EGV The Friendly Ghost

A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.

All New Latest Exclusive Top Secret Undercover Groundbreaking Ghost Car Type 17. (c) Skodastoryboard.com

Car companies are rarely known for the philanthropy, charity work or comedy. Surely those who work within must see forms of any (or hopefully all) of these at some point. Making cars though is a serious business; livelihoods and reputations are at stake and those stakes are high. Thank goodness then for a small window opening into what is normally the most secretive of worlds – that of the prototype.

In this domain, security is king; no mobile phones, no contact with outsiders, no leaks to press. Over three hundred souls are committed to these projects and that must take some robust management. Presumably they are let out home from time to time, only to keep Schtum on what their workday contained. “Bit of modelling today, love. Yes, like Airfix…”

Škoda’s department for such is known internally as EGV with studios in the Mladá Boleslav, Kvasiny along with Vrchlabí factories, all contributing to the whole. Consider that by the time the flash bulbs pop and the internet lights up with spy photos and second guesses at the new model, these guys are already on to the next project. Old news to them the ‘new’ model.

The favoured medium in the first instance is clay with its ubiquitous ease of sculpting, in the right hands. Gently and delicately skimming the surface to create a shape, millimetres or fractions of, at a time. Having watched several videos of these sculptors, it can make me quite soporific yet also highly engaging at the same time. Anyone with skill can make their job look easy. The last time I handled clay was probably aged seven and the results weren’t great. Think what a dinosaur may have left behind millions of years ago – not at all the mug it should’ve been.

That clay model (of the car, not dinosaur poo) is full size. This then allows the 3D scanner to play its tune to render a computer image ready for altering in the virtual world. These virtual presentations or scenes are then open to the department to gain a feel for the model in question in a variety of locations, themes, colour schemes or whatever else has been considered correct. Different angles, interiors, backgrounds and even views from within are all digitally viewed and altered.

From the point of the EGV staff, once these digital renditions are complete, they can use these to make a working prototype with processes to ease manufacturing should the green light be given.

The process takes on a different format now; the designing and delivery of manufacturing tools and parts, the planning of the manufacturing process and development of the software to assist in production and for that of the completed vehicle. After this, it’s breakdown time; reverse the above processes so that down to the last screw fitting is arranged and accounted for. 

The car can now take shape: both factory robots along with hands-on human fettling occurs. From the chassis department arrives one that rolls and thus the marriage occurs and finally the car can be given life so that all components can be tested. Even with today’s technical advances, many test models must made for physical trialling as opposed to the computer screen. And we know that once these have been used, abused and analysed to the last possible detail, they are just as quickly discarded. Well, not quite for most of the materials can be recycled into proper cars when full manufacturing begins.

By the time any Škoda has made it through to production, the test models will have collectively undergone two million kilometres of real world testing and thousands of hours of simulated wear and tear. Checking, re-checking and analysing and forever aiming for improvement should components fail or not make the grade. The EGV staff can save manufacturing time by installing new-found processes should failings occur. 

But what, dear reader do you consider them to have made? The latest SUV? To tap into the exponential rise of these faux four by fours? An avant-garde roadster to prove that Volkswagen underpinnings can make for a great looking and driving machine (even if the current market seems otherwise?) Or perhaps a totally unexpected twist as a Brit-friendly convertible makes its debut, electrified, naturally?

Well, it’s none of these. For though the EGV chaps and chap-esses have revealed something of their process, they were hardly going to allow is to really see the next big thing heading out from the Czech Republic. This is whimsical glimpse. A folly. An automotive joke but not in bad taste. 

This car is a real, friendly ghost. What will eventually rise from the mysterious realms of this division, perhaps only the spirits know. I, for one look forward to finding out.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

13 thoughts on “EGV The Friendly Ghost”

  1. A fascinating insight. Thanks for sharing it with us, Andrew. I’m intrigued that they still start with a physical model in clay, then convert that into a virtual model, rather than the other way around. I had assumed that virtual reality and 3D imaging would be the starting point these days.

    I retain a childish fascination with prototypes and well remember spending my meagre pocket money on Car Magazine for the excitement of seeing those grainy telephoto lens photographs taken by the great Hans G. Lehmann. Even a Talbot Solara prototype on a test track could raise my pulse rate (I was a funny boy…)

    Before the advent of those effective but annoying swirly wraps, manufacturers displayed great imagination in trying to make their prototypes look like something from a rival marque. Here’s a typical example, the original BMW 5 Series with a simple horizontal grille and rectangular headlamps:

    Even more intriguing are prototypes that never made it to production, like this proposed E21 3 Series successor to the BMW ’02 Touring:

    1. Clay is still in use at those OEMs who can afford it. There’s plenty of cars designed without any physical modelling involved at all, which usually shows – and sometimes doesn’t, as in the Volvo S/V60’s case.

  2. Since Skoda and their new Vision iV based product is the topic of discusion, it might interest you to know that Skoda Norway had arranged a private viewing of the coming car to the customers having pre-ordered the car. The presentation was to take place om January the 12th 2020, under considerable secrecy, customers would not be allowed photos ( mobiles were to be kept outside the room !) etc. Very interesting idea, specialy since these mere mortals would be allowed to see the production car even before its official premiere.
    They unfortunatelly had to cancel a couple of weeks ago due to “new guidelines for the Skoda-factory and VW-group”…

  3. Not using clay modelling is a remarkably dumb saving. Nothing matches real life perceptions of proportions and scale and the behaviour of light. I am surprised a single manafacturer would think it worth the risk to do most work on a screen. Anybody who thinks a screen or VR can show precisely what real light and shape looks like has a limited understanding of perception and a foolish disdain for what aesthetics means for a product, especially one as costly as a motor car.

    1. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish !

      They spend hundreds of millions tooling the body panels, and even more on the trim etc., but clay models to see what it will really look like as a physical object is “too expensive” ?

      Perhaps “no clay models” explains some of the current hideous designs. The nasty front ends on some of these beasts, with their narrow hard edges, edgy nasty strakes, sharp corners, aggressive pointy knife-like details, and all the rest of it, must be hard to model in clay.

  4. I’m guessing that the clay is expensive? It does convey far more realism that any screen can offer. And I could watch them all day sculpting it

    Daniel, glad you like it. I suppose the swirly wraps are a far cheaper option than using brain power and time to concoct a ruse to offset the keen photographic nose. I like the altered BMW; shows creativity and what I was after in the article – a bit of fun.

  5. Another great insight into the secret world of car development. I’m always fascinated by the British Leyland prototypes at the Gaydon museum that never made it into production. Always worth a visit if you’ve never been before.

  6. That ‘o2 Touring Mk 2 looks a bit nicer, but the tailgate is still very heavy.
    Mine used to get through the expensive struts rather quickly, and if I used the hatch before new ones arrived I could have easily killed myself.

  7. On the subject of prototypes disguised as something else entirely, Here are two of my all-time favourites:

    A Mercedes-Benz W123 prototype extensively modified to resemble a Peugeot 504.

    A VW Golf Mk1 prototype hidden under an enlarged Seat 127 five-door body.

    Brilliant!

    1. Well, Daniel, as if recent news weren’t bad enough, I’m now aware of the possibility that whatever car I’m looking at could be “something else emtirely”.
      Oh well, seasonal greetings anyway.

    2. And to you, Vic.

      I rather like automotive mysteries. We haven’t had a good “What is this?” puzzle on DTW for a while.

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