Symco 2016 Entry Criteria

Updated and Revised March 1, 2015





Don’t be overwhelmed with our criteria. It is only complex if you make it complex. We have a long list of stuff below for one reason, some people don't understand what is old vs. new. We also have never claimed to be experts and try our best.  If you think we are elitists or too picky or whatever negative drama you want to create, you are very much mistaken. This is a theme show and we try to stick to it.  It doesn't mean we like or dislike your ride.  Drama and negativity is not welcome and we will turn you away for negativity and arguing.   We do encourage healthy debate on our criteria and are glad to adjust it to make it better.....please do this BEFORE you arrive, we are very busy during the event.


Really, we have ONE basic rule. We are looking for vehicles that would look as if they were built prior to 1964, or best, were really were built then.  If in question, snap a black and white photograph of your ride.  Hand it to someone you don't know and ask them to tell you what year it was taken. If they see your 20" wheels or other modern modification and tell you 2015, you won't get into the main area of our show.  If they say 1959, chances are you have the look we are after.  With all the different reproduction accessories out there these days, a lot of people think some things are older than they really are.  For that reason, we have expanded that one rule below.  If you have any questions, please feel free to send us photos of your car via email or on our facebook page. You can also post in our forum, we are more than happy to help.


BASIC RULES:  (explained even further below)


  1. 1.Stock, unmodified vehicles 1949 and newer will not be allowed into the show grounds unless they are nice, clean, original factory sprayed paint survivors.   Generally, vehicles need to have 2 visible period-correct modifications when parked in the show grounds. 


  1. 2.Stock, unmodified, “survivor” appearing or stock restored vehicles 1948 and older will be allowed into the show grounds. 


  1. 3.No fender-less vehicles newer than 1937 will be allowed into the show grounds.


  1. 4.No vehicle in the show grounds should have any visible parts or accessories "introduced" after Dec 31, 1964. 


  1. 5.No overly ornate, art cars, themed cars, or shock rods (otherwise known as rat rods) will be allowed into the show grounds. 


  1. 6.Any vehicle that appears to be unsafe will not be welcomed on any Symco grounds (show grounds, VIP parking area, spectator parking, etc.).  You will be asked to completely leave the premises.


  1. 7.The gate inspectors have full discretion and their decisions are final.   


If you do not understand the basic rules, you need to ask yourself, “What have you done to modify your vehicle to consider it a “traditional” hot rod or a “period correct” custom?”


If in further doubt, ask yourself “If I took a black & white picture of the car, would it look like the picture was taken before 1964?”  Down-town Symco already looks like a trip back through time.  We don’t want your GM Rally wheels, or your mailbox air cleaner, or your 90’s street rod graphics ruining the pictures for the guys who spend the time and money to build a period looking vehicle.


Basic Rule #1 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.Traditional hot rods and period customs are defined by the year (or period in time) that they were developed.  This is commonly accepted as before 1965, or before the time that muscle cars could be bought at dealers across the country.  People who study the pre-64 period in car customization also understand that there are specific styles further identifiable within that period from the late 40’s lakes roadsters of post WWII, to the wide whites, fins and fender skirts of the mid 50’s, to the early 60’s customs originating in Bellflower, California.  The Symco Shakedown looks to recreate that pre-muscle car period in time with the inspection criteria and the cars we allow into the show grounds.     

  2. 2.Is the vehicle 1964 & older?  If the vehicle is 1964-1/2 and newer, it will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  3. 3.Does the vehicle have at least two major, visible modifications?  If it is a stock car or a restored car 1949 and newer, it will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  4. 4.1949 and newer survivors are welcome. Meaning factory sprayed paint. If it has been repainted, it is not original.  It must be in very good shape, old worn out, faded, rusty survivors are not what we are after here. 

  5. 5.Examples of major modifications include, but are not limited to:

    1. 1.Lowered suspension; static, air or hydraulic.

    2. 2.Customized wheels; see the acceptable wheel page for examples.

    3. 3.Customized paint; correct to the pre-64 period like scallops, lace, flake, or pin-striping, not 80’s and 90’s street rod style.

    4. 4.Customized grille; correct to the pre-64 period, not 80’s and 90’s street rod style.

    5. 5.Customized interior; correct to the pre-64 period, not 80’s and 90’s street rod style.

    6. 6.Fender skirts & visors added.

    7. 7.Louvered hoods, trunk, etc.

    8. 8.Chopped, Channeled, and Sectioned bodies.

    9. 9.Shavved door handles, frenched headlights, taillights, or antennas.

  6. 6.Examples of modifications that are NOT considered major include, but are not limited to:

    1. 1.Removing hub caps on otherwise stock steel wheels.

    2. 2.Hanging dice on the mirror.

    3. 3.Spray bombing the vehicle flat black.


