By on June 29, 2012

A mysterious Lexus LFA that went from Motomachi to (the green) hell is fueling the fantasy of bloggers. Some say the Tiffany-blue bolide belongs to the Sheikh of Qatar, who just happens to like his cars in Tiffany blue. Others say it is the LFA going out with a bang, attacking the elusive Nordschleife ring record one last time “with an engine over 600 bhp.” They all made it up.

This is not a story about the LFA. This is a story about bloggers sucking stories out of their thumbs.

Lexus LFA Picture courtesy Autoblog.com

Most of the blogs that expect to gain traffic from the topic make you feel like they are camped out on the Ring, ready to snap the latest and fastest Erlkönig. They aren’t, and I don’t blame them. Having spent much too many rainy days at the abominable Lindner Congress Hotel, I can assure you that there are better things to do with your time. Except for specialty site BridgeToGantry.com, nobody covers the Ring 24/7, most of the writers don’t even know the difference between Nurburgring and Nurnberg. BridgeToGantry covers the Ring, because its editor Dale Lomas works there. At rent4ring, he rents out track day cars, from a Suzuki Swift Stage 1 all the way to a Caterham R300 (pray it won’t rain.)

All good websites get their pictures from SB-Medien, the not so good ones steal them from the websites that got their pics from SB-Medien. SB-Medien is Europe’s leading purveyor of Erlkönig imagery. SB is said to have a mutually beneficial relationship with automakers. Automakers can create buzz at just the right time. SB can position a photographer at just the right time and place. Everybody wins. Nobody wastes time and money.

Lexus LFA Picture courtesy Gmotors.co.uk

And this is how the Tiffany blue LFA story got started. A few days ago, SB sent out a set of baby blue LFA pictures to its subscribers. One of the first if not the first to publish was GMotors.co.uk, but only because they “spent only 20 minutes to put the so-called spy photos up,” as editor Andrus Kiisküla refreshingly admits. Those 20 minutes were spent splashing a giant “Gmotors.co.uk” onto the image, and writing a 173 word ditty.

Gmotors’ ditty was restrained. They said that “Lexus is very likely going to introduce a new special edition of their LFA supercar, and that Gmotors “wouldn’t be surprised if this new model has over 600bhp.” Fair enough.

Lexus LFA Picture courtesy Autoguide.com

Put yourself in the shoes of a poor, underpaid (or pro bono) writer who stares at a set of blue pictures, and there is nothing else to go on. Your choices are: Copypaste. Make it up. All of the above. A protracted game of telephone begins …

At Autoevolution.com, the baby blue car turns into an “LFA Tokyo Edition.”

Our friends at Carbuzz remember how they “almost made a mess in our pants” when they had seen the Nurburgring Edition LFA, and that “Lexus is apparently planning a new version of their LFA supercar.”

Motortrend takes a quick toke and writes: “Our automotive paparazzo on Europe recently caught this modified teal blue Lexus LFA lapping the Green Hell.” You don’t have an automotive paparazzo in Europe, motortrend. You have SB-Medien like everybody else has.

Autoblog gives the car “a fair bit more than the 552 horsepower found in the standard LFA.”

Once the story hits Motorauthority, the car has received an engine that is “pumping out significantly more than the 552-horsepower 4.8-liter V-10 found in the regular LFA.” Also, it has received a transmission that “is likely to have been reprogrammed for faster shifts.”

And on and on it goes as the story ricochets around the blogosphere.

Lexus LFA Picture courtesy Autoblog.com

The definitely last word in supposition and innuendo is written by the Kaizen Factor. Half serious, half tongue-in-cheek, the site lists every rumor the Tiffany blue car triggered, from the meaning of the AD-A letters on the side, and the “DAU 0680” on the LFA’s red ”Überführungsnummer”, to the credible theory that the Qatari House of Thani wants to enlarge its already sizable collection of baby blue cars. Shame on Qatar (if the baby blue rumor is true): They own chunks of Volkswagen and Porsche, and now they fraternize with Toyota?

Nobody bothers to do the obvious: Check the story. None except BridgeToGanrty. Dale Lomas grabs his camera, walks over from his office to the Ring and shoots a video of a blue LFA that is still making the rounds during what seems to be Touristenfahrten times. However, Dale can only add moving pictures, again, there is no hard information.

With all options exhausted, it’s time for the absolutely last resort in news-gathering: Pick up the phone, call Toyota. When I call them, they have never heard of the baby blue LFA. I send them a few links, now they have.

