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Camo gear shield new Fords

 

Video: Stretchy Lycra is helping keep prying paparazzi away from Ford Australia's top-secret new vehicles

With an aggressive product rollout of new vehicles planned for 2011, the Lycra is just one of several materials used by the company to disguise its vehicles.

Vinyl, foam, vacuum-formed plastic and glass-fibre are also employed in Ford's cover-up campaign.

Apart from the new turbo-diesel Territory, Ford will launch the new Ranger utility next year, as well as the next-generation Focus and Liquid Phase Injection (LPi) dedicated LPG versions of the Falcon.

Because of its elastic nature, Lycra can more easily cover a vehicle to help distort its exterior shape, but it's important not to interfere with critical functions, like opening doors or fuel caps.

Ford, like other carmakers, often has several pre-production prototypes running around the country for various testing and mileage accumulation

Those vehicles have to be shielded from prying eyes. "These days most people have a camera phone so we have to be extra careful when we use public roads with a prototype," Ford Australia's program co-ordinator, Damian Lavric said.

"It is a difficult job because we want to keep driving vehicles in real-world conditions but we don't want to inhibit key vehicle functions at the same time, like engine cooling.

"It's ironic because we want to disguise the vehicles and hide all the details, but all the stickers and camouflage draw the attention we are trying to avoid."

It's not just a vehicle's exterior that must be hidden; the interior is just as important.

Any interior coverings can be difficult to fit because they must hide the controls but also allow engineers easy access to audio as well as heating and ventilation switchgear.

Ford's camouflage gear must also be durable and solid enough to cope with the harsh Australian conditions, particularly in the outback. Some vehicles are even shipped in purpose-built crates to avoid exposure and any materials must also be durable enough to survive transporting from location to location.

Because it will be sold in 180 markets around the world, the new Ranger – codenamed T6 – required detailed full-body camouflage capable of not only surviving often brutal Australian conditions, but the freezing cold of Europe and extreme heat of the Middle East.

The man responsible for covering up the Ranger utility prototypes, build co-ordinator, Les Schinck, said work on the T6 was one of the bigger jobs the team had undertaken in recent years.

Ford's camouflage team has been flat-out over the past 18 months crafting covers for its newest vehicles.

The science of camouflage is more than just covering a vehicle in black tape and vinyl cladding.

The whole process starts at the clay modelling stage, even before prototypes hit the road and requires precise measurements to help disguise a vehicle.

"We have to be aware of how we are going to camouflage a vehicle from the very early stages of a vehicle's evolution," Lavric said.



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