August 20, 2019
Jim Dunne was one of a kind. Not just because he founded the art of spy photography as we know it, but because he was a constant presence in the auto industry, a true character, and a gentleman filled with charm.
Car companies knew he made winter treks to northern Ontario cold spots to catch them winter testing, and he headed to the desert in summer to catch future models during their hot weather testing. He even had a slice of land adjacent to Chrysler's former proving grounds in Arizona that drove the automaker crazy because it couldn't kick him off his own land.
Jim had a lifetime of stories about how he snapped what was not supposed to be seen. He dressed in a sports coat and tie to blend in. He could talk his way into anywhere -unless security had his poster and had been warned to watch out for him.
He liked to tell the story of sneaking into the GM tech center during lunchtime years ago to snap some prototypes and startled an exec who had snuck in for some extracurricular secretary time. The two men nodded in agreement: I didn't see you and you didn't see me.
The engineers who covered their cars with camo and tried to evade Dunne still held a begrudging respect for him—and of course they liked seeing the competition caught in the photographer's lens.