cars and car spotting: the point system

This is not a car spotting blog, but we do quite a bit of it.  Occasionally point totals are offered as part of the fun, and enough people have asked about how the point system works that I thought I’d share it here. Refer back to this post (the “search” box is your friend) whenever you want to understand or debate a point total.

Remember though, that like everything on this blog, my car spotting point system is purely arbitrary.  I made it up, it’s subject to change without notice, and if you don’t like it, feel free to make up your own scoring system.  Then reply to my post with your total and we can have a recreational argument about it.  Nothing could be more fun.

Oh, and the term “cars” includes all vehicles usually driven as personal transportation, including full size vans, minivans, utes, crossovers, SUVs, pickup trucks, or whatever.  This system is designed to score cars that are in use, that are part of the fleet, and which are seen “in the wild”.  Cars in museums are interesting, but seeing them does not count as a spot.  Likewise, while we note new models as we see them on transporters and dealer lots, they can’t be scored for the first time until they show up on the road or in ordinary parking lots with license plates on them.

Every car spot is scored on a point system.  A car is assigned base points, but it can also earn bonus points by being extra cool in a wide variety of ways.

Base points are awarded on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being a dull, horrible car that is common as dirt (as horrible cars often are), and 10 being a totally amazing car that is beautiful, interesting, and rare.  Ordinary cars in the common fleet, such as can be found in any parking lot and probably in your own driveway, usually have point values between 2 and 5.  Very few cars you can still buy new from dealers in the spotter’s country of origin (in my case the US)  will have base point values greater than 7; these might include supercars and very obscure imports.  Higher base point totals are pretty much limited to older cars and those “not sold here”.  (“Not sold here”s are the Holy Grail of my car spotting system– a simple minivan or hatchback can be worth 7 or 8 points if it has a Canadian or Mexican nameplate that’s different from the one on the US model, and really obscure NSHs can be worth the full 10 points even if they are otherwise only of moderate interest.)

Note that base points can change over time.  A car that used to be common as dirt and completely uninteresting may become rare enough that seeing one, particularly an example in nice condition, is a noteable sight.  The classic example is the Ford Tempo.  This very dull sedan used to be a ubiquitous component of the fleet, scoring only a point or two.  Now a good one is worth 4 or 5 points because “you don’t see many of those around anymore”.  Other examples include the Ford Pinto, the Yugo, and the GM X bodies (Chevy Citation, etc.).

But base points are only the beginning.  Bonus points fine tune and personalize the spot, as well as giving credit where credit is due.  Here is my current list of bonuses.  Yours, of course, may vary.  Add one point for each.

  • a vehicle of particular historic, technological or artistic significance
  • not sold here -or- sold here previously by a maker who no longer sells cars here
  • extremely rare beyond normal levels of rarity, a once or twice in a lifetime sighting
  • first sighting– I have never seen one before.
  • excellent color, color scheme, or custom paint job
  • any convertible driven or parked with the top down
  • any car older than 1965 or so being driven in traffic
  • personal favorite -or- car you own, or used to own, and like

So, here’s the obvious question: what’s the best car I’ve ever seen?  That’s easy.  Pre War Bentley, open car with dual sidemounts and every accessory light and horn you could possibly imagine, all in chrome, primrose yellow over black paint, being driven at freeway speed, top down, near Detroit, sometime in the 1990s.  Score along with me:

  • Pre War Bentleys are stunningly beautiful, never common in the US, and extremely rare today: 10 points
  • bonus: excellent color scheme.  Any good looking car with separate fenders looks spectacular in primrose yellow over black; it’s a classic combination.  11 points
  • bonus: convertible being driven with the top down. 12 points
  • bonus: old car being driven in traffic.  13 points.
  • bonus: personal favorite.  I love a pre war Bentley; I think they were the perfect combination of luxury and sporting qualities. 14 points

So, 14 points for the old Bentley.  And you could have easily made it 15, either doubling the “driven in traffic” bonus because it was so old and it was keeping up with 70+ mph traffic on the freeway, or adding the historical and artistic significance bonus, which would not have been misplaced.

I’m sorry not to be able to close with a photo of the Bentley, but unfortunately, like so many brilliant spots in the years before the phone camera, it is undocumented and lost to history.  So here’s a photo of a very similar car in the same colors, borrowed from Hemmings’ coverage of an auction in Australia.  (Except the Detroit Bentley had a black interior, as I remember.)

1934-Bentley-3-1-2-litre-Drophead-Coupe-700x465This one is a 1934 Drophead Coupe– the one we saw might have been a 36.

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