Authentic off-road look in a bottle

By Terry Kirby

LONDON - At around $20 a bottle, it's cheaper than a pair of green gumboots but guaranteed to provide that authentic country look.

For the urban 4x4 in search of some rural street cred the solution has arrived - spray on mud.

In an age when you can buy bottled water from Loch Ness, and grass from Wimbledon's Henman Hill, it is now possible to buy a spray of Shropshire mud which, at least according to its sellers, has a more than simply decorative purpose.

Even though your 4x4 may never have tackled anything more arduous than a speed bump on the school run, you can apply Sprayonmud to give that "country" feel to your car.

And with stones and grit filtered out, and a little water added, there's no risk of scratching the paint.

The new product is the brainchild of a Shropshire businessman Colin Dowse, who describes himself as an entrepreneur and claims it is selling fast, with many new customers in the United States, where SUVs are hugely popular among urban drivers.

He said: "It started out as just a pub joke about these people who live in London and drive 4X4s but who never go to the country. We fell about laughing at the idea you could sell something to give them that authentic country look.

Well, here it is."

Mr Dowse strongly denies suggestions that the real purpose of Sprayonmud is far more sinister - to obscure and disguise number plates to prevent them being picked up by speed cameras or, in London, cameras enforcing the Congestion Charge area.

This is despite the fact that his website features a large photograph of the rear of a Land Rover, with its number plate partially obscured by mud and contains a prominent warning not to use it for that purpose.

However, the site advertises on, and is linked to, websites run by anti-speed camera campaigners; these sites carry advice on how to avoid getting caught by cameras, which includes the suggestion of smearing them with mud.

Mr Dowse said: "I can only tell you why we launched it. What people do with it when they have bought it is up to them. We linked to the motoring websites just to get our hit rate up."

While driving with an obscured number plate - whether accidentally or deliberately - is punishable in Britain by a fine equivalent to as much as $2560, it does not carrying the points penalty or possibility of disqualification that speeding fines do.

Both the Department of Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency said that they would be closely monitoring the sale and use of such sprays in conjunction with the police and advertising and trading standards watchdogs.

A spokesman for the DVLA acknowledged that Sprayonmud had issued a warning to purchasers, but added: "The police and DVLA are aware that the illegal use of sprays on number plates to prevent road safety enforcement cameras capturing a reliable image is a concern and have met to address the problem."

The spray itself is not illegal. However DVLA will report advertisements that seeks to persuade people to use products for an illegal purpose to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and also Trading Standards.

In the meantime, Mr Dowse claims the extra publicity has resulted in rocketing sales.

"I can't tell you how many we have sold, but we are very satisfied. We are opening two distribution outlets in the United States and Canada and are doing very well there."

- INDEPENDENT

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