“The truth,” says INKAS, purveyors of fine armored cars, “is that the world isn’t always a safe place, and it’s up to us to do everything we can to ensure that the things we value the most are as safe as possible.”
The familiar Brinks truck is a target for bank robbers, which is why the private cars tend to look completely stock. Armored cars are "a target." (Photo: Terry Ross/flickr)
In this day and age of ISIS, after Colorado Springs, after San Bernadino, who’s going to argue with the company’s logic? I called INKAS (which has offices in Russia, Mexico, Nigeria and Canada) and asked how business is going. The company’s chief operating officer, David Fraser, told me it’s “steady, not up dramatically, but there’s always a lag in what you see in the marketplace. We do anticipate demand growing.” He added that the company's vehicles "are designed to take multiple hits."
Fraser told me that West Africa, where Boko Haram is active, “is always a good market for us,” as well as up and coming “areas where Daesh [Isis] are active.” And Central and South America are seeing an uptick as well.”
The price range for armored vehicles, Fraser said, is $90,000 to $250,000. And special options, including custom interiors, can push the price up. If you want nail or smoke dischargers, you can get them. “We call those the James Bond options,” Fraser said. “Some customers really like them, and we build to what they want.”
President Obama travels occasionally in this armored Suburban — seen here in Baden Baden, Germany. (Photo: voodoo2me/flickr)
I went shopping. It seems to me if you’re going to go armored, you want to go whole hog. The standard package includes bullet-resistant glass, entire perimeter protection, reinforced suspension and door hinges, and run-flat tires. I like the options, which include a fire-suppression system, emergency lights and the lightweight armoring package.
A key selling point for INKAS’ armored vehicles is that they look completely stock, i.e., you can’t tell they’re armored. “Some products are easily recognized, and hence more of a target,” he said.
You probably picture armored cars as looking like those Brinks trucks, and we’ll get to those in a minute, but right now I’m kicking the tires on some plain-Jane cars and SUVs for private citizens like me who just want to stay safe.
LINKAS, in addition to its fearsome “cash in transit” vehicles, has some regular cars that are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. For instance, a Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG may look like a 544-horsepower suburban grocery-getter, but in fact it “never loses its footing, regardless of situation…With a CEN BR6 level of armoring, this armored SUV ensures a safe drive, even post-attack.” The floor can “withstand blasts and shrapnel detonation of two DM51 grenades detonated simultaneously.”
These armored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts were used in campaigns by Lawrence of Arabia. (Photo: byronv2/flickr)
Maybe if your taste runs to expensive bling, an armored 420-horsepower Cadillac Escalade — with the same armor level — is more your style. It seats seven, so there’s room for the bodyguards. “You are sure to catch attention riding in this SUV; turning heads is commonplace when an Escalade rolls down the street,” the brochure says.
The Cadillac’s interior is hand-sewn leather, complemented with an upholstered — and advanced armored — rear bulkhead. You’ll survive those two grenades, and also attackers armed with a 7.62-millimeter assault rifle.
INKAS’ ads don’t list a) fuel economy (all that armor is heavy) or b) price. Most of the customers in the market for armored cars probably don’t care much about either one.
Margaret Thatcher's armored Rover. The company didn't always make the glass bulletproof. (Photo: IanVisits/flickr)
By the way, evidence for why the British auto industry failed comes no stronger than a little item I saw about a Rover 2000 armored car “for heads of state.” Hugely heavy, it lacked any form of bulletproof glass. “The slowest, thirstiest, most pointless tank ever built,” writes Classic & Sports Car.
Oh and about those Brinks trucks. The company began making them after World War I — inspired by armored tanks (and Rolls-Royces) used in that and other period conflicts. Hauling money around (initially in converted school buses) started in the 1920s. Today, the typical Brinks-type truck is heavily armored, can run on flat tires, and weighs more than 55,000 pounds. The U.S. has 820 armored security carriers, and 31,000 employees. It's not the safest place to work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about four people die on the job each year. PrivateOfficer.com reports that armored truck drivers have the second highest death rate in the field — second only to nightclub security guards.
From National Geographic, here's more on how companies are cashing in by turning soccer mom SUVs into fearsome armored beasts: