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December 2006: The Web of Deception

Rob

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The Web of Deception

A look at Winding Road's Corvette SS and and a half-hazard attempt at making a buck

by Rob Loszewski
Monday, December 4, 2006
©2006 Rob Loszewski, Corvette Action Center
No use without permission


<img src="/images/columns/wheelspin/wheelspin2.gif" width="140" height="79" border="0" alt="wheelspin column" align="left" /><font size="+3"><b>S</b></font>everal weeks ago, three to four pictures of a silver C6 Z06 covered in tape, contact paper, and a prominent hood scoop began to appear across the web. The photos were taken by some kid with a camera who spotted the test mule coming at him. He quickly gave chase, snapped a few photos and poof…..Corvette and automotive discussion boards were ablaze with wild speculation and obsessive dissection of the photos.

On Friday morning, December 1, 2006, word quickly spread across the internet regarding an online automotive news magazine's pathetic attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of Corvette enthusiasts by developing their very own mock-up of a supposed 2008 Corvette "Blue Devil / SS" test mule.

In the January 2007 issue of their online magazine, Winding Road detailed how they took a silver production Z06 Corvette, and with the use of duct tape, cardboard and a little bit of ingenuity, built their own test mule. Their purpose: "To build a Corvette so authentic that it's published in a competing car magazine." They continue:

"Irresponsible speculation has been put forth by Corvette fanatics, magazine editors, and competing manufacturers. But because we are enthusiasts to the core, we want this Corvette to exist, too. It is with this in mind that we declare the game officially over. More significant than seeing our car published in another magazine was the reaction we received from the public at large. People want to believe in it. People want to buy it. Listen to them Chevrolet, Build the Blue Devil. Gave over. Thanks for playing." (Link: http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?t=90579 )

I spent some time over the weekend reviewing some of the discussions taking place at a couple popular online Corvette communities. The responses were interesting if not humorous to say the least. Enthusiasts are not pleased, and they shouldn't be. They were duped in a very big way.

I decided to contact well known spy photographer, Brenda Priddy who has been in the spy photography business for 15 years now. I was curious how she felt about this recent ruse, and what effects it might have on her business. "This is a touchy situation as I wish to keep a good working relationship with the folks at Winding Road, but unfortunately the buzz regarding their "prank" has in turn discredited our images as well. And as far as some readers are concerned, this may be a long recovery process for us" she said. "But there is a real Blue Devil / Stingray in the works and we've caught several test prototypes in the recent months."

Chris Doane, another spy photographer who works for Priddy provided an online statement as well:

It is not uncommon for the prototypes we see in spy photos to be deceiving. Some cars may be comprised of fake body panels, others may be covered in rolls of tape that appear to be inspired by a zebra. Sometimes even the entire shell of a current model car is shoehorned over a chassis that's still in development.

On Friday afternoon, word started getting around on several automotive websites that something was awry with a few current spy photos of a silver corvette purported to be the Blue Devil "super vette." When these photos first hit the web some weeks ago, I knew something wasn't quite right with them. The most glaring issue was the lack of a manufacturer license plate. To me, something also didn't look quite right with the camouflage material. As it turns out, an online automotive magazine, Winding Road, fabricated a mock-up of a test car and drove it around the metro Detroit area.

I'm struggling to see the point of this stunt. I'm sure I will get responses like "Lighten up, it was a joke," but hear me out. If you read the story in the Jan 2007 edition of Winding Road that tells the tale of the fake prototype, the point of the ruse was to deceive other publications into running the photos. The story also chides "Irresponsible speculation has been put forth by Corvette fanatics, magazine editors and competing manufacturers."

If I had to guess, Autoweek, Motor Trend and The Car Connection aren't laughing. All of these outlets published the photos of the fake car on their websites believing it to be an authentic GM prototype. It was, after all, a fairly convincing forgery. Needless to say, this obviously doesn't make those outlets look good in the credibility department. Some of you may think these media outlets don't have any credibility to begin with. That's fine if you think that, but we're talking solely about this particular incident.

I know competition gets fiercer by the day among the various automotive publications, but purposely tricking your competitors borders on something that is less-than-professional journalism. It's certainly not a trend I want to see continue to the point where we have magazines warring with each other much like election time, TV attack ads. In the end, however, whether this stunt is equally or more "irresponsible" than printing speculation is up to all of you to decide.

The bigger issue for me, however, is that the fake corvette hurts the credibility of people like myself, Brenda and others who make their living shooting prototypes for everyone's enjoyment. It didn't take long after the fabrication was revealed for people to start asking if the photos of the black powertrain mule that I photographed back in October were fake as well. Let's answer that right now. No, they are not fake. We have very credible information that this black prototype I shot is a development car for the "super vette" program. For all those worrying that the program is a pipe dream, rest easy. It's very real and it's very loud. The black car I shot wore a typical blue "Michigan Manufacturer," license plate, was with a large group of other GM test cars and was driven by a person I know to be a GM engineer.

