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How to be competitive at contests.

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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.

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Good stuff!

How do you feel about displaying a model with the hood off versus open?

Does it seem to you that darker colors tend to win more prizes than lighter colors?

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see anything about accuracy. I once judged a contest and there was a late-model Mustang (with fuel injection) entered in the Factory Stock category. The builder had added a fuel line and a fuel shut-off valve. Typically, late model cars with fuel injection also have a return line, and I have never seen a factory-installed fuel shut off valve on any 1:1.

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Great tips Rob and thanks for posting them.  

Another "tip" that I got a long time ago from a dear, departed modeling friend was...  Location......Location......Location.  If at all possible, try placing your model on the table where it will be seen clearly......  But not too close to the edge of the table.  A good spot is at the end of the table by the corner.  That way neither the judges nor the spectators have to strain and/or crane their necks over other models to clearly see yours and/or take any pictures.  

If you have totally detailed the underside of your model, then by all means display it on one of those angled mirror display stands which are only slightly larger than the model and don't hog up precious table space.  

If your list of details and modifications won't fit in the usually small space allotted for it on the contest entry form, then either neatly print them on an index card, or better yet, print them from your home computer, and clip it to the entry form for your model.  

The best tip of all is to not get discouraged if you don't win.  Look closely at the models that did win, and then build your next model at that level if you are serious about continuing to enter into competition at contests.

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great write up Rob. thanks for taking the time to post this.

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Good stuff!

How do you feel about displaying a model with the hood off versus open?

Does it seem to you that darker colors tend to win more prizes than lighter colors?

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see anything about accuracy. I once judged a contest and there was a late-model Mustang (with fuel injection) entered in the Factory Stock category. The builder had added a fuel line and a fuel shut-off valve. Typically, late model cars with fuel injection also have a return line, and I have never seen a factory-installed fuel shut off valve on any 1:1.

Thanks Ray.

If your engine is a main focal point of the build by all means leave it open or off. A great way to display your hood if you remove it, is to use a small acrylic easel you can buy to show off coin collections. Like this. http://www.tripar.com/product.php?id=110109MBAV

I can't say I've noticed darker models winning more often. I will say that flat paint jobs are seen as being simpler to do and are often overlooked by judges.

Accuracy is tough which is why I didn't mention it. Factory stock is the ONLY class I think it would be applicable. And very hard to prove on way or another. You'd have to be a certified expect in factory cars to call someone out on something like that shut off valve. Very likely he was just spreading his builds out a bit, so as not to swamp a class. 

Rich, those are all great points. Thanks for chiming in.

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Great info Rob.  I don't enter local contests but I would still like to put together a build someday that was worthy.

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Great info Rob.  I don't enter local contests but I would still like to put together a build someday that was worthy.

Me too!

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Good thoughts Rob! I'd like to add some thoughts to point #4 if I may, for those that want to do opening panels on models other than the hood. Please make sure that those doors and such open as cleanly as possible! In other words, to win points with the judges, make sure that the doors open the correct way according to whatever car you've shown. "Swing out" doors on a modern vehicle for instance would get a thumbs down from certain judges, especially if they know said car very well.

Also, you'll want to make sure those shut lines are as narrow as possible without of course binding, or scratching the paint when opening or closing. I can tell you that if you were to enter a contest such as the GSL for instance, believe me on this, Mark and the boys do operate those working features (with care of course), so you'll want to make sure they operate as smoothly as possible.

One tip I can give you in regards to paint having been a judge in the past------you'll want your hood, trunk and roof, especially the roof to be as flawless as possible! Why? Because that's the first thing that will be seen as the roof particularly is the closest thing to one's eyes, and those horizontal surfaces are what's reflecting the lights above.

I was immediately drawn to black or navy blue cars that had flawless polishing especially in those areas.

Of course, don't neglect the rest of the car, but those areas in particular have definitely roped me in with the "gotcha" factor. ;)

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Good post, Rob. Those are all very good points and I haven't even thought about some of them even if I've been in many contests and I've won surprisingly many times, too. Especially placing the models was a new thing to me, I just usually put them to whatever place they fit in. I don't like to put them to front row as then someone might hit them by an accident, but otherwise I haven't paid much attention to that thing.

But I have to say that even if I often participate in contests, I don't stress about winning or losing. I either win or lose, it makes no difference to me. Or I mean that it feels great when you win, but losing doesn't matter me at all. I enjoy seeing other people's builds in person and often I get good tips, tricks or ideas from other modelers or from their models. And of course meeting friends is another important thing just as well as looking through the Swap Meet area...

Plus that I never enter the same model in the same contest twice. I don't get it why some people do it, and that's why I don't.

