The world’s first hot rod show has held in 1949 in the Armoury Building in Los Angeles. Designed to show the true nature of hot rodding in response to the negative public opinion of the day, promoter Bob Peterson invited hot rodders to drive their rods into the building and rope them off for display. He in turn would use his Hot Rod magazine to promote the event. Through their combined efforts, tens of thousands of people crammed into the show. As the shows grew in size and popularity, the term ‘display’ began to broaden in meaning. The kustoms were the first to include material around the vehicle to create an atmosphere or a theme. The use of ‘angel hair’, a padding used in upholstery and teased to represent clouds upon which the vehicle floated, is obvious in many early photographs of these events. The display of the car’s name or a club plaque became common as well.
The means of showing of any vehicle within the confines of indoor stadium is constantly evolving. What was a popular technique last year has been further refined for the current show season. But whatever the fashion, there are always the standard requirements to be considered.
Prior to entry into the pavilion, make sure the vehicle is thoroughly clean inside, outside and underneath. Final detailing can be attended to when the vehicle is in sit u on the show floor. Consider how the vehicle will stand in the given space, either diagonally or square-on. Open one side for interior inspection, leave the other side closed for appreciation of the vehicle’s line. Open the bonnet and boot for judging during Saturday, consider closing them for a period on Sunday for the photographers to get ‘clean shots’.
Unless the pavilion has wonderful wooden floors like the Exhibition Building in Melbourne, it is the promoter’s expectation that the entrant will provide some form of floor covering. Carpet is popular as are vinyl floor tiles. Choose a neutral colour that accentuates the colour of the vehicle. Black and white checks suggest a racing theme but tend to reflect badly in dark body paint. Loose pebbles and stones should be used only as a detail rather than an overall cover given that they are difficult to contain and take time to clean away. Thanks to the Bull boys, one of the simplest ideas ever seen was the use of a white plastic underlay upon which variously coloured and sized post-it notes had been randomly scattered. Covering all of this were sheets of bubble wrap: clean, cheap and effective.
Whatever they are, barriers should not obstruct the viewing or photographing of the vehicle. If they are upright stands, they should be stable and capable of withstanding the climbing tendencies of young children. Height needs to be no more than 30-40cm. Ground barriers offer little risk to either the public or the vehicle and still clearly define the display perimeter. They too should be stable and firmly joined together. Reticulation pipe and wooden logs have been used to effect and can easily be recycled after the event. Consider also using the barriers to channel lighting cables and support display lights.
When lighting a vehicle for display, the sky is the limit. Used to highlight chrome and paint, an engine bay or an interior, the techniques of placing lights into, above or alongside of a vehicle are always going to be a case of trial and error. Blue lights work brilliantly on chrome wheels, mixed red light creates a mood within the interior while white fluoro brings out the best detail in the engine bay and undercarriage. The direction of light should assist the eye, not glare into it. If possible, the light unit itself should be hidden from view, together with its wiring. And lights get very hot, burning both materials and any body part that may come into contact with it. But all problems aside, a well-lit display will always attract more attention than a non-lit display.
It is common for a vehicle to be displayed so that its undercarriage detail can be appreciated by the public and judges alike. To elevate the vehicle means using either wheel ramps or axle stands. Some entrants disguise ordinary ramps and stands with cloth or material, others construct custom units. However it is done, the units must be secure and sturdy. Once elevated, wheels can be removed to display brake and suspension detailing. Mirrors are often used when the vehicle is elevated.
As many of the patrons attending the show are not die-hard auto enthusiasts, it is often an advantage to use signage to explain technical details about the vehicle they might not otherwise be aware of. Signage listing the make, model, year, engine type and size, body modifications and the owner’s name also assists with photographer’s and journalist’s records.
Nothing attracts attention within a static display as much as the unexpected movement of one of the display components. Whether it be a revolving wheel, an elevating head or a rocking chair,the idea alone will guarantee an audience waiting for the next cycle of entertainment. Sound too can be used effectively within the display. As long as it is not too loud and doesn’t distract from displays around it, the use of movement, sounds and music can ‘harmonise’ an otherwise static display.
The WA Hot Rod and Street Machine Spectacular has for many years promoted a show theme for the event. The theme is open to interpretation and appeals to the creativity, ingenuity and humour of the rodding community. It also provides show patrons with a focus, a sense of a wider collection. Individual theme displays rely on the harmony between the vehicle and the objects and materials used around it to get the message across to the viewer. A few carefully selected and place objects can be just as informative as an extravaganza of backdrops, vegetation, props, signage, lights and extras.
The basic requirements of a club display are the use of a minimum of three vehicles within the display and a club banner or sign identifying the club. Apart from that, all as outlined above is applicable. Club displays may also be arranged within the context of the show theme.