Needless to say, we certainly don't want people in the automotive world getting the idea that we fake our spy photos because that is something we NEVER do. If our clients thought we were giving them fabricated photos, we obviously wouldn't be in business very long. We were even offered photos of the fake silver corvette test car by someone via email, but we passed knowing something wasn't quite right with the car. I'm sure it may sound a little funny to hear someone who spies on large corporations for a living talking about his ethical business practices, but we do play by the rules. That is something even the OEMs themselves would tell you.

On a lighter note, the Winding Road crew did a pretty good job making a convincing mock-up. If I'd seen it go past me on the road, I would've turned around to shoot it. I just wouldn't have sent the images out after I got a good look at it on my computer screen. The spy photography business puts me in the unique position of being able to shoot first and ask questions later.

Overall was this meant as a joke? Yes, I think so. I hope so. Were there some unforeseen negative effects? Unfortunately, yes. Hopefully Winding Road and I can agree to disagree on the staging of this prank. I'd hate to lose them as a client. Especially since I'm selling a kidney tomorrow... how else can I afford the plane ticket to Australia to photograph those Camaro prototypes?

-- Chris

chris_doane_auto@yahoo.com
Along with the spy photographers, we wanted to get the opinion of an automotive journalist as well. I spoke to Hib Halverson, a Corvette Action Center member and a well known technical contributor to online and print media. "On the one hand it's interesting how they sucked everyone in and had some fun at everyone's expense. But, just about anyone in a position to do a "spy photo" would have seen it as the real deal. It would be very difficult to get a photograph of a truly secret future product and then get close enough to determine if the car is a fake or not" said Halverson.

Winding Road has been around since at least 2003. Its only product is a digital magazine which you get a free, 36-month subscription to. It's free to subscribe because it costs considerably less to produce a digital magazine rather than a print publication, and as their web site states, "as a free publication we can build up a group of loyal and devoted readers faster than we can if we charge for the magazine. This in turn allows us to attract advertisers who are ever so desirous of tempting our loyal and devoted readers with their products."

An interesting and ironic proclamation considering they just ticked off an affluent group of automotive enthusiasts and some influential people in the news media industry.

The Editor-in-Chief of Winding Road magazine happens to be none other than David E. Davis, Jr., whose career in the automotive industry is quite extensive. He's been an automotive factory worker, race car driver, car salesman, ad salesman with Road and Track magazine, a writer for Car and Driver and Automobile magazines, as well as a copywriter for Corvette advertisements. He is also the editorial director for Motor Trend magazine.

Some of the contributors to Winding Road magazine are well known within the Corvette community including, Karl Ludvigsen, Randy Leffingwell and Richard Prince. All have published their own Corvette books and have contributed some high quality journalism to automotive enthusiasts over the years.

So what is the Corvette Action Center's stance on this most humorous, but very pathetic attempt at generating some online traffic and revenue to their web site? We would have to agree with the comments made by Brenda Priddy and Chris Doane.

The reasoning used by Winding Road does not justify the act and the results. To publicly state that Corvette fanatics and automotive enthusiasts have exhibited "irresponsible speculation" is ridiculous. How is it irresponsible and on what credentials does Winding Road rest that opinion on?

They continue by stating that because they're enthusiasts to the core, they want this Corvette to exist, too. So because they are enthusiasts to the core and want GM to build this car they invested $400 (of advertiser revenue) and the time it took to build a test-mule mockup? In my opinion, this is a shameful and pathetic use of resources as well as an extremely dishonest way to conduct this form of online business. If my company was advertising on the Winding Road web site, I would either immediately have my company's ad pulled, or I would take a very close look at my advertising budget for next quarter.

Given the credentials of the people who are in charge of and contribute to Winding Road magazine, I would not have expected such a lame attempt to generate site traffic and online ad revenue.

One Corvette site owner commented: "What Winding Road did is unprofessional…and I'll have more to say about it shortly." This statement comes from someone who has no problem slapping their web site address on GM copyrighted and embargoed photos, and posting them all over the web in order to generate increased site traffic. When GM took exception to the posting of GM embargoed photos of a 2006 Z06 prior to the lifting of the embargo, the site owner publicly stated "GM should probably find a better use of their time than p-g off current and future Corvette owners."

How ironic indeed. We all want our web sites to be successful, popular and profitable. However, in light of this latest media fiasco, it's quite obvious that a couple online "media outlets" lack the morals and integrity to be a professional and reputable online media resource.
 

Glensgages

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..... while I usually don't pay-attention to spy-photo/gossip-type stuff, it certainly appears that somebody just dumbed-down the definition of 'lame-assed'.....

