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James Baggott: How one picture paints a thousand angry Italian expletives

ferrari-enzo-sTHERE are a number of things I like about the picture to the right.

Firstly, I like the fact the security guard looks like he’s straight out of the mafia. Very fitting. Secondly, I like the fact he’s not walking, he’s actually broken into a fast trot to get to the cameraman.

I also like the fact he’s clench-fisted and looks like he’s about to windmill in with a Rocky-style hammer blow to the snapper’s left temple. And then there’s the people in the background — two of whom look like they’re from Interpol — all appearing to be equally annoyed that someone is pointing an iPhone at their still-to-be dressed motor show stand.

If a picture paints a thousand words, it’s clear most of these would be sweary Italian expletives. But the best bit about the whole snap isn’t what’s in front of it — that’s just the worst-named Ferrari in history under a snuggly cashmere blanket. No, what’s really brilliant about the snap is who’s behind the camera. Step forward and take a bow Mr Charles Morgan Esq. Yes, THAT Charles Morgan, boss of the British sports car manufacturer based in sleepy Malvern.

The picture of a still-being-made-to-look posh Ferrari stand appeared on the medium that is Twitter not on press day of the Geneva Motor Show, but the day before it when the world’s car manufacturers were busy polishing and buffing their creations for the world’s media. Mr M was obviously bored watching his minions and instead decided to become an accidental secret spy shot snapper — and became an instant legend in the eyes of car fans the world over.

For the course of around an hour, Morgan revealed the Aston Martin Shooting Brake concept, a bright yellow Mercedes SLS E-Cell (as two Germans tried quickly to whip the cover back on), the much-anticipated Alfa Romeo 4C (albeit from a little far away) — and then his coup de grace, his shot of the Ferrari stand. Which, in actual fact didn’t show very much, apart from confirming the new hyper Fezza would be making an appearance.

I can’t believe Morgan was the most popular chap at the show, but then who could stop him? He’d paid to have his cars there and if he wanted to break a few embargoes then that was up to him. It wasn’t like he was going to be stripped of the right to drive Ferraris was it?

Morgan’s brilliant work did get me thinking, though, as I wondered around the packed, sweaty and smelly halls of the Geneva show: Is it really worth being so secretive? Ferrari’s desire to control absolutely every part of the media smacks of a company that’s worried about its products. Why the paranoia? I’d understand if your cars were dogs to drive and caught fire (okay, ignore that bit), but quite honestly Ferrari has never appeared to be more on top of its game than it is now.

The 458 is sublime — in fact it’s one of the best things to come out of Maranello ever — okay, the FF looks like a Stretched AMC Pacer out of Wayne’s World (minus the awesome liquorice dispenser), but by all accounts it’s pretty good. We wouldn’t know as we’re not allowed near it… Oh, and the California is perfect for its target audience — bald, middle-aged men with small genitalia. Which means Ferrari can’t make enough of them. So why, when you’re on such a roll — the manufacturer was on course for a record year of profits in 2012 — would they worry so much?

I’d argue that keeping everything secret until press day of a motor show is actually the worst way to do it. Yes, you cause a bit of a stir when you whip the covers off, but because it’s a new Ferrari, no one can get near it. The pictures that emerge are mostly of Italian journalists’ arms and other people’s cameras as the bun fight is worse than Greggs giving out free pasties in Portsmouth.

Far better to take the approach of a few other manufacturers and roll out pictures of your show star a few days before the event. That way you can have the lion’s share of the media, you can choose when the details are released and, most importantly, can ensure the quality of the pictures is absolutely top-notch.

Nissan did it with the new Fiesta-rivalling Note, and Toyota did it with the stunning FT86 convertible. Both had huge amounts of coverage the week before the show — and most of that can be attributed to the fact they went early.

Why then does Ferrari want its piece de resistance mostly photographed with other people’s heads obscuring its curves? Doesn’t make sense does it? Perhaps it’s an Italian thing… like bunga bunga parties.

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