Just call me eagle-eye. While locking up my bicycle the other day on the sidewalk before going for dinner, I noticed a small white sedan parked on the street. What really grabbed my attention was the tape over the logo, which is often a manufacturers way of hiding the identity of a prototype car being tested. While the rest of the car was not hidden, it was the kind of simple, plain design that wouldn’t turn too many heads. However, this is ME we're talking about here...
I walked around the car, and realised that the badges on the trunk lid and steering wheel were all covered up. Even three of the hubcaps were taped over, though one on the driver’s side was missing the tape. To my eyes the logo bears a resemblance to that of Tesla, the American maker of high-end luxury cars.
Upon further inspection, no brand or model name was present on the car. There were no licence plates either, just a few labels taped to the front and rear windows. These carried the ‘Magneti Marelli’ and ‘Magneti Marelli Powertrain (Shanghai) Co, LTD’ names, and the number 76. A search on Magneti Marelli reveals that it is an Italian company specialised in the “design and production of hi-tech systems and components for the automotive sector” (taken from their website).
I had never seen this logo before, and was unable to find any trace of it online. There are countless automotive brands in China, so this is either an existing brand that isn’t well known, or an all-new one. To further my ‘prototype car being tested’ suspicions, I saw that an electronic box was wired into the cabin. While I was unable to determine what purpose this served, such additions during prototype testing can give information on various performance factors. A tow hook had been screwed into the front bumper, and seeing the car sitting at night in the middle of Shanghai made me wonder if there wasn’t a problem that had left it stranded. The whole point of test driving prototype cars is to detect and work out any problems, so it isn’t such a stretch to think that this car had suffered a break-down during real-world testing.
While it may not be some exotic sports car or ground-breaking performance vehicle, I still get a kick out of stumbling across this little sedan. And if anyone is as disappointed as I am in the quality of the photos, don’t hesitate to start a crowd-funding page to buy me a proper camera! I promise to keep my eyes peeled and find more prototype vehicles around Shanghai.
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!