The Many Patterned World of Automotive Spy Shots

Spy shots are the freelance automotive photographer’s bread and butter. Like the paparazzi who snap Bruce Willis’ beer gut hanging over his Speedos or Jessica Alba stuffing herself at McDonald’s, it’s the photos the stars don’t want us to see that rake in the big bucks.

Who are these “stars”, you ask? Why, none other than the latest and greatest models from the world’s carmakers. And, like celebrities behaving badly, these are the photos the manufacturers don’t want you - or their competitors - to see.

The New York Times has an article on the supposedly new trend of covering test mules in slick, artsy vinyl. The bulky rubber bumper extensions and tape on the headlights and windows are gone, replaced with swirls, triangles, checks and other, more curious shapes rendered in black and white.

There are a few good reasons for doing this. For one, vinyl is much cheaper and more easily removed than rubber and tape, and are just as effective at disguising those little tell-tale details like headlights and grilles on pre-production mules. According to BMW designer Adrian van Hooydonk, many of these way-out patterns are created by the very designers who penned the cars underneath.

And it’s not just the mainstream manufacturers who are into this: McLaren did the same with their horridly named MP4-12C supercar, covering it in what looks like a bunch of animal scratches. So there you have it: automotive art for secrecy’s sake. What’ll they think of next? Disguising Toyotas as Aston Martins?

Oh, the Cygnet. Right...

By Tristan Hankins

Via: NYT, Photos: Carscoop