They promise to ask around, and an hour later, Toyota spokesman Joichi Tachikawa says that “this test was part of the many research activities” Lexus conducts, never mind the fact that the LFA production is going into its home stretch and won’t extend beyond 2012, there still remains work to be done.

That means that at least the House of Thani theory is debunked. The rest of the fantastic prose is debunked also, as my contact convincingly claims that no detail was ever released. Therefore, all that was written in the sundry blogs is without basis.

As far as the LFA is concerned, I am sorry that I leave you as smart as before. However, you have learned one thing: How not to write supercar stories.

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15 Comments on “The Secret Of The Tiffany-Blue LFA, Or How Those Auto Spy Stories Are Written...”


  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    Those colors would look perfect on a Transformers toy, and somehow fit this car really well. I’ll take mine as a Decepticon, please.

  • avatar
    Embali

    I originaly wrote this at the end of my comment, but in the spirit of good faith i cut and past it here : (full disclaimer, i’m a french car journalist working as a freelance for websites – autoplus.fr / motorlegend.com / autojournal.fr and various other in the past – and a few magazines – EVO France, Octane France)
    —–

    “The Secret Of The Tiffany-Blue LFA”
    Yeah. So, YOU are not surfing this wave at all, aren’t you.

    And you don’t use these horrible techniques of baaaaddd journalism that you seem to spend most of your days criticising here. Never. Like, you would never cut a quote just to keep the bits that go your way ; because that would be so unprofessional and misleading you know :

    “we’re guessing that the car seen here offers a fair bit more than the 552 horsepower found in the standard LFA. How much more? Hopefully Lexus will give us a chance to find out.”

    oh. oups.

    Let’s check Motorauthority then :

    “we suspect there is a revised engine under the hood, one that’s almost certain to be pumping out significantly more than the 552-horsepower 4.8-liter V-10 found in the regular LFA. The six-speed sequential transmission of the LFA is likely to have been reprogrammed for faster shifts, and more weight-saving measures probably employed as well.”

    “we suspect” is pretty straightforward : HOLLY CRAP, they are ADMITING that they don’t have a clue but are doing what they are supposed to do (given the fact that as auto journos they have some kind of expertise in the automotive field) : give theories based on hard facts. The way the exhaust is, the V10 MUST have more power, even if they haven’t done anything else to it.

    I’m at work here in France so i don’t have time to check all the links you have given. And i’m certain that some of these links will be as bad as you say. But i’m also pretty sure that there are other examples where you conveniently cut the terms that made it clear that the journo was putting a theory out there and not stating hard facts. I read TTAC quite regularly and i’m getting bored of the “WE good – others bad” attitude you guys have towards our job. Some of us are able to go on press trips and still have our own opinion. I was at gaydon before the Vanquish was revealed and i was given the full tour of the car and the VH structure, but that didn’t keep me from being one of the toughest critics of the car in France in the articles i wrote about it. And i really think that a lot of bloggers out there think their own credibility is more important than pleasing the manufacturer.

    anyways, i’ve wanted to comment on the subject a few times (still remember the “i won’t buy a cts-v because some other guys got one for free”. Wich is soooooo stupid i can’t even process it. why punish yourself and not enjoy the most badass car in the US for this is something i just can’t understand.) and today was a great opportunity. Just do what you do and stop trying to be the good morals of journalism (you lost this right with the “how to drive fast on the road” pieces).

    • 0 avatar

      You explain the problem much better than I can. Yes, ESPECIALLY in the case of the Motorauthority (being an authority on motors, it has a reputation to lose) a phone call could have cleared up a lot.

      MA: “Hi, I just sent you a picture of a baby blue LFA on the ring, and we suspect there is a revised engine under the hood, one that’s almost certain to be pumping out significantly more than the 552-horsepower 4.8-liter V-10 found in the regular LFA. True?”

      Flack: “You are correct. If you call 11 horses significant. They sure made a difference on the Ring.”

      MA: “Did they? Interesting. The six-speed sequential transmission of the LFA is likely to have been reprogrammed for faster shifts also, is it not?”

      Flack: “You got it. 50 milliseconds faster.”

      MA: “And more weight-saving measures probably have been employed as well, right?”

      Flack: “Some. The rims are lighter and we tossed some stuff out.”

      MA: “Thank you!!! And when will you launch this car?”

      Flack: “In August 2011.”

      MA: “You meant August 2013, right? I know, Japanese and big numbers, haha.”

      Flack: “We announced the Nurburgring Package in August 2011.”

      MA: “Huh?”

      Flack: “On the picture you sent me I see a car with the Nurburgring Package. It has what you suspect. Since August 2011.”

