10 Tips to Organize Your Own Car Show

Published by Naseem Muaddi on March 12th, 2012

Spring is around the corner – which means car-show season is upon us. What better way to promote your auto upholstery shop than by hosting one yourself? It’s an excellent way to tap into your local auto enthusiast community and drum up business.

Plus it’s not as hard as it sounds. I’ve personally organized and hosted a number of local car shows and the turnout has been incredible. Below are 10 tips to help you get started.

1. Put your shop’s name front and center

Want car guys to remember the name of your shop? Then put it in the name of your show. Something like “Monroe Auto Trim’s First Annual Car Show” works perfectly. No gimmicks, no glitz – just a straight up traditional car show.

2. Keep your show local

The most ideal location to host a car show is in your shop’s parking lot. After all, the goal of the show is to promote your business and tap into the local car community.

If, however, your parking lot is too small, look around town for a better fit. High school parking lots work great and usually cost little to no money at all to rent. However, they may require you to rent porta-potties and pay for trash removal and insurance. But because this is a one-day expense, these shouldn’t cost too much.

3. Pick a date that works

Sundays work best for car shows because most people are off of work. It’s impossible to accurately predict the weather far in advance, so make sure to also reserve a rain date for the following Sunday. The best tip I can offer on choosing a date is to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with an already scheduled show in your area. Otherwise, your turnout could be gravely affected.

4. Advertising like crazy

To get the best attendance for your show, you will need to advertise it like crazy. In my area, there’s a car show almost every week in the summer time. So I make up flyers, attended each show and distributed as many as I can to spread the word. I even leave a pile of flyers at local parts stores, auto body and mechanic shops.

Lastly, I contact past customers to ask if they’ll participate in the event. It’s a great way to show off my work. Plus, they tend to tell their friends and family who also attend.

5. Bank on free publicity

Car shows draw up a ton of free publicity. Write up a press release and email it to the editor of your local newspaper. I’ve found that they’re more than willing to write an article about community events in their publications. Also, contact your local television news station. They may be willing to film your charity car show and even interview you for the evening news.

For each car show that I hosted, I contacted a local radio station in advance to schedule a live broadcast from our show. Aside from all the free promotion it gave us on the air waves, the DJ’s also entertained our attendees with music.

6. Give back to your community

It’s important for local businesses to give back to the communities in which they operate, and car shows can be a great way to do it. Consider donating proceeds from your show to a local charity or organization. Instead of charging a registration fee to participants, ask for a donation of any size to the charity.

Remember, your goal isn’t to make money off of the event. It’s to promote your business so that your customer base continues to grow. If you can help a local charity or organization in the process, then everyone wins.

7. Give away free swag 

You’ll be surprised at the amount of free stuff companies will donate to car shows – which, in turn, can be given away to participants. JEGS, for instance, is quick to send hats and magazines. While Summit Racing is always good for gift bags and stickers. At my last car show, Krispy Kreme donated 10 dozen donuts to give away.

So ask around and tell businesses that you’ll list their names on your flyers in exchange. The worst thing that they can say is no.

8. Don’t let attendees go hungry

You have two options for offering food at your show. You can either set up a table that sells sodas, pretzels, hotdogs, water, etc. and have a friend manage it. Or you can work out a deal with a local food vendor or ice cream truck to set up shop at the event.

Either way, don’t overlook the importance of offering food at your show. People are going to be hanging around for hours and you don’t want them to leave because they got hungry.

9. Award the best in show

Awarding prizes at your car show gives folks incentive to enter their cars. I prefer trophies because they look prestigious and aren’t very expensive to have made. In fact, you may find that trophy shops are willing to trade their trophy-making services for free publicity.

Make a list of categories to evaluate participating cars and recruit a few qualified folks do the judging. Awarding one trophy per category is plenty. What I like to do is display the trophies for everyone to see on the day of the show and create a little award ceremony at the end to hand them out. I usually ask the radio station to help me out with this.

10. Market your auto upholstery shop

Never forget that the goal of your show is to promote your shop. So make your rounds to introduce yourself and your shop to participants and attendees.