Basic Rule #2 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.While we would prefer that all the pre 1948 vehicles be customized or modified in some way, we know that there were lots of pre 1948 hot rods cruising the streets and high school parking lots in the 50’s and 60’s that basically looked stock.  This is the reason we added this rule regarding stock appearing cars. 

  2. 2.Stock appearing “survivors” or stock appearing restored vehicles that are 1948 and older will be allowed into the show grounds as long as they:

    1. 1.Satisfy all the other requirements of the basic rules i.e. safety, accessories, appearance, etc.

    2. 2.Are not old versions of 80’s or 90’s street rod builds that are simply dull or in poor shape. 

    3. 3.Refer to rule #1 for true, factory paint, factory interior survivor cars that are 1948 and newer.


Basic Rule #3 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.We have found no evidence in our research of pre-64 hot rods to suggest that any vehicles newer than 1937 were ever commonly built to be fender-less.  The fender-less truck cab-based vehicles (now most popular with rat rodders) were not invented until the early 90’s and the first example of such a vehicle was not even made to be overly ornate or with the extreme proportions of today’s rat rods.  The liberties taken with today’s rat rods being built out of very late 30-50s bodies and truck cabs are the real reason for this rule. 

  2. 2.Any truck cab-based vehicle that is 1938 and newer has to have fenders that match the make and model of the cab in order to be allowed into the show grounds.

  3. 3.Only vehicles that are 1937 and older will be allowed into the show grounds without fenders.

  4. 4.Hand-made, bobbed, or motorcycle-style fenders are only allowed on vehicles that are 1937 and older.


Basic Rule #4 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.Since we are looking to recreate the pre-65 period in car culture and customization, any parts that were not available, invented or introduced prior to that time detract from the look we are trying to achieve.  Also parts that did not come around until after 1964 are often used on high tech street rods, muscle cars and other styles of cars that we are trying to keep away from the show grounds, thus the reason for this rule.

  2. 2.No fender-less vehicles with independent front suspension will be allowed into the show grounds.  If the vehicle has the independent front suspension reasonably concealed under the front fenders, it will be allowed into the show grounds.

  3. 3.No vehicles with modern exposed engines(designs newer than 1970) or electronic fuel injection(EFI, TPI, LS1, etc.) will be allowed into the show grounds.  If the vehicle has a modern engine concealed under the hood, it will be allowed into the show grounds as long as the hood stays closed.

  4. 4.No vehicles with visible billet (air cleaner, suspension, valve covers, steering wheel, wheels, dash panel, taillights, etc.) will be allowed into the show grounds.  If the billet can be removed without creating the look like you removed something, that is fine.  Sometimes you can not get around having a billet crank pully or waterpump pully as you may not be able to find anything else.  If it doesn't stick out as too modern looking, we may allow that.  It is up to the inspectors as to your entry.

  5. 5.All engine dress-up components such as the valve covers and air cleaner need to be vintage or vintage-styled.  Any vehicles with visible billet, TIG welded, 70’s-styled Mickey Thompson, or CNC milled flamed valve covers will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  6. 6.No vehicles with digital gauges or neon lights will be allowed into the show grounds.    If the vehicle has neon lights and they are completely hidden under the car, please leave them off as nobody at Symco wants to see them.

  7. 7.Vehicles with 80’s or 90’s-styled interior accessories like a plastic tilt column or a plastic steering wheel will not be allowed into the show grounds.  S-10 steering wheels were not available until the 80’s.

  8. 8.Vehicles with seats that have headrests will not be allowed into the show grounds.  Headrests were not introduced on cars until the late 60’s so there should be no seats with headrests inside the show grounds, especially on huge velour or tweed seats straight from a newer daily driver.  If the headrests can be removed and the seat appears older thatn it actually is, we will allow it, but covering them is no longer allowed.

  9. 9.Vehicles with high back bucket seats will not be allowed into the show grounds.  High back buckets were not introduced on cars until the late 60’s so there should be no high back bucket seats inside the show grounds. 

  10. 10.No vehicles with exposed diesel or electric-powered engines will be allowed into the show area.  If the diesel or electric power plant can be concealed under a hood, the vehicle may be allowed into the show grounds if the rest of the vehicle is spot-on period correct, and please leave it closed during the entire show. 

  11. 11.Vehicles with LED taillights that are not designed to resemble actual period correct taillights will not be allowed into the show grounds.  Examples of such lights are a slim single, or multi row of LEDs, or a LED light with a flamed billet surround.  However, if the vehicle has LED taillights that “Look” like a traditional period correct taillight, it will be allowed into the show grounds as long as the rest of the vehicle is spot-on period correct.  For example, if the vehicle has LED taillights that “Look” like Model A, 32 Ford, 39 Ford, 40 Chevy, 40 Ford, 50 Pontiac, etc., then it will be allowed into the show grounds.

