The art of car disguise: prototype camouflage decoded

Published: 13 August 2018

► How car makers disguise prototypes
► Gallery: a car camo masterclass!
► The 21 different types we’ve spotted

Car manufacturers go to great lengths to keep their future models under wraps – but automotive camouflage has evolved into quite an art form in recent years. 

Our recent report of the new ARES Panther showed a car sporting an unusual Viking helmet wrap, confirmation that ‘disguise’ is nowadays almost a form of promotion. 

The Evoque's party man motif

They’re all at it. Land Rover tested its 2016 Range Rover Evoque Convertible sporting a repeated partying man motif that reminded us of Keith Haring’s funky artwork (inset, above) and most prototypes we see nowadays have some kind of distinctive ‘camo’.

Which got us thinking: hasn’t car disguise come a long way since the first hidden prototype shots we took in the 1970s and 1980s?

Why car makers disguise their future models

There comes a point in every car’s development where the engineers have to bite the bullet and test prototypes on the public roads; there’s only so much that a CAD programme can tell them and the real world plays an important part in most new-car programmes. This is where an appropriate disguise comes in handy.

Audi A4 disguise

From the psychedelic swirls of vinyl wraps, designed to distract prying lenses and eyeballs away from the curvature of metal panelwork, to the fully amorphous blanket preferred by certain French companies – this is an intriguing area of the business.

Flick through our spy photo gallery above to see what we mean.

You’ll find Bentleys designed to look like Mercedes, Toyotas covered in what look like compact discs, a Hyundai sporting a black bra and an Alfa 8C covered in gaffer tape. In a postmodern twist, the camo is in fact now the story – some pre-production engineering hacks increasingly look like mobile billboards and advertising hoardings.

Audi A7 wearing a blanket

Be sure to tell us of your favourite car disguise in the comments below.

The camouflage catwalk: wearing prototype disguise

Click here to read more about prototype camouflage – and read on to find out what happened when we wrapped our European editor Georg Kacher in BMW’s latest disruptive pattern material!

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet