Not their finest hour: Chrysler

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. This week we look at the Chrysler
By Dejan Jovanovic, Features Writer
July 12, 2016

Automotive spy photographers aren’t really spies — nowadays they’re generally more like minor annoyances to the car manufacturers as they’re always to be expected on a prototype test drive. Carmakers come prepared, hence all the swoop camouflage and more recently the dazzle paint jobs inspired by artist Norman Wilkinson, who disguised war ships with his geometric designs.

But back in the day, automotive spy photographers really did operate like spies, sneaking through back doors into studios to snap clay models with pen cameras, and bribing guards and wearing hats. You need only read Jim Dunne’s Car Spy — a diary of a lifetime of scooping cars under manufacturers’ noses.

Most infamously, Dunne, easily the most devoted auto spy snapper of all time, once came upon the most surefire plan to guarantee him a steady flow of spy photos, and thus income. Deep in the American southwest in Arizona he bought a tiny and barren piece of desert wasteland good for nothing but tumbleweed. However, this piece of land was also a little mound, a perfect vantage point of the Chrysler proving ground next door…

He was the thickest thorn in the Chrysler boardroom as he continuously produced a flow of scoops ruining every top-secret Chrysler launch for years throughout the Nineties. Right up until the executives had enough one day and lost the waiting game, agreeing to buy Dunne out, who of course suddenly valued his wasteland somewhat higher than what he paid for it…