:Buttslap
 

catbert

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Life would be so boring if folks didn't do dumb and unreasonable stuff. People that jumped on that lame excuse for a mule were tooooo easy.
 

Sveach

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This, among other reasons, is why I don't put too much stock into spy photos. I'll wait till they release the offical, high res versions from the manufacturer, and then I'll start looking at them.
 

John Robinson

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In the old days

Back before some of you were born we had outside toilets. It was very common to find a Sears Catalog in this little room. The purpose being to provide something to read while sitting there. As each member of the family read a particular page they put there mark on it and it became useful then to use it to finish the job you were doing in the little room. I think Winding Roads actions would make it mandatory that the marking process be eliminated and the final use be implemented immediately.:mad
 

korvettekarl

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It's amazing that I am still shocked by the stupid and unethical things people do. My father just died last month but I still remember the lessons he taught me about honesty and integrity, I will NEVER forget them. It's too bad these people weren't raised by a similar individual.
 

Remo

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In perspective:
Compared to the pursuit of world peace - this is nothing.
Five years from now what will it matter?

Remo:cool
 
1

1stiff84

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How is this unethical? It’s a widely-anticipated CAR, not a photochop of your loved one in bed with someone else.

To use the article as a tool to ask interested parties to submit a nonrefundable deposit is “wrong.”

The fact that the Winding Road folks got everyone to dissect the “mule,” is downright funny.
 

Hotwing

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It's amazing that I am still shocked by the stupid and unethical things people do. My father just died last month but I still remember the lessons he taught me about honesty and integrity, I will NEVER forget them. It's too bad these people weren't raised by a similar individual.

Honesty and integrity......Boy are you going to lonely in this world today.

Sorry you lost your Dad
 

Bill75

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The fact that the Winding Road folks got everyone to dissect the “mule,” is downright funny.

I agree. Gotcha! Who cares, it was a harmless prank and somebody had a good laugh, me included, I was sucked in too!
 
S

Silverman

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Rob, I'm sorry but I respectfuly disagree with your attitude regarding Winding Road.com. THEY didn't send out the photos and they didn't dupe anyone, except the kid that took the photos. What they did do was shine a light on the business of spy photos and the unreasonable sums that these photos bring. I fail to see how this stunt would increase their circulation or their on line revenue, as they themselves exposed the stunt to folks that already subscribe to their magazine! For you to suggest that current advertisers pull their ads from this site is petty and childish. Just because you were one of the people who fell for this prank, doesn't mean WindingRoad.com should suffer. You would be better served by ignoring these guys and attend to your own business.
 

Rob

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Rob, I'm sorry but I respectfuly disagree with your attitude regarding Winding Road.com. THEY didn't send out the photos and they didn't dupe anyone, except the kid that took the photos. What they did do was shine a light on the business of spy photos and the unreasonable sums that these photos bring. I fail to see how this stunt would increase their circulation or their on line revenue, as they themselves exposed the stunt to folks that already subscribe to their magazine! For you to suggest that current advertisers pull their ads from this site is petty and childish. Just because you were one of the people who fell for this prank, doesn't mean WindingRoad.com should suffer. You would be better served by ignoring these guys and attend to your own business.

Re-read my words. I didn't suggest advertisers do anything. I simply stated, if I owned a company that was advertising on their site, I would either request to have my ad removed, or I would reconsider advertising on their site next quarter.

Childish? No. An opinion? Yes. Take it for what it's worth.
 
T

Ted Krempa

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In perspective:
Compared to the pursuit of world peace - this is nothing.
Five years from now what will it matter?

Remo:cool


what he said !! remember the old term RF (Rat F***) ? This was a classic RF !
 
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Boy call me a fence sitter. I honestly don't know where to come down on this one.

A. Did it really send a message to GM that we want the car? If they haven't figured that out by now, then they are really in trouble.

B. I wouldn't go so far as to call it harmless prank, if it causes all of us to look at spy photos with some skepticism.

C. Final conclusion, based on the kind of individuals that were involved: It was just plain dumb!!!

:confused
 
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I can be patient on the whole SS thing, and spy photos don't really excite me that much (unless it is of a new generation), but I'm a little confused. Were all the photos false then? I believe the first spy shot car was black, was that authentic from GM, or also part of the hoax?


-Tatortot
 

ricersvette89

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That was messed up! Why would someone do a thing like this!?!??!? I am ready for a faster the Z06 but this has just killed those thoughts. I wonder if this has happened before in auto history (or to narrow it more Vette).
 

Ghost

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Spy photos duped? So, who are the dupes? Winding Road's rationale for doing it was wrong, IMO, but I don't know anyone who takes spy photos seriously. I don't. I don't agree with what they did. (Somehow, tho, I'm reminded of the Orson Wells "War of the Worlds" radio spoof...)

Any harm done? Doubt it. I never heard of winding road before this, and now they can fade back to obscurity again.....
 

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