  12. 12.Vehicles that have any other visible or exposed modern upgrades or accessories such as aero-dynamic mirrors (like IROC or Honda style), or black vinyl front end covers (bras), will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  13. 13.Vehicles that have 70’s-style murals, 80’s European-style monochromatic paint jobs, or 90’s street rod style wild graphics or pastel paint jobs will not be allowed into the show grounds.  

  14. 14.Any aftermarket wheels need to be period correct to the vehicle style and should be on the “Acceptable Wheel List” to be allowed into the show grounds. Check our wheels page for specific photos of what is and isn’t acceptable.    

  15. 15.Any aftermarket “Mag” wheels should be 14” or 15” to be allowed into the show grounds.

  16. 16.Any wheels larger than 15” need to be original stock, or reproductions of stock wheels.  For example, 16” Ford Wires, 16” Ford steelies, tall thin Model A wheels (17”, 19”, etc.).  If you are running enlarged reproduction versions of a stock wheel or a mag wheel such as 17” steelies, or 16” Cragar SS, the vehicle will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  17. 17.Any vehicle with tires shorter than 50 series (45 series and lower) will not be allowed into the show grounds.  While bias ply tires are preferred, radial tires are allowed as a safety item, but not super thin, wide low profile tires.  It is really prefer that all tires be 70 series and higher.

  18. 18.Any vehicles with raised white letter tires will not be allowed into the show grounds.  Raised white letter tires were popular in the 70’s and 80’s.  No covering with tape anymore.  You can spray paint them with flat black which works well.

  19. 19.No Pro-Street “tubbed” vehicles or any other vehicles with tires wider than 12” (like 70’s style t-buckets) will be allowed into the show grounds.

  20. 20.No vehicles with more than 4 wheels will be allowed into the show grounds.  Exceptions may be made for period correct race car support vehicles but no tandem axle or dually rat rods will be allowed into the show grounds.


Basic Rule #5 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.The main thing to remember is that the Symco Shakedown IS NOT A RAT ROD SHOW.  This has been discussed over and over but we feel there should be some definition and explanation of what we consider a rat rod.  We think of rat rods as an exaggeration of a traditional hot rod that was built for shock and awe value or to get a laugh at the car show.  They are also defined as ART CARS with junk welded all over them or glued to them.  They are NOT something you would have ever seen back before 1965.

  2. 2.The term Rat Rod was coined in the 90's by the street rod guys who turned up their noses at the average guy building and driving an unfinished car.  The fad grew and turned into an very exaggerated mess.  Every wannabe “scenester” started welding together junk to get attention at shows and now we have to deal with them trying to attend traditional hot rod shows.  A Model A coupe that is in primer or in original patina that has 16" bias ply tires and a tricked out flat head is NOT a Rat Rod.  This would be called a TRADITIONAL HOT ROD or the correct 50's term would be Jalopy.  Calling it a Rat Rod is an insult to the hard work and dedication that the builder put into building a period correct car.  Take that same Model A coupe and glue plastic spiders and rats to it, or weld a bunch of iron crosses and wrenches to it, then it becomes a rat rod.

  3. 3.During our research, we came across a number of quotes and definitions for the term.  Here are a few anonymous quotes that were pulled from various locations across the internet.

    1. 1.… Art cars include cars shaped like something other than a car (e.g., a shoe, giant skull), and cars with extra-ornate objects glued or welded all over them (e.g., dolls, taxidermy, rusty junk). We include “shock rods” in this definition which are cars clearly built for shock value. Many “rat rods” fall into this category…

    2. 2.… A rat rod is a style of hot rod or custom car that, in most cases, imitates (or exaggerates) the early hot rods of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It is not to be confused with the somewhat closely related "traditional" hot rod, which is an accurate re-creation or period-correct restoration of a hot rod from the same era…

    3. 3.… Rat rods are meant to loosely imitate, in form and function, the "traditional" hot rods of the era…

    4. 4.… “Rat Rod” refers to a car built with the intention of looking "ratty" or at least "weathered"…..  This should not be confused with traditional or period perfect cars…  Rat rods are often more like caricatures of hot rods…

    5. 5.… Built for shock value, not aesthetics...

    6. 6.… Poor welds, no floor, badly proportioned, built by scensters to be somebody in the "scene".

  4. 4.Any vehicle that is overly ornate or that has rat rod styled decorations on it (possibly from the Halloween store) will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  5. 5.Any vehicle that has non-car parts on it such as, but not limited to, rebar spider webs, sheet metal skulls, plastic spiders, or rubber rats will not be allowed into the show grounds. 

  6. 6.If the driver calls the vehicle a Rat Rod at the gate during inspection, the vehicle will not be allowed into the show grounds. 