I recommend setting up a booth at the show with material swatches, business cards and brochures. Also park a couple of the best cars you’ve worked on at opposite sides of your table to display your work. Dress professionally and be prepared to offer estimates and schedule jobs on the spot.

Questions / Thoughts? If you have any questions or tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We’re all here to learn from each other!

Also, check out our previous article: How Car Clubs and Shows Can Expand Your Auto Trim Business




12 Responses

  1. Bob Stedman says:

    I had made up can coolers with my company name a phone number and gave them out to different car shows to hand out to their participants….That has brought in business at low cost investment….Bob…B & B Auto Uphostery

  2. stitcher_guy says:

    Naseem. YES!!!! Love the pic at the top of this article. I’m a VW nut and collector (from Hot Wheels to the real deals sitting in my barns). LOVE the Karmann Ghia cabriolet. I have a 70 KG cab in my barn, but in much much much worse shape. Actually, it’s in three pieces, one of those hanging from the rafters. But I have it in my head what it could look like. Hopefully it’ll be at a show before I”m too old to drive it.

    We’ve tosseds around the idea of a car show at and by PRO Stitch Auto Interiors. But I’ve opted not to do so because of some of the logistics. We have tons of room (5 acres around the shop), but all those cars and people would be on my property. Liability insurance can be prohibitive.

    In lieu of hosting our own show, PRO Stitch is a “gold” sponsor of the annual car show put on by our area community college industrial tech department. It hosts app. 200-300 cars annually, and along with our name included in the advertising, we get booth space and room for two entries at the actual show. The other nice part of this (besides not having to make sure the port-a-potties are tidy and handling cleanup afterwards), I always have several customers in the show. I am able to make the rounds and visit with my patrons, as well as make new contacts. On other weekends, I visit local shows and blanket the entries with flyers, as well as offering t-shirts, mugs and pens to the organizers for giveaway swag. I’ve never been turned down.

    • Glad you like the pic Sitcher. I love KGs too and couldn’t resist putting that pic up.
      Wow 5 acres at your shop, that’s huge. You should definitely consider hosting your own show. You can get event insurance for the day. At my last show I took out a $1 million dollar liability policy for just over $500.

  3. Bob and Stitcher you guys have the right idea. It’s smart to sponsor car shows in exchange for advertising. Maybe one day people will approach you to sponsor your car show.

  4. roddin1 roddin1 says:

    I am a major sponsor at local community college car show, even gave away $150.00 door prize towards labor not price of material. Knowone cashed in on the door prize, at least I help get my name out there?

  5. No one may have cashed in the prize but having sonsored the show you generated brand name awareness. People who attended the show may not need your services immediately but the next time they do, they’ll think of you first.

  6. temitope says:

    Luv d write up, looking 4 sumtin else tho, tot I can use ur help. I wnt to strt a car show on tv here in nigeria. I have no idea on how to strt especially in gettin d cars and sponsors. Any idea wud b appreciated thru my email. Tanx

  7. Retired… Nasseem There Is A Used Car Lot In Hickory N. C. On L. R. Boulavard That Has Two KG’s Convertables One Is Red The Other Is Purple. I’ll Try And Get Teh Name Of The Lot.
    One Good Way To Advertise Is To Have You Own Car At Shows Or Multiple Shows If You Have More Than One Car. Another Used To Be An Owner Would Have A Printed Board Of Who Worked On His Car, But Today A Lot Of People Like To Try And Be A Middle Man Between The Trimmer /Auto Body Fabricator / Mechanic They Seem To Want To Make Some Of There Money Back Theve Spent. I Use To Tell Them You Get That Back When You Sell The Car.

  8. bo mcliechey says:

    I would love to start a car show at my car lot, on bedeal lake rd , so if enbody love to help me to get it gowing pleas cont me at my bessness cell number ,269-282-4260 name is bo

  9. jason coleman says:

    hi…im jason,,fellow car enthusiast…and i want to set up my first hona/acura car meet..but i dont have a shop…my dad owns a bar and said i could host it there….thank you for these great tips!..im a lil nervous but very excited!..

  10. jj says:

    Working on a car show to raise money for VETERANS. any help would be nice.


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