We all have different reasons for why we choose to modify cars. Regardless of your reasons for why, it’s important that you place some attention into your vehicle’s power plant: The engine. To make a truly competitive, well-rounded show car, you will need to make sure that just as much work and modification is done to the engine as is it to the other aspects of it.
If a competitor chooses to display their car’s power modifications, then they must leave their hood open. If a competitor's hood is not open, the judges will consider the engine bay to be stock, which won’t bode well for you.
They will be looking at many different attributes within the engine compartment. For example, are all the upgrades they’ve chosen made by a reputable, name brand? Are they “Off The Shelf” parts that anyone can find, or are they rare, imported ones? Maybe they’re custom made. Judges are well-versed in engine modification and can tell if you took the “cheap route” by getting imitation parts, instead of real ones. Regardless of the path a competitor chooses, all engine upgrades must be functional.
Judges understand that every vehicle comes from the factory with different engine configurations, but the level to which it’s modified can play a major role in how it’s evaluated. For instance, if your car came naturally-aspirated and you changed it to forced induction, then that could have a more positive impact on the evaluation. Some competitors choose to swap out the OEM engine with something entirely different; judges will look upon this favorably depending on the choice of engine and craftsmanship of the swap. One method isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other - it’s all subjective.
If your car is naturally-aspirated experts are looking for things such as intakes, filters, throttle bodies, headers, intake manifold, cam gears, and so on. If it’s forced-induced, then judges will be looking for upgraded turbo(s), intake and turbo manifolds, waste gates, blow off valves, intercooler piping, upgraded ECU’s, custom harnesses, and so on.
Don’t think that the smaller details don’t play a role in how your engine modifications are evaluated...they do! Engine dress up kits, anodized bolts, hood props, radiator covers, aftermarket or painted valve covers, and chrome or anodized accents can all earn you credit too. All the engine’s wiring and hoses will be checked for fitment, tidiness, and coordination with the overall theme of the car.
Like everything else, the quantity of modifications and performance increases will all be taken into consideration. In addition, judges will be scrutinizing the installation and fitment on each and every modification made. Improper fitment or installation could be detrimental to the life of the car and therefore, it’s extremely important to judges as well.
Custom and Rare Stuff
Depending on the scenario, custom parts can be more valuable to a judge than bolt-ons but again, it’s all subjective. If a competitor chooses to do anything custom within the engine compartment, then they must make sure to let the judges know. Not everything can immediately be seen by the naked eye since many engine modifications are internal, so be sure to provide documentation whenever possible. If you had custom motor mounts made or shifted your engine forward or backwards to accommodate custom parts or for better handling, then that is vital information that needs to be shared with the judges. The more detail you can go into, the better the judges will understand what you’ve done.
When it comes to modifying any part of a car, judges respect ingenuity and creativity. They want to reward those who have put in the time and effort to create one-off parts or sourced imported products. Judges will take notice if you had all your intercooler piping bent a certain way, compared to if you just used piping from a bolt on turbo kit. Whether it’s a drag-specific intercooler or a part brought over from across the pond, judges will take notice. Creating a custom part or finding a rare one for your engine can be just as important as any other rare or custom part of the car.
Detail and cleanliness
Like any other section of a car being judged, modifications lose value in the judges eyes if they aren’t presentable. Make sure that that, no matter where a judge touches, there is no grease or dirt. The engine and engine compartment should both be so clean that they can eat off it. If your engine is equipped with an engine cover, then it would be in your best interest to remove it. This allows judges to see that you’ve really prepped the entire motor, and not just what can be seen by the naked eye.
Copyright 2019 by NCCA. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, translated, transcribed, or stored in a retrieval system in any form electronically, mechanically, or through photocopying without the prior written permission of NCCA.
Jef Fern's 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. Photo by John Machaqueiro