Harland: More than meets the eye

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By Robert Harland

Motoring

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


IF you're feeling a little paranoid and have a load of cash doing nothing, you might like to consider the ultimate in personal automobile safety - an armored car.

Of course, if you're a head of state, an ambassador, a major celebrity, billionaire or perhaps a religious leader, such a vehicle goes with the job.

Thanks to modern technology, nearly any vehicle can be turned into an armored car. Needless to say, this is not cheap - prices start at around $65,000 (P2.8 million) plus the cost of the donor vehicle.

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Global instability has high-profile individuals turning to armoring services in ever-increasing numbers and business is booming.

Brazil is a major market as is Mexico. Africa and the Middle East are also big markets and Asia is becoming an important new area of growth.

Two of the world's biggest companies specializing in armoring vehicles are the International Armoring Corporation (IAC), based in Utah, and the Canadian company INKAS.

Both companies have manufacturing facilities in various parts of the world and supply top-quality armored vehicles to banks, corporations, law enforcement agencies and VIPs. IAC has a local facility in Subic and plans to open another this year in Cagayan De Oro.

INKAS says the Toyota Land Cruisers is a popular choice for armoring in the Philippines.

But for many heads of state, including President Aquino I'm told (though Malacañang declined to comment), it seems the Mercedes S-GUARD 600 is the armored car of choice.

Mercedes has not published details of pricing, but the Richest website says the latest model will set you back a cool $1.4 million (P61 million).

For that kind of money you'd expect something special. And it is, but then Mercedes has been making cars with special protection since 1928 so they've many decades of experience.

The S-GUARD 600 can resist close range sniper fire, rocket propelled grenades and high velocity projectiles. Its twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V12 517-horsepower gasoline engine can zoom from zero to 60 miles per hour in just four seconds.

Scott Collie, writing for Gizmag, said the first change Mercedes made to the standard S-Class is in the body shell: special reinforced steel is fitted between car's structure and bodywork to provide extra protection against ballistics like gunfire or rockets.

These are supplemented by aramid components, which provide extra protection against weapons that splinter.

To minimize weakness, Mercedes has reinforced potential weak spots by strategically overlapping panels.

One of the biggest dangers facing passengers when under attack is splintering glass, so the 600 features thickened laminated glass, coated with polycarbonate.

Under the car, key components are protected by armor plating to deal with explosives.

Before a Mercedes can be rated a Mercedes-Benz Guard, the car must pass many inspections and a series of stringent tests.

Both INKAS and IAC can custom-armor any model of Mercedes including an S-600 using their own proprietary products and methods - and the cost would probably be lower than the Mercedes factory price tag.

But when push comes to shove, just how effective are these cars? IAC and INKAS say they are very proud of their record.

Indeed, just a few weeks ago in Nigeria, the convoy of former military head of state, Gn. Muhammadu Buhari was bombed. The authorities believe it was the work of the extremist Islamist group, Boko Haram.

Although he was shaken up, the general walked unharmed from the car. The INKAS-armored Land Cruiser saved his life.

Perhaps the most photographed armored car is the Cadillac used by US presidents. We've all heard of the presidential plane, Air Force One, it seems the land vehicle counterpart is known as Cadillac One.

It is heavily armored and its details are highly classified, leading some wag to joke that Cadillac One can withstand a direct hit from a nuclear warhead. When in a presidential convoy, Cadillac One has many other decoys to confuse potential threats.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 20, 2014.

Lifestyle

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