I know, my posts have been about contests and nothing else. So far, you'd think all I do is worry about contests, but that's not really true. I enjoy competition and I also believe that it is the best place to meet modelers with varied interests and skill levels. A contest is like "church" for modelers, a place to go where it is all about models, where you get ideas, and "recharge" your enthusiasm for building. It is also is where you are judged for your "sins". That gets us to this week's topic, judging.
If you read the message boards you would think that every contest is judged fairly and with the utmost care. The guys who judge all have immense knowledge of all things automotive and are expert builders. They are uncompromising and just. Or maybe they are the only guys on hand that didn't go have a few beers to fill the void instead of judging. The latter is usually the truth and it leads to some interesting decisions at contests. Flashy paint and loads of scratchbuilt gee-gaws hide a multitude of sins, while the basics of good construction are ignored. I have been both the recipient and victim of this judging flaw and more than once I might add. I have seen cars with massive orange peel paint jobs win over smooth paint, crooked engines with loads of wiring and plumbing beat cars with less bells and whistles but better basic construction. I have seen runs and dirt in flashy paint jobs beat a simple well done paint job repeatedly. A car that has been featured in a magazine is a sure winner most places, and a "famous" name will always do well at a contest. Model car contests are notoriously poorly judged, the question is, why?
Let's first look at the real car world for a second. I have an old '59 Ford I play around with and my buddy has a '78 Mustang II. They are pretty much the same as far as the drive train, hopped up small block Fords with headers, cam intake, etc. they are both nice and rust free with decent paint. If we pull into a show, my old Ford tends to get more attention than his, why? Because most guys don't like the Mustang II, they say it's ugly and isn't a "real" Mustang. Whatever. My old '59 is a neat old car you don't see a lot of and has that 1950's coolness to it. Then let a '57 Chevy pull in, or a Camaro, or a '69 Mustang. My car is now invisible. Let's also look at the rules for correctly hopping up your car. Oh wait, there are no rules. It's a free for all, do whatever you like. You can Pro Street it, Pro Tour it, Resto Mod it, Rat Rod it, Restore it, do a Kustom, a cruiser, or what ever you like. Whatever you do, someone will think it's pretty cool and someone will think it sucks. Unlike the Armor, Airplane, & Ship (or A.A.S., pronounce it however you want) crowd, there is no correct way to build a car, hot rod, or what ever. It's all subjective, if you love Mustangs and hate Camaros, you are going to lean in favor of the Ponies. If you think any Funny Car built after 1978 is crap, it is harder for you to see a 90's F/C in a good light. If you're positive you'll poke your eyes out with an Exacto knife if you see one more super-detailed NASCAR, you tend not to pick them as a winner.
That brings us back to where we started, basic construction techniques. No matter how much crap is added to the build, no matter how cool the paint, if the basics aren't covered, it should not win. Orange peel in the paint is unacceptable with today's paint products. Crooked motors are wrong no matter how much of the car was scratch built. Seam lines and sink marks should never be seen on a finished build. All of the photo-etch, wiring, resin, and scratch built stuff is cool, but it has to be well built at the basic level first. Because cars are so subjective they must be judged on basic skills first, degree of difficulty second, and subject matter last. Next time we'll talk about inspiration for for builds and get off the contest deal for a while.
"Rat Fink" Ron