May 2000 Background   
    Home / Features / AMCA Judging
    The AMCA Judging System
   By Greg Walter
A few weeks ago Moen asked me if I could share with some other members of our list some insight that I have learned about entering a bike to be judged in an AMCA sponsored meet. My credentials for writing this is that I am the Assistant Chief Judge for the AMCA. Does this mean that I know what the correct seat for a 1939 Indian Four or the chain guard for an Sport Scout is? Absolutely not. I do not claim to be a marque expert in Indians fours, 101 Scouts, Sport Scouts or even Harleys. What I do know is the judging system having worked within it for the past 5 years.
     I guess first I need to go over the preliminaries. Bikes are judged on a hundred point scale. There are twenty five categories, such as 1) Frame and Fork. 2) Front Fender. 3)Rear Fender. 4)Wheels and Tires....
Each category is allocated 4 points and these points may be divided into as small as 1/4 points. A bike needs to score 85 points or more to be awarded a Junior Second. To recieve a Senior First the bike needs to score at least 90 points. In order to recieve the highest award Senior the bike needs to first recieve a Junior First  then score 95 points or better. This is done to insure that a bike is judged at least twice before it is awarded its highest award. Does this mean that bikes do not pass through the system with all its flaws detected? No, unfortunately the process is not perfect. It is only as good as the judges that are judging that particular bike on that particular day. If you enter a post-war Chief  I can assure you that the judges will know the correct shape and finish on the smallest of items such as even the cotter pins. On the other hand if you enter a rare bike such as a Motoplane or Hendee Special  it is probable that generalities will be known but many specifics will be unknown. If there happens to be a judge in the group that has owned or restored that particular model then most likely the bike will be held to a higher standard. Otherwise it is possible, no, probable that details will go unnoticed. You can study the parts books and sales literature for a 1916 Powerplus all you want but you will probably never be able to tell what the light switch looks like unless you have seen it in person. Such is the challenge for the judges. It is not a perfect system but then again we don't live in a perfect world.
     There are two types of errors that one can make in a restoration, one being a Technical error the other being for want of a better term an error in Craftsmanship.  An example of a Technical error would be to put a Klaxon horn on your 1926 Ace instead of the correct Spartan horn. The way to avoid a technical error is do your homework. When you are restoring your bike you need do as  much research as possible. Review original sales literature, parts books, and original unrestored machines. Talk to other marque experts. Network with other owners of the same model. Avoid so called coffee table picture books. although they try to do a good job they often perpetuate errors. For that matter one needs to understand the limitations of all research materials. 
     Original sales brochures. First of all it is well known that Indian made running changes. So somewhere between a 1947 sales brochure and a 1948 sales brochure the bike was changed. Keep in mind that the sales brochures were put together by the sales or art department of the company. At a site distant from that the engineering department is still working the bugs out of the prototype for next years model. Time constraints being what they are it might be August that the brochures are being designed so that that they can back from the printers in October and in the hands of the dealers in November to announce the new bikes coming in January. Often no bike is available to the sales department. Some sales brochures will picture last years bike. Some will picture last years bike but airbrush over any changes. Sometimes for whatever reason the prototype is different than the finished product and the brochure is wrong. So next time you study a piece of literature train your eye. Is this a photo or an artists rendering? Is it airbrushed over?
     Parts books. Different marques vary in the quality of their parts books. Fortunatly for us Indian usually did an excellent job. I restored a 1922 Scout from parts collected at swap meets and was able to tell which bolts used lock washers and how many. Unfortunately, the parts book might say that the 1920-21 brake pedal was different than the 1922-24 and 1926-30 but the only one shown is the 1920-21 and the 1926-30. The one you need isn't always shown. Dispite that the parts book is usually a gold mine. It will show what was actually put into production. The only caveat about parts books are they don't always mention changes. An example would be the engine cases for the post war Chief. If my memory serves me correctly they only list the early style with the bolt in scraper and the later style with the cast in scraper. All of the other changes that were made to the cases almost on a yearly basis are not listed. The thought being is that the 1953 engine cases could be used as a replacement part for a 1950 so why change the part number. Another limitation would be when a more modern part is sold by the parts department as a replacement. An example being the 1920-31 parts book. It shows a Schebler Deluxe model sold for the 1920-24 Scout. This was not avilable in 1920. The original carb was a Schebler model H. The factory thought that John Q. Public in 1930 would prefer to buy a better carburator. Who would want to buy a carb that was a more primitive design? The other limitation of parts books are parts sold by outside venders: seats, carbs, magnetos, coaster brake hubs, these parts tend not to be well documented in the parts books.
     Original Paint machines. Clearly an original unmolested unrestored machine is invaluable in documenting the correct color,  finish,  pinstripes, and decals. I have seen a lot of original paint machines and it never ceases to amaze me the little details you can glean from them. The other  thing that never ceases to amaze me is when a unrestored machine has wrong parts on them. I once ran across a 1915 Thor with a 1916 front fender. No evidence that the bike was ever wrecked. The 1915 rear fender and the 1916 front fender both being so different in appearance no way the factory would have built a bike like that. Could the owner wrecked the bike in 1916 and replaced the front fender then? It is hard to say. Every bike has a story but unfortunately we don't usually know what it is. I am always wary of the claim that "that is the way my dad bought it and he was the original owner". For one thing the AMCA uses the standard of how the bike looked when it left the factory. This is often different than the way the bike looked when the bike came from the dealership. The dealer could paint the bike with purple poka dots if he had to to make a sale. Still it is almost impossible to know what the correct shade of red was used from a black and white photo.
     Getting back to the concept of errors of Craftsmanship. This would be runs or chips in the paint, wavy fenders, poor plating. When I judge a bike I like to picture myself at the dealership. Lets say it is 1935 and I made a deposit on my Chief. The salesman rolls the bike out of the back room. I am picking up a brand new 1935 Chief. Would I accept this bike with this paint job? Would I tell the salesman that he needed to give me a few bucks back because of the chipped paint or broken fin on the motor? It is true that casting defects, and minor paint runs existed but I think if you use my analogy you can tell what is and was is not acceptable. 
     One problem that is so commonly overlooked is when the owner restores the bike but has decided that the original seat still looks too good to be restored, or the speedometer still looks good. The rules make no allowance for this. The bike is either all restored or all original. It can not be a hybrid. So if you have an original part that you just can't bear to restore sell it to someone building or owning an unrestored original machine or mount it on the wall of your den. Often you can sell the part for twice what a restored part is worth. 
     So how does the judge know how many points to take off for what? Well, lets use the wheels as an example. The category is Wheels and Tires. So since it is 4 points for the whole category does that mean if there is no front wheel we can only take off 2 points? Or if no tires we can only take off 2 points? What if the 1946 Chief has Japanese knobby dirt track tires? The bike has tires so does that mean we can't take off 2 points? What about if 4 spokes are missing? The tires are correct, the rims, the hubs, 76 of the 80 spokes are correct. Is that 1/20 th of of 1/4? These are not easy calls to make. That is where the experience and judgement come into play. I try to take into consideration not so much the size and number of an item but how it detracts from the look. If for instance the bike has Harley rims with the smaller Harley nipples that would seem worse if you count numbers. Eighty spokes, two rims all wrong yet I would probly only take off 1/2 point per wheel for Harley spokes/rims. On the other hand missing 4 spokes is just sloppiness or excessive breakage. In any case it makes the bike unsafe and even an uninformed observer can notice the deficiency. I would take off probably a whole point.
     What do we do about reproduction parts? The rule of thumb is a good reproduction part is acceptable (until a better one comes along). Case in point would be mufflers. Original Indian mufflers are almost non-existent. For years the only repro exhaust system available for a 1947 Chief was the two piece system with the balogna shaped muffler mounted with d-clamps. Then someone started making the mufflers with the correct offset.Then the correct rear clamp became available. This was the standard until the one piece mufflers started showing up. So we raised the ante and started deducting for the two piece. The correct muffler has a seam on it the repro mufflers do not. Recently we have seen people welding on a strip of metal to create the appearance of a seam. So once again we raise the ante. The original muffler said NELSON in raised stamped letters. So far no one has duplicated this so we don't take points off for this. Wait a few years, eventually someone will. When they become available we will deduct for those without.

