Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret

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Opel‘s efforts to keep the Insignia a secret

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-vectra

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Source: Opel

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-keep

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Source: Opel

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-opel

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Source: Opel

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-vectra

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Source: Opel

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-successor

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Source: Opel

Vectra successor: Opel struggles to keep the Insignia a secret-vectra

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Source: Opel

Car manufacturers go to great lengths to protect prototypes from photographers. But the pictures of the so-called Erlkonige are coveted and achieve a good price. Opel allows a look behind the scenes and shows everything that is being done to camouflage the new Insigna.

The first photo of the future top model – prototype paparazzi like to stand their feet flat, regardless of whether in icy temperatures at the Arctic Circle or in the constant rain in the Eifel at the Nurburgring. Professional pictures of secret test vehicles achieve prices in the five-digit range, depending on the brand, the time and quality of the pictures. The automakers know this, of course, and are constantly devising new methods of deceiving the so-called Erlkonige hunters.

Opel, for example, gave the future mid-range model Insignia a "facelift" even before the first official photo session. There are spoilers and attachments just to fool Erlkonig hunters. Entire departments at car manufacturers are already busy with camouflage, the art of camouflage.

The outer skin of a car is not only an essential distinguishing feature. Successful design also gives customers a decisive buying impulse; it determines the appearance of a brand in public. Protecting the body shapes of future model generations from prying eyes has therefore become a very special task in the development departments of automobile manufacturers.

Even if a large part of the testing of a new vehicle can now be done by computer simulation, the laboratory results can only be checked on the road. And for that the camouflage suit is necessary. “The team responsible for camouflaging the prototypes began with its preparations as early as when only computer simulations or clay models existed for the new model,” says Opel spokesman Wolfgang H. Scholz. Together with the chief designer and chief engineer, it determined which characteristic lines of the car should remain hidden from prying eyes for a particularly long time.

A huge front apron or a huge rear spoiler can change the shape of the future model in such a way that the final shape remains obscured. While the greater part of the design departments creates the most attractive shell possible for the newcomer, another is concerned with alienating it again.

Almost two years ago, the Insignia, which will celebrate its world premiere on July 22nd, completed its first test drive on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife. For this, the Tarn team developed a "facelift" for the upcoming model, which defaced the prototypes as perfectly as possible. A wooden model was built for the sweeping rear spoiler, which was then used to create an injection molding tool for plastic parts. After all, up to 200 test vehicles have to be camouflaged during the test phase.

This part of the camouflage is attached with special adhesive, special foils ensure a smooth surface, which must remain elastic and tear-resistant between minus 40 and plus 70 degrees Celsius. In other places, the foils are lined with foam pieces to change the contours. Adhesive material is also used to camouflage the window lines.

Popular tricks of the cloaks and deceivers also include false logos and marks. A license plate from the Opel home in Grob Gerau is supposed to lure you on the wrong track. “You can be pretty sure,” says Wolfgang Scholz, “that a prototype with a lightning-like brand symbol and GG license plate is very unlikely to be an Opel.” It is particularly difficult to camouflage headlights and taillights. On the one hand, these are now a popular playground for designers to give cars easily recognizable features. On the other hand, the approval authorities have a say, because they stipulate that light cones, brake lights and all other functional parts must also comply with the legal requirements for prototypes.


Another obstacle to the uninhibited game of hide-and-seek with the test vehicles is the need to be able to expose them again if necessary. For certain tests, such as the acoustician or aerodynamicist, all add-on parts are a hindrance – camouflage security or not. Therefore, some car manufacturers rely on large aprons that are attached to the body with Velcro straps and lashing straps. Sometimes even optical effects bring the desired effect: A high-contrast, small-scale sticker as possible is suitable for blurring contours. The black and white checkerboard pattern was not only very popular with Opel. This optic has been replaced by so-called fishies, which are fish-shaped, rounded rhombuses that confuse camera lenses and eyes even more.

So that the elaborately devised deception methods are not destroyed by the negligence of the staff involved, Opel has a strict set of rules on how to deal with prototypes. This guideline 531 stipulates, for example, that a camouflaged test vehicle should never be stopped in public places, for example to satisfy a small hunger in between at a snack bar. A tarpaulin must always be carried in the vehicle. If a car ends the test on the open road against the will of its driver, it can be covered up until help from the factory approaches.

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