The pleasure of supercar spotting

It was 11 o’clock when a Facebook message vibrated my phone across the table. ‘How mad are you?’ it began. Only 10 minutes was needed to reveal a true once-in-a-lifetime offer, despite an anorexic window for potential success. I was mad enough to get involved, as only five hours later both my friend and I were hurtling south for a fitful, half-assured glance at one of this decade’s most exclusive supercars.

For the car enthusiast, car-spotting can be an indulgent distraction from the regularity of  daily routine. My interest is always piqued when something unusual is detected amongst the silver, grey or white hatchbackery of city streets. I give just as much attention to the Giallo Evros-hued profile of a Murcielago LP640-4 frustrated by traffic as to the muted yet quirky lines of the grey Cavalier GSi firing past more modern machinery on the motorway. They can appeal to me for a multitude of reasons; rarity, price, performance, or just simply because they’ve made me smile as I’m left standing in a fug of tangy, often-carburetted petrol fumes.

Nevertheless, some cars are just so rare that the likelihood of seeing them on your street – unless you live on Park Lane, Sunset Boulevard or Casino Square – is just too slim. Without grasping the chance of an organised visit, the closest you’ll see one of them is via your games console or magazine review. These organised visits can be tricky enough to organise for the layman car enthusiast as, without journalistic credentials, you’re a ‘chancer’ or ‘nosy’.

Fortunately, my friend had enough nous and name-dropped contacts in order to smooth our way. It was discovered that this particular hypercar – a mash-up of contemporary F1 technology and aviation-led aerodynamics – would be housed in a dealership under lock and key for one evening before being put into storage. As we had a rough idea of the car’s departure time, as well as knowing its location, we chanced our luck by pounding down south to the Central Belt to see it before it would be hidden away to appreciate in value.

I must admit that the excitement was only palpable when we arrived at our location – sunrise was still an hour away, so we waited for the city to struggle awake to the routine of Monday morning rush hour. In retrospect, my mind still boggles knowing that this limited-edition hypercar sat (undercover and indoors) mere metres away from a busy roundabout, unheeded by the people who hurried past it on their way to work. Eventually, we were admitted to the dealership where we had the chance to walk round the surprisingly compact, taut and curvaceous body of the car. Shooting a vehicle under a car cover trains you to pick out the intricate, little-noticed aspects of its design – a flush roof air vent here, the daintiness of the mirror stalks there – whilst not being distracted by the car’s main focal points.

There are, however, only so many pictures you can take of a covered car, however impressive it is. After permission was received, the car was unveiled in its entirety for us to see and snap at our delight – on the proviso that we did not share them with others. It seems that the anonymous owner is determined to hold onto this anonymity for as long as possible, so I’m afraid I can’t post up pictures of this mid-engined, carbon-clad hybrid hypercar. Peeling back the silver, floatily-light car cover unwrapped a stunning marriage of brutal race-car technology and elegant design. The silence that descended over the showroom floor was only interrupted by the click of a camera shutter and the silent footsteps of the sales staff that had walked over to examine the trinket in their workplace. The wheelarches and sharp sills were dirty with dried water and dust; real-world evidence of the car’s arrival into the dry showroom the rainy day before. We spent just under an hour chatting to fellow car fans and snapping pictures, before heading home elated that we had seized such a slim chance in the face of many possible setbacks. It could have so easily gone wrong, but instead of ‘Not today, boys’, we got the privileged glimpse we had come to see.

In a sense, supercar spotting can be compared to meeting a celebrity. Bumping into Justin Timberlake in your local supermarket may hold a greater sense of fortune and rarity than if you had paid to see him in concert, but a fan of his music would still value the chance to meet him regardless of context. It’s the same with cars – but, with some destined for private collections, a brief, organised glimpse is always preferable to a digital render on a laptop.

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