     It would be impossible for me to list how many points are taken off for each scenario especially because different judges weight things differently. I try for the most part to make sure that the judges are being as consistant as possible and for the most part we do fairly well. The scenario that always makes us look bad is when lets say the bike scores 88 points the first time out. The owner is dissapointed because he needs that Junior First. So he goes home fixes most of the faults. Figures on getting maybe 94-96 points the next time out. This time the judges find some more things wrong. The bike scores even lower despite the work done. The owner is unhappy. The judges look bad. What can you do? You can't pretend that the bike has the right carb once you know it doesn't. I have seen a bike make it to winners circle then someone noticed it was the wrong year frame (automatic disqualification). The only answer is have the most knowledgable,  most experienced judges every time. Difficult to do when it is a voluntary position.
     I hope this has helped a little. If I can help with any specific questions E-mail me

The AMCA (Antique Motorcycle Club of America) website is here.
 Photos below are from back issues of the VI, and only illustrate Greg's article in a general sort of way.

Early Indian. Harder to judge?

Cable clips on Jim Jones' 640

Cable clip on Jim's 640
ACE factory illustration
Parts books

Unrestored Chief
Eli Sentman's all restored 440

Wheel (Henderson KJ). No Chief wheels "in stock", but the rules are the same
Reproduction Powerplus muffler
Reproduction brake parts