Good clarification! Yes it seems almost every journalist (and I use that term lightly) calls them test mules. So ever since the Broncos were tested that's kind of stuck as that's all they ever called them.I have to stress, these ARE NOT test mules. These trucks have not been test mules since 2020, as the first shots of them you saw back in 2021 were VPs or verification prototypes like this, which were first built in 2020 and first allowed to be publicly viewable in January 2021.
The only mules built for the P703/N were in P375/N sheetmetal. Like this Ranger Raptor Mule from October 2020 (courtesy of TFL)
It might be rather pedantic, but I must again highlight there's a stark difference between a mule and prototype with the final tophat and integrated components, which reflect the intended production design(s). It's only by maybe configuration and fit & finish in which they might differ from production Job 1s or Mass Production units, depending on the stage, since interior components can be 3D printed, until they get their final finish later on. M1s are the only notable mules most people see in spy shots, which use the old "tophat" and new underbody.
X0s and X1s are experimental vehicles not yet based on solidly defined production constructs for a given program, but to test future technologies envisioned for a nameplate down the road. You'll see those like 3-5 years before launch and they're pretty unnoticeable compared to M1s.
This seems to be a pattern because journalists write misleading text like this, so everyone ends up thinking they are actually called mules, when prototype is a better universal term for them, regardless of mule or VP or TT/PP build.
Definitely Phil! I'm not sure when you retired, 4P is now called PP (Pilot Production) and Tool Try Out (TTO) is more specifically now Tooling Trials (TT) are what we refer to units like these, built on the line to test assembly ahead of Job 1 or Mass Production 1. Earlier examples of the P703N were built in the pilot plant in Allen Park (going back to 2020), which I'm sure you're quite familiar with Phil. I don't believe we use 1PP and 2PP as descriptors anymore either.
This is the process to my knowledge today. Not sure when it changed from some past processes, but likely before my time and under Alan's tenure I'd figure at latest.
Prior to Tooling Trials, they were doing Launch Readiness and 2-stages of engineering completion, preliminary and final.
Thanks for pointing out how these are most definitely not mules, as the "mule" terminology is not interchangeable with prototype, seeing as test mules are also known as mechanical components test prototypes, when using off the shelf parts or previous generation bodies not representative of the production design approved under several stages prior to Final Data Judgement (FDJ) and verification prototype (VP). At Ford as you recall, we refer to test mules as M1s or even X0s, X1s, etc depending on level of testing purpose, which precede M1 stage.
There are numerous descriptors, but one thing is for certain, once it utilizes production sheet metal and have such high levels of finish, it's definitely not a mule. I keep seeing the constant referring to "mules" in a lot of places regarding spy shots on pre-launch vehicles with the final tophat and it's not correct, since they 99% match what will be built on the line eventually. Those are not a mule of any sort as you know. Thanks again.