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Camouflaged cars captured on camera are no accident

By Daniel Gardner, 17 Nov 2017 Features

Porsche 911 gt2rs spy header front side action w

Car makers let you see their latest hardware when they are good and ready, not in a moment’s lapse of concentration

IT’S not uncommon to see images of exciting new cars gracing the pages of Wheels wrapped in intriguing disguises that either conceal details or entire designs, but have you ever considered just how lucky the fast-fingered photographers must be to consistently be in the right place at the right time?

And doesn’t it seem extraordinary that, with all the expertise, information, resources and intelligence that mainstream brands have, they should drop their guard in hotspots known to be hideouts for spy snappers?

Surely if Mercedes-AMG wasn’t ready for the world to see its latest sportscar, then its test driver would have picked something else to go and get lunch in?

And if Bentley really wanted to keep its next-gen machine under wraps wouldn’t it confine all testing to within the Volkswagen Group’s sprawling Ehra-Lessien test facility? With a no-fly zone above it and almost impenetrable security, if VW doesn’t want you to see something, it doesn’t get seen.

There’s a simple explanation here. These ‘spy’ shots may depict cars dressed in enticing camo with badges unconvincingly taped up, but despite their air of secrecy, these cars are meant to be seen.

In the case of the occasional blurry shot of some previously unknown model, snapped by a lucky punter with their smartphone, there is still the odd convincing surprise, but in almost all other instances the photographer is being given exactly what they came for.

Not convinced? If there was any doubt that manufacturers want you to see their ‘secret’ projects, Aston Martin has set a new benchmark by actually selling advertising space on the flanks of its forthcoming Vantage.

Spied at the Nurburgring – one of the most unsurprising and obvious places to test a prototype car and a track virtually lined with camera-brandishing car nuts – the as-yet unseen sportscar was photographed wearing swirly green camouflage… and a Pirelli banner on its door.

The British car follows an emerging trend for car makers to actually decorate their supposedly secret hardware with messages and even hashtags, implying that not only do they want people to see it, they want them to tweet about it as well.

In fact, a source at a well-known car brand told Wheels that on average, for every ten cars “spied” in the wild, only one wasn’t supposed to be seen.

Recently, Ford’s new Focus has been photographed in a snazzy wrap bearing the hashtag #TimeToFocus. Jaguar even applied the hashtag #XFSportbrake to the flanks of a cammed-up prototype, removing any doubt about what was lurking under the disguise.

It’s probably about time the motoring fraternity toned down its smug tone whenever it “catches” a car maker with its camouflaged pants down. By publishing or clicking on these supposed leaked, secret or scooped pictures, we’re all just doing the bidding of their respective marketing departments.