      MA: “And you are saying the car that was on the ring has not changed?”

      Flack: “I did not say that.”

      MA: “So what the hell were you doing on the Ring????”

      Flack: “I am sorry, I cannot comment on unreleased cars or the status of unfinished research activities.”

      MA: “Oh. Why didn’t you say that right away?”

      Flack: “You did not ask.”

      It would have been an educational experience.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        You realize, of course, that your conversation did not actually rule out the hypothesis that Toyota is testing a final hurrah version of the LFA.

        I agree with Embali: most of the blogs were clear that they were speculating. They are allowed to do that. This isn’t war journalism; there is literally nothing at stake.

        Besides, when you see a manufacturer conducting “research activities” with an “unreleased car” on the ‘ring, especially when that car is a supercar near the end of its run, then it’s a not absurd speculation that the vehicle is some higher horsepower performance variant. In fact, as far as I can tell, your phone call confirmed that it’s a Toyota test car, which gives even more credence to the speculation.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    What? No reference to filming Fast And The Furious 6?

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    Amazing, it’s almost like you can learn things by calling people. If only there was a way (I know this sounds crazy, but bear with me), for someone to make phone calls, to learn things, then share those things with other people. The person who made the call could write down what the other person said. They could even double-check to make sure they got all the words right! I hope no one beats me to the patent office, I have a feeling this “sharing things in writing” is the next big thing.

    Although, if you could get paid to share things in writing without calling anyone, you could save some time. I think most people would agree saving time is more important than knowing things.

    /sarcasm.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Yeah, but how can I use the internet to do this?
      If I call somebody not in my call list on my phone, does that mean I have to use the one with a wire? Not sure I can find a user manual online of the one with the wire.

      • 0 avatar
        mistercopacetic

        Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you have to exert the slightest effort in order to learn things to share with others, obviously the thing is not worth learning. If you are being paid to share things with others, you definitely should exert as little effort as possible to learn new things. Ideally, someone would send you information for free, which would eliminate the need to learn new things at all, as you could pass on that thing to others and still get paid, without lifting a finger. Visualize thusly:

        1) There is a new thing in the world, which you are being paid to learn about and share with others.
        2) ???
        3) Profit!

        Your mistake is assuming it should read: 2) Go out and learn about new thing, then share with others. Classic rookie mistake.

    • 0 avatar

      Many decades ago, I was a young journalist. My boss called me into his office and said he needs to discuss my phone bill.

      Before he could talk, I said:

      “I’m sorry. I know. I will call less.”

      “No, dammit! You will call more! Your phone bill is way too low!!! You need to talk to people!!”

      Today, this is even more important than ages ago. To get the real story, you need relationships. They can’t be built by email or Twitter. You need frequent phone calls and occasional personal meetings. It is amazing that NOBODY of the above picked up the phone and made one call.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Bertel you should expand communications a bit. I get texts on my personal cell phone all the time and I have an e-mail account just for people who are important to me. These are for people I’ve met face to face and trust.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    “I took pictures of a blue LFA on the ‘ring and I have no idea what’s going on with it” is not a good headline. No source/links equals pure conjecture. My made up headline would be: “Sabine drives me around the ‘ring while wearing a black bikini”. Oh yeah, imagine the clicks on that one.

  • avatar
    jruhi4

    “The definitely last word in supposition and innuendo is written by the Kaizen Factor. Half serious, half tongue-in-cheek, the site lists every rumor the Tiffany blue car triggered, from the meaning of the AD-A letters on the side, and the “DAU 0680” on the LFA’s red ”Überführungsnummer”, to the credible theory that the Qatari House of Thani wants to enlarge its already sizable collection of baby blue cars.”

    I was, in the current internet vernacular, ROTF and LMAO at your description of my Kaizen Factor article.

    In all seriousness, I do appreciate the background information you provide here on SB-Medien and on Bridge to Gantry’s Dale Lomas.

    As to your point on, simply, picking up the phone and asking Toyota and Lexus officials, you’re absolutely right. Yet, I must note that company officials here in the U.S. are more notoriously tight-lipped and/or uninformed about stuff like this than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. And I speak from experience, having attended several Lexus press previews. Even in your case, all you got out of Joichi Tachikawa was “this test was part of the many research activities Lexus conducts”.

    At least we now know that it’s, in my words, “some sort of Lexus test mule whose color scheme pays homage to the unique tastes of the Qatari clan”, as opposed to an actual Al Thani car.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Interesting to see what appears to be exhaust ports under the tail lights. The typical trio of exhaust pipes as found on the off-the-rack LFA are missing…


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