Erlkonig is a poem written in 1782 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. However, in the 1950’s German journalists published unauthorized pictures of prototype vehicles in a major automotive magazine and called them “Erlkonig” or mystery/myth cars. The name stuck and became synonymous with prototype cars. Ever since vehicle manufacturers have worked hard to camouflage their prototype vehicles. This is not the type of camouflage that hunters would use but is based on “dazzle camouflage” that was first created for the British Royal Navy in 1918.
It was not possible to completely hide the ships from their enemies, but it was a way to confuse their perception of the ships size, speed and direction. Dazzle camouflage was adapted by vehicle manufacturers to confuse journalists and competitors making it difficult to gain information about the early design and technology of prototype vehicles when unauthorized pictures are taken.
Vehicle manufacturers need to test their vehicles in real world situations such as city driving, stop and go traffic, etc. Today, with the advent of smart phones with high definition cameras it is much easier and more common for prototype vehicles to be caught on camera. Due to this, manufacturers are turning to other methods for camouflaging their prototype and early model vehicles such as “mules”, “blankets” and a wide variety of camouflage wraps.
“Mules” are prototype vehicles that are disguised as other vehicles that are already on the market. For example, when testing the new A1 technology, Audi disguised it as a Volkswagen Polo.
“Blankets” are another way manufacturer’s disguise vehicles, but this method has a couple of disadvantages such as blocking site lines and air flow.
Camouflage vehicle wraps are the most common way for manufacturers to disguise their vehicles. Each manufacturer has their own style of camouflage and now that they know people are looking for the camouflaged prototype vehicles the manufacturers are taking advantage of this and are using the camouflage as advertising for the new vehicles.
If you are doing any traveling this summer, keep your eyes out for these vehicles. If you happen to see one, we would love to hear your story. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org