Ford planned a massive marketing campaign for the Mustang's reveal earlier this month and didn't want to tip its hand as it was finishing off the design and engineering of the sports coupe.
The answer was an elaborate camouflage package made of vinyl, plastic and foam that was applied to the outside of the prototypes. This is such a big deal that the automaker has a camouflage director on staff.
"Ford designers and engineers spend a lot of time developing new cars, and part of my job is to make sure people don't see the result until it's completely ready," said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer.
It's not just the professional spy photographers that automakers worry about. With just about everyone carrying a camera — and video option — in their phone, even a casual observer could upset a million-dollar debut.
"Before a single one of these test vehicles is allowed to leave the prototype plant, a camouflage package is developed and must be approved by the design, engineering and test track safety departments," said Al Wilkinson, Ford's camouflage coordinator. "With all of the camo in place, even a good photograph should not give away the design details of the new car."
The first package didn't do a good enough job hiding the car, "so we went back to the drawing board," said Pericak.
It took three attempts.
Finally, the design team and camouflage director created a package that obscured the new fastback profile and proportions that so quickly identify the car as a Mustang. This new application made the Mustang look like a notchback, and appear smaller than it actually was.
When Ford's engineers finally took the car out of the factory back in June, it took less than an hour before spy shots of the pony car showed up on automotive websites. Enthusiasts knew this was the new Mustang, but thanks to the camouflage they couldn't really see the car's shape or identify any details.
Ford wanted to keep the design under wraps so as not to ruin the massive global unveiling of the sixth-generation Mustang earlier this month at events in Los Angeles; New York; Dearborn, Mich.; Barcelona, Spain; Shanghai; and Sydney, Australia
The new model hews closely to the styling that has enabled Ford to sell 9 million Mustangs and made the car a star of countless movies, television shows and even postage stamps. Anyone seeing the new model will instantly recognize it as a Mustang, with its long sculpted hood and short rear deck. The styling is most evocative of the 1969 model.