a fire extinguisher. A missing fire extinguisher is, in fact, one of six items that make a car ineligible to be judged; the others are non-safety glass, non-authentic braking system, non-authentic automatic transmission, non-authentic engine or a replica body.

Like most clubs, the CCCA uses a standard assessment form; each of the four judges has his or her own form to use. Judges go through the process indicating on the form whether the item in question is Excellent (as new) or in lesser condition. Points are deducted as follows: Very Good, one point; Good, two points; Fair, three points; Poor, four points, and Unsatisfactory, five points--the maximum which can be deducted.

The judging form contains 40 categories, grouped into Operation and Appearance sections. The first 14 categories on the form, which are operational categories, require the engine to be running. These checks include the usual, such as how well the engine operates and how good it looks, in addition to the general operational check.

Once the operational check has been completed, the team moves on to the appearance categories--both interior and exterior. When checking the interior, judges examine the upholstery, floor covering, sills, trim and hardware. They also check weatherstripping, welting, rubber and glass.

The exterior check includes categories such as metal condition, bodywork, panel fit, paint and plating. If the team is judging an open car, the top is graded. Finally, they assess the wheels and tires.

Although some cars are restored to extraordinary levels, the club's judging guidelines state that "these cars were built to be used and the mere fact of usage should not in itself cause hardship to the exhibitor in judging, provided the usage does not adversely affect the condition or appearance of the car." So a well-preserved original stands just as good a chance in judging as any other car of the era.

Throughout the judging process, the judges are looking carefully for authenticity and proper workmanship. Since the CCCA is a multi-marque club, most of its judges cannot be as nitpicky as judges who do their job within a marque-specific club such as the Cadillac-La Salle Club or the Lincoln Owners Club. On questions of authenticity, the judges are directed by CCCA Judging Rules to defer to the owner. Judges must present authenticity issues to the team leader, who then discusses the question with the car exhibitor and informs the team of the exhibitor's comments. All authenticity deductions must be explained in space provided on the judging form.

Judges are expected to work independently, speaking to no one about the score being given for an item or category. Team leaders turn in the completed forms to a tabulating committee, which totals the individual scores; the judges do not total their own forms. A car's final score is determined by eliminating the highest and lowest scores given and averaging the remaining two.

Following the Grand Classic, a car exhibitor may request a copy of the judging results. The area head judge will send a composite of the four forms used in grading the car; the judges are not identified.

That's a quick look at CCCA-style judging. There are a few differences from other clubs' systems, but for my money, it's as good an objective process as I've ever seen.

Done correctly, judging recognizes a car that has been properly maintained or restored. I have owned and judged both types of cars, but the cars I most enjoy judging are those that have been carefully maintained over the years while being driven, as well as owner-restored cars.

When I first joined the CCCA in 1964, a 100-point car was uncommon. Today, there may be several at any given Grand Classic. But there are still owners who perform much of their own work and bring a car to be judged to make certain that everything is correct. I love to see this.

To its credit, the CCCA has a touring division, which is for cars that are driven regularly. My Lincolns are candidates for this class, although I haven't had them judged in years. The cars are as authentic as I can make them, right down to the correct tire stem covers, but they most definitely show "wear and tear." I wouldn't have it any other way.

This article originally appeared in the December, 2009 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.