  7. 7.If the vehicle has a “Name” or any kind of signage such as “Rat Rods”, “Ratallac”, “Rats Rule”, “Ratalicious”, or any other reference to “Rat Rods”, it will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  8. 8.Note that the only acceptable use of the word Rat is in reference to Ed Roth’s Rat Fink.

  9. 9.Overall, if is determined that the vehicle was not built to emulate the spirit of traditional hot rods and customs that were actually built from the late 40’s to early 60’s it will not be allowed into the show grounds.  The new wave of a late 30’s to 50’s truck cabs mated to an extremely shortened bed (or no bed at all) does not emulate such spirit.  A late 40’s car body with all the fenders stripped off sitting on an S-10 chassis does not emulate the spirit.  Even if it is not an overly ornate rat rod, but if the vehicle is an over-the-top exaggeration of what use to be, then it will not be allowed into the show grounds.



Basic Rule #6 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.Inside the show area, there are many valuable cars, tractors, implements, collectables, buildings, spectators, children, and pets.  The shakedown gate inspectors will not allow any vehicles to enter the show area that may jeopardize the safety of anyone or anything on the show grounds. 

  2. 2.While the gate inspectors do not perform actual safety inspections on the vehicles as they approach the gate, if a vehicle is pouring gas, oil, or water out on the road, it will not be allowed into the show grounds.

  3. 3.When the car is inspected, if other major safety concerns are noticed, it will not be allowed into the show grounds.  Some things that may get the car turned away are, but are not limited to:    

            The driveshaft or transmission being visible from inside the car.

            The ground being visible from inside the car.

            The floors being made out of expanded metal or not being present at all.

            The suspension being grossly improperly mounted.

            The fuel not being stored inside a safe container such as fuel tank or fuel cell.

  1. 4.If the vehicle is deemed unsafe, not only will it not be allowed on the show grounds, it will be asked to be removed from the entire premises.


Basic Rule #7 Explained & Expanded:


  1. 1.Rule #7 needs no further explanation.  The gate keepers have final say on which vehicles are allowed into the show grounds.  There is no second or higher authority. Tracking down Cliffy to have him get your car in will NOT change the outcome.  

  2. 2.If the gate inspectors determine that your vehicle strays too far away from traditional styling, it will not be allowed into the show grounds. 


Other things to remember:


  1. 1.Disc brakes, electronic ignition (i.e. HEI, etc.) and radial tires are allowed (as long as the tires are not low profile or raised-white-letter), but a big shiny billet HEI would keep the vehicle from entering the show grounds.


  1. 2.Absolutely no stuffed animals, cry baby dolls, rubber rats, skeletons, skulls, drive inn trays with plastic food, or any other items that come from the Halloween store are allowed in or around the vehicles as “display”.  Again the vehicle should be able to speak for itself. 


  1. 3.No car show “story boards” setup around the vehicle.  Symco attendees don’t care who did the paint or interior.  They would prefer that it was done by the owner.


  1. 4. “Customs” (or any car with a hood) should be displayed with the hoods closed.  No matter how cool your engine looks.


  1. 5.As much as they are disliked, we know it’s impossible to police and reject trailer queens from the show.  Just know that we all love cars that are driven, and street legal vehicles on a trailer get no respect from us or anyone else at the Symco Shakedown. 


  1. 6.There is no reserved parking or saving spaces for others.  If you are in a club and your club wants to park together, you need to arrive together.  Note that all club members’ cars will be subject to individual inspection so it is possible that not all the club cars will be allowed into the show grounds.


  1. 7.Just because the vehicle was allowed into the show grounds last year, or it was allowed into other “traditional” shows, doesn’t mean the vehicle will be allowed into the show grounds this year.  Criteria and entrance rules are always changing and being improved. If you think we need to change something, or want to debate our criteria, please bring hard copy of your proof with you and show it to the inspectors.  We welcome old photos or old hot rod magazines that show certain parts or styles so we can continue to update our criteria. 




  1. 1.Motorcycles must be built in a traditional style.  Choppers, bobbers, and cafe racers style bikes are allowed.


  1. 2.“New” older styled, but unmodified motorcycles are not allowed such as Indians or Buells / HDs.


  1. 3.OCC or West Coast styled custom bikes are not allowed.


  1. 4.Stock motorcycles are not allowed.


  1. 5.Twin cam HDs are not allowed.


  1. 6.Also there are no aluminum wheels or super wide rear tires allowed.




Any questions, send us detailed photos of your car and a description to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Our old criteria page can be found HERE:


Our hot rod nose art panel brought $750 for the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services of Oshkosh!

Thanks to VooDoo Larry for bringing both the VooDoo Sahara and The VooDoo Hawaiian to the 2016 Shakedown!




Go to top