Long before a new car model hits showroom floors, it often takes its maiden voyage in a very incognito — and strangely scientific — way.
In order to study the real-world performance of a new vehicle, automakers need to log thousands of miles on public roads for years leading up to the car's debut. When the new model finally hits showrooms, car companies want the design to look fresh, so preserving the auto's true looks until near the time of sale is a top priority.
Enter car camouflage, which may conjure up images of soldiers on a faraway battlefield, but actually serves a unique purpose: Providing cover for prototype cars as they roll through the streets on test drives.
Early in development, deception comes easy. Developing a car's powertrain — key components that fire up the vehicle and make it move — starts with "mules": prototypes that use the bodywork of existing cars. For example, Rolls-Royce uses a lifted body shell of its Phantom sedan to develop the underpinnings of its upcoming Cullinan SUV.
"Early on, they disguise it in a way that you can't even tell the shape of the car," Brenda Priddy, a famed "spy photographer" who has made a living selling shots of camouflage-laden prototypes to automotive publications, told CNBC recently.