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Disclaimer – I’m not a world class, best in show award winning modeler. I likely never will be. And I’m cool with that. I build to my own standards and compete with whatever I call finished. I’m not writing this out of vanity. I’m writing this because I do get asked pretty frequently at shows why I thought this or that model, didn’t win an award. I’ve been asked at a couple IPMS shows to assist in judging. Their senior members, that have been judging for years would give us a crash course in how to do so. Then we would judge the classes in three man teams. So here I am, passing what they taught me, on to you. First, here is a list of flaws that will make the judge pass your model by the second he sees them. 1. Mold lines on any part. On the body especially. If you aren’t sure something is a mold line versus a body line, do some research. On parts like the radiator, exhaust pipes, tires, and bumpers, mold lines are VERY visible. And they will kill your model. 2. Ejector pin marks. Same as mold lines. 3. Fingerprints in the paint. 4. Poor fitment. If your bumper is crooked or hood doesn’t fit, etc. 5. Parts broken off or missing. Bring some CA glue and tweezers to the show with you. Nuff said. 6. Visible glue joints, glue or CA fog on clear parts. 7. Severe orange peel in the paint. 8. Aftermarket details done badly. If you are going to do it, do it well. 9. Crooked or poorly done decals. Second, here is a list of issues that aren’t deal breakers but will bump you backward in contention. 1. No wash added to a chrome grill. This is very simple to do and adds a lot of depth to a build. 2. No detail added to the dashboard. 3. Wheels/tires that touch the inside of the fender. 4. Tires that still have a gloss on the tread. 5. Silvered decals. When your decal has a whitish halo around it from the clear edge of the decal. Some careful trimming will avoid most of this. 6. If the paint is supposed to be shiny but doesn’t have a nice even gloss. Use a good clear, learn to polish. 7. If you have weathered the model but it doesn’t look realistic. Nothing that rusts, does so uniformly, in the same identical shade of rust. 8. Poor use of Bare Metal Foil. Nobody is an expert at this right off the bat. Like painting it takes a bit of practice. Get a ’58 Impala and get busy. By the time you finish it, you should be fairly competent with the stuff and in need of a drink. 9. Any place where body filler or removed trim “ghosts” through the finish. 10. 3 wheeling. Unless your model only has three wheels, all four should be touching the table at the same time. Lastly. Here are some general thoughts on competing that have popped up over the years. Most of it is my own opinions and some common sense. 1. Don’t be a sore loser. If you go stomping off to the club president, you will lose the respect of your peers. Your peers will remember this when it comes time to vote for Best in Show which is normally a public vote. 2. Don’t bring the same builds to the same contests over and over for years. Again, you will lose the respect of your fellow builders. It’s kind of like bringing a ringer. I have also seen judges say, “This one won first place last year”, and pass it by. My personal rule is - one try, win or lose, for each contest. I have broken this rule occasionally, but only with models that did not win, and not often. 3. Be eye catching – the longer you make the judge hang out, the better your chances to win an award. If you build a Mustang and paint it red, unless that paint is flawless and miles deep, it’s just a red Mustang. Build something unusual that stands out, something with a little style. Make the judge say, “Well that’s different”. Now some might think that adding a metric ton of aftermarket detail is a way to do this. Not necessarily. 4. Aftermarket detail – in my opinion, all things in moderation. I’ve seen a lot of drag cars done with every last fuel, spark, nitrous, water, oil, linkage detail added so that you can scarcely see the engine. Sometimes it’s a detractor rather than an asset. 5. Scratchbuilding – when a judge sees that word on your entry form, he’s gonna take a second look. If the work is done well, your chances improve. 6. Clean building and great paint wins. Period. Everything else done on the model is just more points in your favor. 7. Build a good variety of stuff. If you build just street rods, and plop eight of them down in the street rod class, remember that most clubs use a “no sweeps” rule. Which means one person can’t win all three awards for the class. And dropping your street rod truck in the commercial class doesn’t fool anyone, and will usually be ignored by the judges. 8. Display stands. Please be courteous. In a crowded category like street machines or hot rods, there may not be a lot of room for your 12” pie plate mirror or revolving stand. If my models have to be on top of one another so you can have your display stand, I’m gonna be a bit miffed. That's about it. I hope this helps people that are thinking about trying a local contest. There are a lot of people that have had bad experiences at contests, but there is a lot to be learned, a lot of cool people to meet, and great models to see, it would be a shame to miss it.