I spy, with my little camera…

New vehicle under wraps as a testmule

I recently visited a neighboring state along with a bunch of other automotive journalists so we could meet up, talk cars and test drive a bunch. It just so happened, that where we were located seemed to be a little hub of new vehicle testing. How do I know this? Well, vehicles were draped with great big black sheets along with Sharpie-graffiti-like wraps are a little bit of a giveaway. Another clue was the abundance of vehicles with manufacturer plates registered to Michigan. Granted, some of those were for us to test, but the ones that weren’t I can only assume were there for business.

I spied the truck above and immediately has journalistic thoughts running through my head, like, I have to share this with everyone and does this now officially make an automotive paparazzi photographer? But what am I going to title the article? I can’t tell you for sure the exact model year this truck will be. Although I have a pretty good idea what type of truck this is (because I got right next to it…and may or may not have gotten even closer) I decided not to tell, to illustrate more why manufacturers use camouflage. Can you tell what it is?

These vehicles getting their photo taken, in the automotive industry, is like the equivalent of Kim Kardashian getting her photo snapped answering the door in her PJs with no makeup.

The most ironic part is that testers probably had no idea a bunch of journalists were about to arrive. I’m led to believe they are trained not to say a word to anyone, even your best friends mothers aunt who knows nothing about vehicles. I can tell you first hand from experience, trying to spark a conversation with one will get nothing but ignored or some stink eye. Understandably they just want to get on with their job and not be fired for leaking information.

Why do manufacturers camouflage vehicles?

A lady approached me as I walked back from looking at a camouflaged truck and asked me, “why are they all covered in that black stuff?”. I began to explain why to her. These vehicles are typically prototypes for new models or mules that manufacturer’s need to have tested. The testing may be for towing, speed ratings, fuel economy, high altitude, extreme temperatures etc and/or combinations of these. The reason they cover the up the vehicle while testing is for a few reasons. One reason is that these mules (test vehicles) are not ready. They aren’t a finished product yet and they probably don’t look very pretty underneath those covers.

tape on test car      I even seen parts held on with tape on one vehicle.

Attached to the vehicles is a bunch of testing equipment, and I don’t know this for a fact, but it would seem logical to think that if it were a finished vehicle it would get damaged during rigorous testing which would, in turn, cost the manufacturer more to fix. Another reason is that the manufacturer wants to release a new vehicle on their schedule, ie. when it’s finished, looking all shiny and pretty.

The lady now a little bewildered, “but they stand out in all that?” Well. Yes. Yes they do, but how else could real world testing be done? Until they can become disappearing holograms, I can;t think of another way. By the time holograms are common we’ll presumably all be in our autonomous flying ships powered by sugar anyway.

Did someone just take a marker pen to the vehicle?

Vehicle Camoflauge

It does look like someone just took a permanent marker and artistically drew patterns and swirl marks all over. It’s not though. These are vehicle wraps that manufacturers spend a lot of time designing. The idea behind the design is so that it confuses the eye. It is also designed to confuse cameras and software from being able to focus clearly and/or determine what the vehicle is. Manufacturers will try to hide strong identifiable styling lines. They may even go to the lengths of inserting pads underneath.


Can you tell what any of the cars pictured in this article are?