By Steve Laser
It’s amazing how far car companies have gone in revealing their products ahead of schedule. Not that long ago, the only way to catch a glimpse of the vehicles of the future was to look at “spy” photos taken by intrepid freelance photographers like world-famous Brenda Priddy.
Today, auto makers are releasing their own photos to help generate a “buzz” for new products long before the intro dates. A case in point is Chevrolet with its finely calculated leakage of the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt.
Scanning the newswire, we came across this story released today where Chevy explains the fine art of vehicle camouflaging. First, they go to incredible lengths to mess up photos that spy photogs take as well as hiding, or trying to hide, the look of the car or cobbled up testing mule that’s under wraps.
Now, Chevy issues a press release with a photo telling us how they do it. It’s kind of like a great chef giving out the recipe for secret sauce without caring that others will copy it.
The story behind this story is that we have an official look at the 2016 Volt, or at least part of it, shown behind the smiling engineer. (We think his name is Lionel, the guy who’s quoted in the story. But they didn’t tell us that, so perhaps he’s Lionel’s stand-in, or his cousin Ed or maybe a spy from Ford?)
Below is the full release from Chevrolet. We’ll have to wait to see the real 2016 Volt at next year’s Detroit Auto Show.
CAMOUFLAGING NEW CHEVROLET VOLT IS A BALANCING ACT
Engineers charged with hiding styling while vehicle testing proceeds in public
DETROIT – The styling of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt is one of the automotive world’s best-kept secrets. Keeping customers and media eager to see the successor to the groundbreaking original at bay until the new Volt debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January is tricky business.
First, it is engineers, not designers, who are charged with creating camouflage that balances styling secrecy with the need to validate the Volt and its systems in public.
“If it were up to me it would be a shoebox driving down the road,” said Lionel Perkins, GM camouflage engineer. “The design team wants us to cover more of the vehicle and the engineering team needs to have enough of the vehicle’s weight and aero exposed so that the tests in the development process are consistent with the product that will come to market.”
The engineers responsible for the “cool” designs covering the car might deserve style points but their efforts are intended strictly to hide the metal beneath.
Some of the tricks of the trade:
- Black and white patterns – The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
- 3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
- Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that girds are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
- Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.
The camouflage package on the next-generation Volt was started six months in advance of early development. Every vehicle is different and tricks are constantly updated to keep spy photographers and the curious guessing.
“Each car is unique. We are like a dress-maker, and the car is our model,” said Perkins. “No two models are the same. We need to make the right dress that fits the body we are dealing with.”
[Press release and photo from Chevrolet Communications]
Story ©2014 CarNichiWa