Gotcha! Our 'Road & Track' moment

This exclusive Monitor photo is a little out of the ordinary.

Beneath the disguise is a 2002 GMC Jimmy sport-utility vehicle furtively dashing through a remote mountain pass in the desert outside Phoenix. The 2002 Jimmy is rumored to be the first General Motors vehicle offered for sale with a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain. But we couldn't tell if this Jimmy was a hybrid since it was rolling along at 40 miles an hour.

Several automakers, including Detroit's Big Three, maintain year-round proving grounds in Arizona, where they put hundreds of thousands of miles on upcoming models while they work the bugs out.

Since many automakers test new models on the same roads, they cover them in plastic and vinyl wraps so competitors won't see the details and try to copy them.

So why run pictures of a car you can't see? A sizable industry has sprung up around taking such "spy photographs." Photographers use long lenses outside chain-link-enclosed parking lots in Detroit, or wait along desert or arctic roads hoping to get an exclusive shot. Spy photographers can earn hundreds of dollars selling such photos to popular auto magazines.

Of course, the Monitor doesn't employ spy photographers, nor did we buy this picture.

Staff writer Eric Evarts happened across this clandestine Jimmy while on vacation in Arizona earlier this month. While driving along a twisty mountain road east of Phoenix, he spotted the SUV ahead in a line of cars. The enterprising Mr. Evarts reached for the simple digital camera he happened to have on his car's console.

Gradually he caught up, overtaking the Jimmy in a passing lane.

Click! Gotcha!

More shots were taken from a pullout further up the road where he waited to get a second look.

Now you can say you saw it here first.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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