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Proper judging excludes any "gotcha factor"(a total glue bomb will get noticed for its messiness,too).In the course of judging,an entry's details will be seen and evaluated without being influenced by a bright color or a unique styling feature.Build quality counts first.Everything else flows from that.

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Proper judging excludes any "gotcha factor"(a total glue bomb will get noticed for its messiness,too).In the course of judging,an entry's details will be seen and evaluated without being influenced by a bright color or a unique styling feature.Build quality counts first.Everything else flows from that.

True. However the eye catching nature of the build will usually increase the amount of time a judge looks at your model, because he's interested. If the work is solid, it will be noticed. If a judge is less interested in a model, he spends less time on it. Is it "proper" judging? No. But it does happen and more often than you think.  I suppose one could say it's taking advantage of human nature.

Especially placing the models was a new thing to me, I just usually put them to whatever place they fit in. I don't like to put them to front row as then someone might hit them by an accident, but otherwise I haven't paid much attention to that thing.

Most people will tell you that placing the model near the front edge of the table is your best bet becasue the judge can get close. I can honestly say this has been my experience. Yes, you are taking a chance of it getting damaged by passers by (ladies purses make me nervous) but most contests are frequented only by builders and their familes and they are pretty careful around the tables. But contests at car shows though where Mr & Mrs John Q and their three unsupervised brats are walking by the tables? Wow. Those scare me enough that I find it difficult to put my model at the front. 

Bill, thanks a lot for your excellent advice. All great points.

 

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One thing you didn't mention and that probably goes without saying is this: Don't Cheat!  One of my models took second place in its class at a GSL contest but I wasn't there and I didn't enter it in the competition. I was and remain flattered; however, it is a reprehensible act to present someone else's build as one's own work. 

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None of my builds are competition level. I will say though that your tips are great for just building a better model period. Thanks for a great post. 

Mike.

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None of my builds are competition level. I will say though that your tips are great for just building a better model period. Thanks for a great post. 

Mike.

Excellent!

I wouldn't be in a contest either, but the info is valuable to make our own cars better.

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All good tips - good information for building models even if they are not intended for a contest. 

I don't build for contests but have entered to participate and have fun - bringing home a trophy is a bonus.

 

Edited by Muncie

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       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.

:P

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One thing you didn't mention and that probably goes without saying is this: Don't Cheat!  One of my models took second place in its class at a GSL contest but I wasn't there and I didn't enter it in the competition. I was and remain flattered; however, it is a reprehensible act to present someone else's build as one's own work. 

I really wish it went without saying but sadly it needs to be mentioned. I've seen this only once and I was quite upset. Thanks Curtis.

I'm glad everyone seems to be getting something out of this it's been on the back burner of my brain for a while. 

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Thanks, so much, Rob.  That was an excellent read and many of the subsequent comments have lead to additional worthwhile info.

   It's been years since I participated in  competitive building,, but everything you talked about Rob still remains pretty much the same. On the subject of posing your model, I left things closed up for about an hour so viewers could see the fit and flow of the car. Then I would open things up to show the engine and interior/trunk for another hour before judging.

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I dont do contests but IMO clean and neat  is 1st and formost.

 

2nd would be accuracy in both the subject at hand as well as scale . As an example Mopar underhoods were body color,,,I've seen numerous replica stock builds where the engine  compartment was black,,which is only correct if the exterior of the car is black  And no Mopar ever had orange heater hoses .

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 And no Mopar ever had orange heater hoses .

My '67 Chrysler 300 did.......because I put them there! :D

I guess they were red, not orange.

 

Steve

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An note on accuracy. The problem with judging it is that you may be an expert on Mopars, but know nothing about Fords. That means you would judge Mopars more harshly than Fords. Or judge Fords against a Mopar standard. Unless photographic evidence is provided by the modeler, accuracy becomes next to impossible to judge. Its why I dislike "Factory Stock" as a category - "Street Stock" would be better.

Then there is the issue of whether or not you really are an expert in that subject? An example of this is the famous "Hippy" or "Psychedelic" Porsche 917L from Le Mans in 1970. If I judged on accuracy, every blue & green painted one I saw would be thrown out as wrong. It should be purple & green. Yet I know many, many modelers who would throw out the purple & green ones, because blue & green has become gospel to many. Hence, I, and they, must completely ignore the color. (Now, I could bring my evidence to shows, but I don't. What would the point be, especially if the model was a beautiful, immaculate build.)

Remember, you are judging a plastic model and how well it is built, not a real car. In many way, the model is a piece of art, and therefor open to interpretation by the artist.

Mike

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